Tenth ranked Michigan State is on a much needed bye this week. Their next game will be home against the Purdue Boilmakers a week from this Saturday. The Spartans have played for nine straight weeks, so this will be a welcome break from the Big Ten grind. Michigan State still controls their destiny, in which if they win out, they will at the worst go to a New Year’s Day Bowl, or at best a BCS game. MSU may still be able to capture the Big Ten crown, but they will need some help from Iowa. If the Hawkeyes can beat Ohio State next week and Wisconsin wins out, then the Spartans would claim the title based on their head to head win against the Badgers, and Iowa having two overall losses. Michigan State has two very winnable games left, so it is very realistic and possible that MSU could have its’ first 11 win season EVER in the history of the program. It has been a very successful season thus far for the Spartans and here are a two important observations from the first 9 weeks:
Mark Dantonio flat-out deserves Big Ten Coach of the Year. With a victory next week, the Spartans will have doubled their win total from the 2009 season. He made play calls that no other coach in the nation would have made at that exact situation. He called for a fake field goal in overtime against Notre Dame on a 4th and 18 to seal a victory, and against Northwestern, he called another fake, this one on a punt that for 25 yards and first down. He has not just made these season and career changing decisions on a whim, but by knowing exactly what he was doing. After the Northwestern victory, he talked about how he had seen something on film from the Northwestern cornerback on the right side of the punt return team, and that they could take advantage of this, in which they did. Sometimes you have to make gutsy calls like this to have a special season like the one the Spartans are having this year, and Coach Dantonio deserves a lot of credit for turnaround.
The defense has been better than I thought it would be at this point in the season. You would have figured that the linebackers would be the strength of the defense this year, but they have only been the third best unit. The secondary has been the best, creating turnovers at opportune times, while also making plays all over the field. They have the first and second ranked players in the Big Ten for interceptions, Marcus Hyde and Johnny Adams respectively. The secondary has combined for 10 interceptions and 24 pass breakups as a whole unit. The defensive line has been very good at getting to the quarterback this year. They have 15 sacks combined amongst the d-line, led by Johnathan Strayhorn with 3.5 and Jerel Worthy and Tyler Hoover both with 3. We knew Worthy was going to be a player after receiving Freshman All-American honors last year, but who knew that Strayhorn and Hoover would step up like they have this season. It has been a pleasant surprise and one of the main reasons that this defense has not given up very many big plays this year. The linebackers have been solid, but nothing spectacular. They came in with a lot of hype this year and I do not believe that they have lived up to the expectations. Don’t get me wrong, they are still a great unit, but one that is not as feared right now as it should be.
Michigan State needs to take advantage of this week off and get everyone healthy. If they are able to do so, the Spartans will be at full strength heading into their last 2 games. This could be scary for opposing teams, considering that MSU they have been without key starters for more than a month now.
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Written by David Lesmeister