Michigan State Football: 5 Players Key to Spartans Winning Big Ten Championship

Brandon Alisoglu@@BrandonAlisogluCorrespondent INovember 20, 2011

Michigan State Football: 5 Players Key to Spartans Winning Big Ten Championship

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    Many players have contributed to the Michigan State Spartans' Big Ten title defense. The Spartans clinched the Big Ten Legends Division and a trip to the conference championship after Michigan's victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

    Kirk Cousins headlines a senior class that has already set the record for most wins by a class. However, Spartan Nation will be happy to be reminded that three of the players on this list are not seniors and could potentially be back again next year.

    East Lansing has been a happy place most Saturdays this season and these players are the key reasons why. 

Wide Receiver B.J. Cunningham

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    The Michigan State offense is dependent on B.J. Cunningham being a tone-setter. The senior wide receiver has responded with over 1,000 yards and five touchdowns.

    Cunningham sets up the rest of the offense. He loosens up the defense with the threat of a long pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins.

    His importance was even more evident in the Spartans' lone conference loss to Nebraska. He was held without a catch and the offense failed to produce a single touchdown.  

Defensive Tackle Jerel Worthy

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    Jerel Worthy has delivered on much of the preseason hype surrounding his NFL potential. He was projected to be a first-round pick in the draft and has done little to hurt those lofty aspirations.

    Worthy was named to multiple midseason All-American teams and provides the stability required for an elite defense. His stats don't jump off the page, but he creates room for the linebackers to make plays. 

    Worthy is not a part of the record-breaking senior class and has one more year of eligibility left. Big Ten offensive coordinators are unwavering in their support of Worthy's decision should he leave early for the NFL.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins

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    Kirk Cousins will end the regular season with numbers comparable to the rest of his career. He has cut down on his interceptions, but his biggest impact is not his production.

    He has provided invaluable leadership and been an ambassador for Michigan State University and the football program. Additionally, he has carried the team to wins, such as his performance against the Wisconsin Badgers.

    He has been steady and mostly consistent throughout the year. Teams need a calm demeanor from their quarterback to weather the various storms that arise during the season.

Defensive End William Gholston

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    Michigan State's recent success under head coach Mark Dantonio is best exemplified by William Gholston. The second-year defensive end was a highly sought after recruit and his commitment to MSU cemented the program's status as a Big Ten alpha dog.

    Gholston joined Jerel Worthy on Phil Steele's midseason All-Big Ten team in his first year as a starter. He played sparingly as a freshman but will be a force on the field going forward.

    His response to getting suspended after throwing a punch during the game against the Michigan Wolverines has shown his resilience and maturity.

    His size, talent and attitude have made him one of the highlights of a great Spartan season.

Defensive End Marcus Rush

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    Marcus Rush has admirably filled the void left by former All-American Greg Jones and running mate Adam Decker. He isn't the only player who has stepped up, but his play has been key this year to the defense's success.

    Rush was also named to Phil Steele's midseason All-Big Ten team. Moreover, he was one of the few players to play well against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, compiling 11 tackles with 2.5 for a loss.

    He is another player whose numbers don't accurately represent his contributions. He appears around the football constantly and takes advantage of the attention paid to Jerel Worthy.