Week Five Know Your Opponent: These Are Not the 2013 Spartans, But They're Still Very Good

Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)

Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (3rd Year)
Overall: 107-51 (.677) 13th year
At Michigan State 89-34 (52-21)
Bowl Appearances: 11
Last Year’s Record: 12-2 (7-1)
This Year’s Record: 2-1 (0-1)
Bowl Appearances Since 2000: 11 Appearances (5-6 Record)
Mascot: Sparty
Colors: Green and White
Outfitter: Nike
National Titles: 6
Conference Titles: 11
Heisman Winners: 0

Fun Fact:

During the 1950s when Detroit was known as the world's leading automobile manufacturer, Michigan State was often referred to as the nation's "football factory." During this era, the Spartans produced great players such as Lynn Chandnois, Dorne Dibble,Don McAulliffe, Tom Yewcic, Sonny Grandelius, Bob Carey, Don Coleman, Earl Morrall and Dean Look. In 1951, the Spartans finished undefeated and untied to claim a share of the national championship with Tennessee. A second consecutive undefeated season led to a consensus national title in 1952. The team was admitted into the Big Ten as a regular member in 1953, winning the league championship and defeating UCLA in their first Rose Bowl game. 


1. These Are Not The 2013 Spartans, But They Are Still Solid On Defense

Everybody, including us, thought that Michigan State would take a step back from where they have been at or near the top of the Big Ten the last four-plus years by being one of the best defensive teams in the country. In 2013 when Michigan State won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl, they allowed just 13.2 points per game and 252.2 yards per game. This season the Spartans rank fourth in the Big Ten in total defense allowing 314.7 yards per game, but have fallen to ninth in the conference in scoring defense allowing 23.7 points per game. It’d be nearly impossible to replicate 2013 over and over and many of the faces have changed from that defense. However, the Spartans still have stars like Malik McDowell, Demitrious Cox, and if healthy Riley Bullough. So they will still come in with a very good defense.

The Spartans have recorded 17 tackles for loss and five sacks in their first three games to go along with three fumble recoveries and three interceptions. Much like Wake Forest, this team can get after the quarterback and stuff a running game while being a threat to take the ball away from the Hoosier offense. The Indiana line will need to be at full strength to get something going on the ground. 

2. Missing Connor Cook, MSU is Average at Best on Offense

The talent is there with L.J. Scott at running back and R.J. Shelton at receiver and Josiah Price at tight end, but the Spartans are feeling the losses of offensive line stalwarts Jack Allen and Jack Conklin as well as former quarterback Conner Cook. Yes, Wisconsin is a great defensive team, but Michigan State only managed six points against them at home. They rank 13th in the 14 team Big Ten in scoring offense with 23.3 points per game and that came after hanging 36 on a terrible Notre Dame defense. There just are not enough playmakers on this side of the ball to really be a great offense.

On the season quarterback Tyler O’Connor has played decently, completing 61 percent of his passes for 655 yards and five touchdowns and five interceptions. He has also added 59 yards on the ground. L.J. Scott came into the year with major aspirations to be an All-Big Ten back but has struggled to break loose running for 264 yards with a 4.71 yard per carry average in the first three games. It looks like junior Gerald Holmes has been their most efficient back averaging 7.1 ypc. Seniors R.J. Shelton and Josiah Price has been held in check as well with both having 103 receiving yards each, while freshman Donnie Corley has become the big play threat with 10 grabs for 189 yards and a touchdown. 

3. Tyler O’Connor Has Issues Giving The Ball Away

One of the biggest questions coming into the season for MSU was who is going to replace Connor Cook. The first guy to get a crack at it is senior Tyler O’Connor, whose biggest moment as a Spartan was knocking off Ohio State at The ‘Shoe last season. This season O’Connor has led the Spartans to wins over FCS foe Furman and rival Notre Dame, but suffered a crushing loss at home last week to Wisconsin. So far he has thrown five interceptions to his five touchdown passes. For a player who only averages eight yards per passing attempt five interceptions is way too many. After falling behind last week the Spartans tried to throw more and O’Connor completed only 47.4 percent of his passes for 224 yards and three interceptions. Wisconsin got pressure on him most of the afternoon by bringing linebackers from every angle.

4. Michigan State Hasn’t Lost Two-Straight Since 2012

This is just how good Michigan State has been since 2011, they have lost back-to-back games only twice (both in 2012). That says a lot about the business-like culture Mark Dantonio has created at Michigan State. Coming off a 30-6 beat down at home, will mean that a very angry Spartan team till be taking the field in Bloomington. The Hoosiers will have to match the level of passion, as they too should be angry about the loss last week and ready to take it out on the opponent.