Opponent Preview: Michigan State
Nebraska hosts No. 14 Michigan State on Saturday on ABC with a chance to pull even with the Spartans in the Big Ten Legends Division. Huskers.com takes a closer look at Saturday's opponent.
Scouting Michigan State
Led by one of the nation’s top defenses, Michigan State brings an 8-1 overall record and a perfect 5-0 Big Ten mark into Saturday's game. The Spartans’ only loss this season was a four-point loss at Notre Dame.
Michigan State is allowing just 11.6 points per game this season, a total that ranks third nationally. The Spartans have allowed only nine points in their last three games and have given up more than 17 points only once in nine games. MSU allows the fewest rushing yards (43.4), total yards (210.2) and first downs (12.7) per game of any team in the country, while also boasting the nation’s top pass efficiency defense, the top third-down conversion percentage (26.3) and the third-best passing defense, allowing fewer than 167 yards per game. The Spartans have also scored five defensive touchdowns this fall.
In Big Ten play, Michigan State is allowing only 10.2 points per game and 31.6 rushing yards per game. Opponents are averaging just 1.2 yards per rush against MSU, and the Spartans held Michigan to minus-48 yards rushing in their last game. Michigan State has forced more turnovers in Big Ten play (eight) than touchdowns allowed (six).
With a strong defense, Michigan State’s offense hasn’t needed to do too much. The balanced Spartans average 279.2 yards per game, including 190.2 rushing yards and 188.8 passing yards. MSU is averaging nearly 30 points per game and the Spartan offense is among the national leaders in two important categories given Michigan State’s stout defense. MSU leads the nation with an average of 34:32 time of possession per game, limiting the opponent’s chance to score. The Spartans have also lost only 10 turnovers in nine games this season, a total that ranks 14th nationally.
Nebraska is a perfect 7-0 all-time against Michigan State, as the Spartans are the only winless Big Ten team against the Huskers. NU has won both of the meetings as conference foes, including a last-second, 28-24 come-from-behind victory at Michigan State last season. In the last meeting in Lincoln, No. 13 Nebraska handed the ninth-ranked Spartans their only Big Ten loss, 24-3. Michigan State entered that contest 6-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play.
The Huskers have held the Spartans without a touchdown in three of the seven all-time meetings. Michigan State has scored a pair of touchdowns only twice in the series, while the Spartans’ 24 points a year ago marked the first time they had scored more than 14 points in the seven all-time matchups.
The last matchup prior to becoming conference foes was a memorable one as No. 22 Nebraska defeated the unranked Spartans, 17-3, in the 2003 Alamo Bowl. Bo Pelini served as Nebraska’s interim head coach for that game and picked up his first win as the Husker head coach.
Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio
Mark Dantonio is in his seventh season on the Michigan State sideline, where he has guided the Spartans to a 59-29 record. Dantonio owns a 77-46 record in 10 seasons as a collegiate head coach. Dantonio is 0-2 against Nebraska as a head coach and 0-8 against the Huskers in his coaching career, including assistant coaching stints at Michigan State and Kansas.
MSU already owns more wins this season (8) than it won a year ago (7), and Dantonio has the Spartans poised for a third 10-win season in four years. In 2011, Michigan State won the Legends Division and finished with an 11-3 record and a victory in the Outback Bowl. In 2010, MSU was co-Big Ten champions while posting an 11-2 record. Overall, Dantonio has guided Michigan State to a winning record in six of his seven seasons.
Before arriving in East Lansing, Dantonio compiled an 18-17 record in three seasons at Cincinnati from 2004 to 2005. Prior to becoming a head coach, Dantonio was an assistant at Ohio State (2001-03), Michigan State (1995-2000), Kansas (1991-94), Youngstown State (1986-90) and Akron (1985).