Why Is Michigan State’s Defense So Good?

By josephsmith
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans defense is once again one of the best in the nation and could be the standard by which all other defenses are compared. So rightfully, the Spartans should be considered with these college football powerhouses in BCS discussions.

To be the best in the nation, it helps to play in a conference that features other quality defenses. The Big Ten may not currently be viewed as the power conference that it once was, but statistics do not lie and stats show that the Big Ten has some quality defenses in their conference this season.

The Wisconsin Badgers new 3-4 defense under first year coach Gary Anderson is a top-15 defense in the country this season, holding teams to under three yards per rush and under 100 yards rushing per game. The Iowa Hawkeyes are allowing only 325 total yards per game, which is good enough for 13th in the country this year. The Ohio State Buckeyes are allowing opponents only 88 rushing yards per game.

The Spartans join teams like the reigning National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide, Louisville Cardinals, Florida State Seminoles and Virginia Tech Hookies as some of the top defenses out of all conferences this year. The Spartans may rely on their defense to win games more than these other teams, but that is how they have done it for years and they are okay with that.

So what makes separates the Spartans’ defense from those of other squads?

For the Spartans, it all starts with a coach who would rather pass on the praise to his players and assistants.  Coach Mark Dantonio has been a defensive guru in college football for some time now. He has coached defenses for coaching greats like former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and current Alabama coach Nick Saban. Dantonio has only had two losing seasons as a head coach and has only missed postseason action once in his career.

He is not a fan of spread offense or elaborate, over-the-top strategies. He is a coach’s coach who is on the field with his players teaching the game every day. Dantonio stresses fundamentals and holds his players accountable for their responsibilities. The Spartans’ defense has been so successful because each player knows their job, does their job and trusts their teammates to do their jobs. No one man is expected to do another player’s job on the field.

The coach behind the coach is defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who has been with Dantonio for each of his seven years at Michigan State. Narduzzi has helped to make the Spartans’ defense the dominant squad that it has become year in and year out now. In doing so, he has become a name known around the country and is projected as a potential head coach sometime in the near future.

Narduzzi has committed himself to Dantonio and Michigan State, and has turned down more lucrative offers. The combination of these two committed men is what separates the Spartans’ defense from other defenses around the country. They trust their players and their players trust one another. The Spartans’ defense is truly an impressive sight to see — as long as you are not lined up against it.

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