Well, this foe doesn't really need any intro, so let's just get into...
How They Did
|8/30||Western Michigan||W 26-13|
|9/7||South Florida||W 21-6|
|9/14||Youngstown State||W 55-17|
|9/21||@ Notre Dame||L 17-13|
|10/5||@ Iowa||W 26-14|
|10/26||@ Illinois||W 42-3|
|11/16||@ Nebraska||W 41-28|
|11/23||@ Northwestern||W 30-6|
|12/7||Ohio State||W 34-24|
|1/1||Stanford (Rose Bowl)||W 24-20|
Regardless of the fact that this is about Michigan State, I really can't take too many shots at how this team did last season. They had some ugly wins, of course, and they were given quite a ton of crap for it. However, when it came right down to it, the Spartans beat everyone (mostly) they were supposed to beat on their way to a well-deserved spot in the Rose Bowl.
Versus Michigan: as usual when discussing how Michigan State did against anyone, there's only one word: Defense. The Spartans were able to hold Michigan to an underwhelming 168 yards. No matter what your view is on how sack yardage affects the total, the fact is that it comes off of the rushing yards...and Michigan officially ended up with -48 on the day. Devin Gardner was sacked 7 times: 2 1/2 times each by Shilique Calhoun and Ed Davis. Denicos Allen added another 2. It was ugly and it was sad, yet many Michigan fans were sportsmanlike enough to recognize just what a special unit that Spartan defense was throughout the game and the season.
When Michigan had the ball: Michigan had the ball?
Best Win: Ohio State and Stanford. I'm choosing two because of what they meant. First, beating Ohio State kept the Buckeyes out of the BCS Championship, and the importance of knocking someone out of contention in the last game of the season can't be understated. There were plenty of Michigan fans who were "rooting" for MSU in this one just for state pride, and I count myself a part of that group.
Michigan State then won in Pasadena for the first time in 25 years, which is accomplishment enough, but to do it on the 100th anniversary of the first Rose Bowl was doubly glorious for the Spartans. Michigan played in the first ever Rose Bowl, and fans everywhere were hoping for the symmetry of also playing in the hundredth version of the game. Not only was Michigan State dominant against Michigan on the field, but they were able to take the one bowl game that Michigan in some ways feels is "theirs".
Worst Loss: I guess it would have to be their only loss, right? The Fighting Irish were still able to finish the season with a 9-4 record, which isn't terrible considering who they lost from their run to the BCS Championship game. Not having Everett Golson and Manti Te'o on offense and defense hurt the Irish, but I can think of at least 109,901 fans that would have loved a 9-4 record.
Of course, Michigan State complained about the number of PI calls (I covered it briefly in my Notre Dame recap) that led to all of ND's scoring, so hooray for conspiracy theories! Connor Cook threw for 135 yards and 1 TD to Macgarrett Kings, Jr. It was the only touchdown on the day for Sparty. The only other scoring came off the foot of kicker Michael Geiger. Yep, it was all on the officials in this one.
Outlook for 2014
Connor Cook ended up being relatively solid as the year went on and he proved to be quite reliable. He finished the year with 2,755 yards, averaged 7.25 yards per attempt, and threw 22 touchdowns to only 6 INTs. He needs to work on his mobility a little bit, as his rushing average for the year comes out to -15 yards. However, with the year he had, he should have a major impact on his team's performance in '14. Although Bennie Fowler, the team's leading receiver, is leaving, they'll see the return of Jeremy Langford, Aaron Burbridge, and Josiah Price.
The defense will also return some key players, namely Shilique Calhoun. Calhoun had 7.5 sacks last year, but also had three defensive touchdowns on two fumble recoveries and an interception. And as long as Pat Narduzzi is coordinating the defense, we can expect continued success on that side of the ball in E.L.
The Spartans also have a favorable schedule in 2014, getting Nebraska, Michigan, and Ohio State at home. Their toughest road contest is a 9/6 trip to Eugene to face the Oregon Ducks.
Do they play Michigan in 2014?
Of course they do. And for the second consecutive year, Michigan will head to East Lansing.