What to watch on offense
Mark Dantonio is in his 7th year at Michigan State has finally brought something to Sparty that they haven’t had in a long time, consistency. After years of mediocre and losing seasons the Spartans have reached a bowl game in each of Dantonio’s 6 seasons. The Spartans added co-offensive coordinators but have maintained the same power running attack that Dantonio’s teams have been known for throughout the years.
After 2 seasons the Spartans are still searching for a QB to replace Kirk Cousins who posted a 28-12 record as a starter. Longtime heir apparent Andrew Maxwell gave way to Connor Cook shortly after the season started and has posted better than average numbers. The Spartan passing game is still a weak spot despite the presence of WRs Bennie Fowler, Aaron Burbridge, and Macgarrett Kings Jr.
After losing La’Veon Bell to the draft Sparty has turned to junior Jeremy Langford to carry the load at RB. Langford, who like many of the backs on the Spartan roster, didn’t see a ton of carries behind Bell has blossomed into playmaker at RB. At 6’0 206lbs, Langford is tough to tackle and has a great mix of speed and power.
The Spartan’s offensive line was decimated by injuries a year ago and while they lose their best linemen, they return the services of seniors Travis Jackson and Fou Fonoti. Returning 4 players with starting experience, though this is one of the smallest offensive lines the Spartans have had under Dantonio weight wise.
Best Offensive Player
RB Jeremy Langford- The Spartans depend on their running game and have leaned heavily on Langford who has accounted for more than 100yds over the past 3 games. While not a major player in the passing game like his predecessors, Langford is a load to bring down and has displayed terrific feet and vision.
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio-7th Year
Off Coor: Jim Bollman/Dave Warner-1st Year
Def Coor: Pat Narduzzi-7th Year
RB La’Veon Bell
TE Dion Sims
OG Chris McDonald
DE William Gholston
DT Anthony Rashad White
LB Chris Norman
CB Johnny Adams
WR Bennie Fowler
WR Aaron Burbridge
OC Travis Jackson
OT Fou Fonoti
DE Marcus Rush
DT Tyler Hoover
LB Max Bullough
LB Denicos Allen
SS Isiah Lewis
CB Darqueze Dennard
What to watch on defense
Pat Narduzzi has presided over Mark Dantonio’s defense for over a decade, dating back to their time together at the University of Cincinnati. Narduzzi is one of the sharpest defensive minds in the country and his defenses are routinely ranked in the top 10-15. The Spartan defense plays with a swagger and toughness that is rarely matched by their opponent and they customarily have the hardest hitting defense in the Big 10.
The Spartans have two of the best defensive linemen in the conference in edge rusher Marcus Rush and DT Shilique Calhoun. Rush is known to Michigan fans from his exploits over the years but Calhoun has burst onto the scene this year and currently leads the Spartans in tackles.
The strength of the Spartans D is always the LBer core and this year is no exception. Max Bullough, Denicos Allen, and Taiwan Jones form the best LBer core in the Big 10 and one of the best in the country. Bullough receives most of the accolades but it is Allen that leads the Spartans in tackles and is the most versatile of the Spartan defenders.
The Spartans lost their best cover corner is Johnny Adams but return plenty of talent in the secondary led by senior Darqueze Dennard. Safety Isiah Lewis returns for what seems like his 8th season in East Lansing as the stabling force in the middle of the secondary.
Best Defensive Player
Max Bullough- Has been the best LB in the conference over the last 3 seasons. A tackling machine, Bullough is a throw back to the B1G LBers of old with his size and ability to plug plays between the tackles. Bullough has been an All-Big 10 selection over the past two seasons and is well on his way to recognition for a 3rd consecutive season.
Michigan Rush Def vs. Sparty Rush Off
UConn ranks 124th our 125 D1 teams in rushing, averaging 57yds per game. Despite having a talented RB the Huskies have struggled to open holes and create running lanes.
The Wolverines gave up their highest rushing total of the season last week against Akron but are tied for 11th in rush defense in the country.
Michigan Pass Def vs. Sparty Pass Off
Neither the Spartan pass defense or the Michigan pass defense is anything to write home about. The Wolverines have struggle to defend the pass all season and were forced in back to back games against Penn State and Indiana.
The Spartan passing game has looked a bit more exuberant since Connie Cook took the reigns of the offense but passing is still a struggle.
Michigan Rush Off vs. Sparty Rush Def
The Spartans pride themselves on stopping the run and have the personnel and talent to do so whenever they please. The Spartans are one of the few teams that can defend the run with just 5-6 defenders in the box.
Michigan rushing attack is tale of two styles. Under center, the Wolverines struggle get a push and move bodies. The rushing attack is more productive out of the shotgun but there are still limits from the standpoint of physically dominating the line of scrimmage.
Michigan Pass Off vs. Sparty Pass Def
When he’s on, there isn’t a better QB in the Big 10 than Devin Gardner. Consistency and taking care of the football has been the issue for the junior QB. There is enough talent within the Michigan passing game, both at WR and TE for the Wolverines to post video game numbers.
Losing Johnny Adams has hurt the Spartan defense but they still boost a potent, takeaway prone defense. The Spartans have force 9 interceptions on the year, returning 2 for TDs