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Michigan State Spartans Football: Dantonio against the Big Ten (and ND)

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Joe continues his series looking at GFEI data

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

In a previous post, I wrote about the best and worst games of the Dantonio Era using GFEI data. It just so happens that GFEI data stretches back to 2007, the start Dantonio's MSU tenure. Here's Brian Fremeau's explanation of those metrics:

GFEI Game Ratings are the opponent-adjusted single game data used to produce overall FEI team ratings. Adjustments factor in home field advantage and the strength of the opponent. Each team table includes the rating (FEI) and rank of each FBS opponent, plus the game location (Site) and final outcome. The non-garbage game results -- points scored (PF), points allowed (PA), and possessions (Po) -- are used to produce unadjusted game efficiency (GE) data. Game ratings include the national rank and percentile (Pct) of each game performance.

TL;DR: Game Efficiency (GE) is the raw score for a game based on roughly on score and possessions. Game FEI (GFEI) adjusts for opponent strength. Ranks and percentiles based upon all games played. Also, there are no FCS games.

Using this data, I figured I'd take a look at the teams that Dantonio has been best against in his tenure at MSU. I decided to only include Power 5 teams which had at least 3 games against Dantonio since 2007. This essentially means all of the Big Ten except Maryland and Rutgers (also Notre Dame is included).

One of MGoBlog's favorite memes is that MSU teams are over-prepared for the Regular Michigan game and circle that game on the calendar, giving their all-out best effort. This is one way of testing that theory:

Mark Dantonio's GFEI Against Selected Opponents

Well, then. Who is the #RealRival after all? MSU teams play their best in the border battle with Wisconsin, if you include team strength as GFEI does. In fact, MSU also tends to play better against both Illinois and Ohio State than Regular Michigan. If UM had been better during the past eight seasons, then perhaps they would've been higher on this list. Interesting too that MSU has performed so poorly (on average) against Penn State despite a winning record against them; the 2008 and 2009 beat downs still hurt the average.

It stands out to me that Dantonio has been so good against some of the worst Big Ten programs: a combined 24-3 against Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota, and Purdue. That's not a knock on Dantonio, either. In order to be a Big Ten contender you have to consistently beat the bottom-feeders in the conference, and Dantonio has done just that. A better record against traditional powers should hopefully come with time.