The preseason hype was all about the offensive firepower in East Lansing.  Sure, a number of analysts thought MSU’s young offensive line would struggle at times, but nobody expected them to struggle the way they did early against Notre Dame or the way they did a few weeks ago against the Huskers.  Even with the lack of a dominant rushing attack, MSU is or should be the favorite to win the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis December 3rd.

I give Cousins credit because he has hung in there and slung the ball when MSU needed a long drive or a big play.  His line has been a season of patchwork and the holes haven’t been there to run the ball at will.  They show marked improvement, but the offense goes as Captain Kirk goes.

The mark of a good QB is wins and losses.  It is also about making the most of the weapons you have around you and taking what the defense gives you.  It is true that MSU’s offense has improved over the course of the season.  I attribute this to Cousins finding his rhythm and not forcing the ball into a bad situation.  If MSU’s running game improves over the next two weeks, MSU will be crowned the conference champion and head for the Rose Bowl.

 

On the other side of the ball, MSU is intimidating.  Narduzzi can’t hide his excitement.  He knows his defense has been stout all year long.  The collection of athletes at his disposal has made MSU a Big Ten title contender.  MSU’s defense is the best in the Big Ten.  They are a versatile group of athletes with range and speed.

 

The defensive side of the ball is violent.  Collisions often determine the tone of the game.  Sacks make quarterbacks tentative and turnovers usually decide the game.  Michigan State is the best team in the Big Ten.  It is the Spartan defense more than anything that has shown up week in and week out.  Defense wins championships.

 

The preseason talk was all about replacing Jones and Gordon.  Once the season started it was lights out for opposing QB’s and running backs.  MSU’s linebackers are better than they were a year ago.  We said they would be last summer and our critics had a field day.  Any of them care to argue now?  This is incredible considering that they were anchored by a two time All American and a fellow four year starter.

 

The front seven toys with Big Ten offensive fronts.  The speed, quickness and athleticism in the linebacking corp alone changes the game.  Bullough blows up lead blockers and disrupts the timing of a lot of plays.  His ability to check down into the right defensive call gives MSU a real upgrade at the MIKE.  LB Coach Mike Tressel said today, “He is the best I have been around.”  Incredible words considering he has been around A.J. Hawk who is now an NFL star with the Green Bay Packers.

Allen, Norman, Worthy, Gholston and Rush often kill the play before it ever gets going.  The defensive backfield is good for an interception or a forced-fumble every game and they continue to find pay dirt on turnovers.  It is hard for an offense to develop any rhythm against MSU’s defense, because they are one play away for changing the momentum.  More times than not, they have found a way to get it done.

It is easy to love this Spartan defense.  There is so much to gush over and yet nobody thinks of himself as a star.  Worthy is a star.  Gholston has attained star status. Bullough, Allen and Rush are right there with him.  Robinson has quietly had an All Big Ten season.  Lewis has been tremendous as well.  Darqueze Dennard is a shut down corner while his counterpart Adams just finds the ball.  Dennard has been banged up the last couple weeks and Lippett has started revealing his potential as a shutdown NFL type corner.   What really stands out about this MSU defense is the youth at almost every position.

Pickelman and Trenton Robinson graduate this year.  Worthy will likely enter the NFL draft.  Michigan State will have to replace some beef at defensive tackle, but the cupboard is stocked with a number of good athletes.   This defense might just be good enough to win a championship again next year.

We told you that there would be future NFL players on this team that wouldn’t see the field this season.  That is statement of fact, and that is why as good as the MSU defense is right now, they will likely be a whole lot better next year.