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Breaking down the MSU defense

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MSU’s defense keeps proving it is one of the top units in the country

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Like Matt Hoeppner said in his MSU’s offense has failed its defense…Again story, it’s getting repetitive to break this team down when it’s the same thing every week.

We know the defense is good, and we know the offense is bad. We’ve come to expect the offense to not score points and the defense to hold teams well under their scoring average.

If it’s getting repetitive for us, imagine how the defense must feel when it’s having to watch the offense give them around two minutes of rest before they have to go back out on the field and defend a short field after the offense turned it over or didn’t get a single first down.

Instead of the same old boring breakdown where I talk about Kenny Willekes dominating and MSU being great on third down, let’s take a look at just how good this defense has been this year.

The Spartans’ defense ranks in the top 20 in a variety of categories: total defense (19), third down defense (16), fourth down defense (20), rushing defense (1) and scoring defense (17).

Everyone knew this defense was good, but just how good is it compared to other top teams around the nation? Well, it stacks up pretty well when we look at S&P+.

S&P+ has become pretty popular over the last few years. For those that don’t know what S&P+ is, it was developed by Bill Connelly to track the overall efficiency of a team. For example, Alabama’s overall rating is 30.3, which means it is 30.3 points better than the average college football team.

Connelly explains it well in this story: https://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2017/10/13/16457830/college-football-advanced-stats-analytics-rankings

MSU’s overall S&P+ rating is 8.6, which means it is 8.6 points better than the average college football team. Over the last two games, that hasn’t been the case as the Spartans have scored six points in each contest.

However, if you break it down to just defense, according to Football Outsiders, the Spartans’ rating is 13.9, which ranks fourth in the nation behind only Clemson, Michigan and Notre Dame. Those three teams have a combined record of 32-1.

Of those three teams ahead of MSU in defensive S&P+, Clemson is the only one with a top 20 offensive rating. Michigan is at 23 and Notre Dame is at 27. MSU’s offense is ranked No. 114.

Let that sink in for a minute. In terms of S&P+ ratings, MSU has the No. 4 defense and the No. 114 ranked offense. This leads me to believe that if MSU’s offense had a rating of something around 70 or 80, they’d have one or two more wins and be looking at a much different season.

It’s becoming harder and harder to watch games because everyone knows what is going to happen. The defense is going to play well, and the offense will struggle to score points. It’s a shame this defense has been wasted, but they should be solid again next year.