- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Record: 6-0 (2-0 Big Ten)
It has been an unforgettable first half for Mark Dantonio and the Spartans. After a quiet first two weeks, Michigan State hosted Notre Dame in what might be the game of the year so far in college football. The contest certainly featured the Call of the Year, as Dantonio signaled for a fake field goal in overtime that led to the game-winning touchdown. More drama ensued after the game as Dantonio began experiencing symptoms consistent with a mild heart attack. Hours after the overtime win, Dantonio underwent surgery to put a stent into a blocked blood vessel. He missed the next two games as offensive coordinator Don Treadwell guided the Spartans to two wins, making several gutsy calls of his own in an impressive 34-24 win against Wisconsin. Dantonio returned to the coaches' booth Saturday and watched his team thump archrival Michigan, marking Michigan State's first three-game win streak in the series since 1965-67. The Spartans have been boosted by a balanced offense featuring multiple running backs and a maturing quarterback in Kirk Cousins. All-American linebacker Greg Jones leads a bend-but-don't-break defense that already has three more interceptions (9) than it recorded all of last season. The Spartans still must make trips to Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State, but they don't face Ohio State this year and look like a legit BCS bowl contender.
Offensive MVPs, RBs Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell: Quarterback Kirk Cousins also deserves a ton of credit, but Michigan State's offense is surging right now because of a revived rushing attack that has been there from the start. Baker and Bell have been fabulous through the first six games, ranking fourth and sixth in the league in rushing average, respectively. They have combined for 1,232 rush yards and 14 touchdowns on 168 carries. Both have shown power and big-play ability behind an improved offensive line.
Defensive MVP, LB Greg Jones: Jones returned to East Lansing to help Michigan State win a Big Ten championship and improve his NFL draft stock. So far, the senior is achieving both objectives. Jones is arguably the nation's most complete linebacker: constantly around the ball, tremendous on blitzes, improved in pass coverage. He has recorded 46 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 4 quarterback hurries and 2 interceptions, the first of his college career.