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Know Your Foe, Week 13: Michigan State Spartans

Sparty is playing for a trip to Indianapolis. Can Penn State put up a fight in East Lansing?

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State University

Location: East Lansing, MI
Enrollment: 50,085
Home Stadium: Spartan Stadium 
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (85-32, 9th season)

Land Grant History

Dumbest Trophy Ever

lol look at that fucking thing

First Game - 1914: Michigan State 6, Penn State 3
Last Game - 2014: Michigan State 34, Penn State 10
Overall: Series tied 14-14-1
Current Streak: Michigan State has won two games in a row (last Penn State win: 2009)

2015: 10-1 (6-1 B1G)

Sparty is on the cusp of a Big Ten title game appearance, but it's been far from a stress-free season in East Lansing. MSU has been involved in six games decided by one score, five of which they've squeaked out. The lone defeat came on a pretty, pretty questionable non-call on the final play at Nebraska. Under the leadership of Mark Dantonio they've all but forgotten the "Sparty No!" mindset and have displayed the mental fortitude to win tight games.

Doesn't hurt to have a bit of freakish luck on your side, either.

Last Week: 17-14 W at Ohio State

A game of two quotes:


Star quarterback Connor Cook is the engine that makes Michigan State's offense go, but if they don't have Cook they're just as capable of spreading the wealth on the ground and grinding out an ugly win. Or at least they were last week - tailbacks Gerald Holmes and L.J. Scott led the charge to over 200 rushing yards on 51 carries in Columbus, which took control of the game away from J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott.

If Cook can't go this Saturday, Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry will share duties under center. O'Connor is capable of making downfield throws while Terry is more of a read-option guy, though both ran eight times for 25 yards against Ohio State. Dantonio decides to open up the playbook against a banged-up Penn State secondary, he can look towards 1,000-yard receiver Aaron Burbridge down the field. Burbridge has 69 grabs (nice) and a team-high six receiving TDs on the year.


Consistency has been an issue on the other side of the ball for Dantonio, but when this defensive unit is on its game it's fully capable of shutting down an offense that neither Alabama nor Oregon could slow down a year ago. Sparty's total defense currently ranks 20th nationally in S&P+, which might not be "elite" but it's surely enough to slow down a plodding Penn State attack.They specialize in forcing turnovers, and that compliments their offensive strategy of "don't turn the ball over" very well.

Shilique Calhoun leads the team with 11.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks. His defensive line will look to control the trenches as they have done so effectively all season. Starting safety and one-time Penn State recruiting target Montae Nicholson leads the team with three picks.

Special Teams

Kicker Michael Geiger did "fucking nail" the biggest kick of his career, but he is just 9-14 on the year. Punter Jake Hartbarger (a very good punter name) has punted the ball 42 times this year. He's fine. No Spartan has returned a kick or punt for a score yet, so sorry for jinxing it.


The Only Colors, which is not meant to be taken literally as there are in fact a bunch of colors that are not green. They're good people and I am totally jealous of their major athletic programs at the moment.