Midseason report: Michigan State

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
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A struggling offense almost made Michigan State an afterthought in the league throughout the first month of the season.

Even if those early issues aren’t all entirely solved, there have been enough strides to complement a defense that doesn’t take a backseat to any unit in the country to make sure the Spartans are now front and center in any conversation about Legends Division favorites.

Certainly settling on one quarterback has helped stabilize the attack for Michigan State, and Connor Cook has provided consistent, efficient outings behind center to key a turnaround and lead a couple of critical conference wins over Iowa and Indiana. In all, Cook has completed nearly 58 percent of his passes for 923 yards and 9 touchdowns, and while those numbers don’t exactly turn heads, the fact he’s tossed only 2 interceptions goes a long way for a team that doesn’t need to light up the scoreboard every week.

The Spartans do their heavy lifting with a rugged, ruthless defensive unit that is No. 1 in the nation through six games, giving up just 228 yards per game while also holding opponents to less than 16 points on average.

With 14 different players contributing a tackle for a loss and a group of ball hawks that have nabbed 7 interceptions and scooped up 4 fumbles, the Spartans are deep, talented and capable of making life miserable for any opposing offense. Now that their own offensive nightmare appears to be over, they might be primed for a second-half run that could send them to Indianapolis to play for a conference crown.

Offensive MVP: RB Jeremy Langford. Sorting through the quarterback quandary and settling on Cook has helped, but as long as the Spartans have Langford to hand the football to, they should be able to play the kind of hard-nosed, ball-possession style that moves the chains, protects the defense, and occasionally exposes opponents not ready to match up in the trenches. Langford provided just what the blueprint called for last week against Indiana, scoring 4 touchdowns and rushing for 109 yards to help the Spartans start 2-0 in the league.

Defensive MVP: DE Shilique Calhoun. The Spartans have no shortage of candidates for top honors on the nation’s stingiest total defense, but Calhoun’s ability to stuff almost every column on the stats sheet gives him an edge at the midway point. The sophomore has been credited with 13 quarterback hurries, 3 sacks, 3 fumbles recovered and an interception for good measure. If that wasn’t enough, he’s turned three of those turnovers into touchdowns, tying the school record for defensive scores with half a season still to play.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter

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