Mark Dantonio is expected to return to an active coaching role for the Michigan State Spartans in what MSU linebacker Greg Jones calls, “the biggest game of the year.”
MSU is hosted by their hometown rival Michigan this Saturday at the Big House in Ann Arbor for Week 6.
Despite Michigan’s explosive offense led by quarterback Denard Robinson—who’s already personally put up 1,008 yards passing and over 900 yards rushing in five games—Michigan State is in a fine position to win this rivalry for the third year in a row.
Forget about the storyline of coach Dantonio’s triumphant return—that’s yesterday’s news; Dantonio was reported to have called plays for the team by text message last week against Wisconsin while he was hospitalized for a blood clot in his leg.
The clot stems from suffering a minor heart attack in MSU’s thrilling overtime fake field goal to walk-off touchdown victory against Notre Dame in Week 2—a stunning finish that may have simultaneously given many Notre Dame football fans across the country a similar episode.
Now, the real story that will dictate the Week 6 rivalry is Michigan’s defense.
Of the 120 college football teams that exist, Michigan’s pass defense is statistically the worst after giving up 480 yards to Indiana in Week 5, despite earning their fifth victory of the season while doing so.
MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins is too good to lose against those numbers.
After a Week 5 win against then-ranked No. 11 Wisconsin, Cousins has posted over 1,100 season passing yards of his own, in addition to having an impressive running game backing his numbers with over 1,000 yards rushing between Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell.
Both teams are sitting pretty at 5-0 this year and both have explosive offenses. But Michigan State has already won some of their toughest scheduling this season because of attention to detail.
Dan Conroy has drilled seven of seven field goals on the year, all from outside of 30 yards with a long of 50. Michigan so far has missed four of five.
The Spartans have given up 93 points of offense on the year thus far, but that’s almost five touchdowns-worth fewer than Michigan’s 127. Plus, the Spartans’ were given up to some of their most formidable opponents of their 2010 season.
Sure, Dantonio coming back to coaching from the press box may carry some additional weight for MSU and the media.
“Can't keep me down Michigan week,” Dantonio said recently in a weekly press conference, showing his reverence for the famed rivalry.
But that won’t be what wins the Spartans the game.
Expect an extremely entertaining shootout—but after the smoke’s cleared, the ones left standing after “Michigan Week” will be wearing green.