Preview No. 9: Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. (USA Today Photo).

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. (USA Today Photo).

This is the ninth in a series of articles previewing Ohio State’s 12 opponents for the 2014 season.

On Nov. 8, Ohio State travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. Kickoff at Spartan Stadium is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on your local ABC affiliate.

Last Season:

The Spartans went 13-1 overall that includes a 34-24 win over No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game and a 24-20 victory over No. 11 Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Michigan State’s lone blemish in 2013 was a 17-13 loss to No. 22 Notre Dame in South Bend.

History and Coaches:

The Michigan Agricultural College, as Michigan State University was known then, began playing intercollegiate football in 1896. For the first decade, the Aggies were a member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, but left in 1907 to become an independent and would stay independent until joining the Big Ten in 1953.

After spending five seasons as the head coach of the University of Florida, Notre Dame alumnus and former player under Knute Rockne, Charlie Bachman became the 13th head coach in Michigan State history in 1933 and guided the Spartans 10 winning seasons in 13 years from 1933-1942 and from 1944-1946.

During his second season in 1934, Bachman led State to an 8-1 record, which included a 16-0 victory over Michigan, the school’s first since 1915. That marked the first of four-straight wins over UM.

Michigan State posted another 8-1 regular season record in 1937 and received the school’s first bid to a postseason bowl game, the 1938 Orange Bowl. After defeating the likes of Wayne State, Michigan, Missouri, Marquette, Kansas, Temple, Carnegie Tech and San Francisco with the lone loss being to Manhattan, the Spartans were invited to Miami to play Auburn. Michigan State entering the game with a record of 8-1 lost to a 5-2-3 Tigers squad by the score of 6-0. Bachman’s overall record at Michigan State was 70–34–10 and is second in wins all-time in school history.

In 1947, Clarence “Biggie” Munn took over for Bachman and collected an impressive 54-9-2 record during his seven seasons as head coach of the Spartans. He came to Michigan State after just one season at Syracuse. Munn helped the Spartans burst onto the national scene in 1950 by finishing in the Top 10 in the final wire service polls with an 8-1 mark that included victories over third-ranked Michigan and Notre Dame.

Munn compiled a 27-1 worksheet over the next three years, winning back-to-back national championships in 1951 and 1952 with identical 9-0 records. In 1952, Munn earned national Coach of the Year honors from the American Football Coaches Association after the Spartans produced wins over three ranked opponents, including No. 17 Penn State, No. 8 Purdue and No. 6 Dame. Michigan State ran its winning streak to 28-straight games in 1953 before losing at Purdue, 6-0.

In their first season of competition in the Big Ten, the Spartans grabbed a share of the 1953 league championship with a 5-1 mark. In seven seasons, Munn produced 18 All-Americans and was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959. About a week after his team’s Rose Bowl victory, Munn stepped down from coaching to assume the duties as Michigan State’s athletics director and served in that capacity for 18 years.

The longest tenured and the winningest coach in Michigan State football history, Duffy Daugherty, spent 19 seasons in East Lansing and compiled a 109–69–5 overall record with two Big ten titles and two national championships from 1954-1972. Daugherty was a member of Munn’s staff from 1946 until he replaced him as head coach in 1954.

In Daugherty’s first season, the Spartans improved and finished second in the Big Ten behind Ohio State in 1955 with an 8–1 record in the regular season. Michigan State received the conference’s invitation to the 1956 Rose Bowl instead of the Buckeyes due to the conference’s prohibition against consecutive trips to the Rose Bowl. In Pasadena, the Spartans defeated UCLA, 17–14, for their second bowl win in school history.

Daugherty’s best seasons were the 1965 and 1966. In 1965, the Spartans were 10-1 losing only to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, but Michigan State was still voted No. 1 in the UPI Coaches Poll. In 1966, the Spartans were 9-0-1 and tied No. 1 Notre Dame, 10-10, in the final game of the regular season. Since Michigan State went the Rose Bowl the previous season, the Spartans stayed home, but was still selected as the Football Research poll national champion and the Helms Foundation co–champion.

For the next 10 years, Michigan State had three different head coaches. During that span, there were just four winning seasons. In 1978 under Darryl Rogers, the Spartans went 8-3 overall and were co-champions with Michigan at 7-1 in the Big Ten.

In December of 1982, George Perles returned to Michigan State it be its next head coach. In 12 years, he led the Spartans to two Big Ten Conference titles and seven bowl games. His best team was the 1987 unit, which won Michigan State’s last outright conference title in the pre-championship game era and defeated USC in the 1988 Rose Bowl.

From 1995-2007, Michigan State was once against a revolving door for coaches as three held the reins with Nick Saban, Bobby Williams, and John L. Smith.

Mark Dantonio became Michigan State University’s 24th head football coach on Nov. 27, 2006, and has led the Spartans to a school-record seven consecutive bowl appearances, including a school-record three-straight postseason wins (2012 Outback Bowl, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and 2014 Rose Bowl). He already ranks fourth in school history with 64 wins and his .688 winning percentage ranks fifth-best.

Offense:

Seven starters return on offense including junior quarterback Connor Cook, who’s back for his second season as the starting signal-caller in 2014 after leading the Spartans to a Big Ten Championship and a victory in the Rose Bowl last season. Cook finished his first year ranking second in the MSU single-season record book in touchdown passes (22), fourth in total offense (2,831 yards) and pass attempts (380), fifth in passing yards (2,755), and sixth in pass completions (223). For the 2013 season, Cook completed 58.7 percent of his passes (223-380) with six interceptions.

The Spartans return 99 percent of their rushing yards from 2013, including leading rusher and fifth-year senior Jeremy Langford, who was fourth in the Big Ten in yards with 1,422 and led the conference with 18 rushing touchdowns. Another fifth-year senior, Nick Hill, was second on the team with 67 carries for 344 yards and a score also returns.

Michigan State returns 79 percent of its receiving yards in 2014 with fifth-year seniors Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery, plus juniors Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings Jr. Lippett led the Spartans with a career-high 44 catches for 613 yards and two touchdowns in 2013. Kings also posted career numbers with 43 receptions for 513 yards and three TDs last season.

Although the Spartans lost three starters on the offensive line, junior center Jack Allen is back for his third year in the starting lineup and his second at center. Allen has been named to the Outland Trophy (nation’s most outstanding interior lineman) and Rimington Trophy (nation’s top center) Watch Lists, earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the media last season. Sophomore left tackle Jack Conklin, who is also featured on the Outland Trophy Watch List, started 13 games in his first season, including the last 10 at left tackle, and was named a first-team Freshman All-American.

Defense:

Just five starters are back from last year’s team. On the defensive line, junior Shilique Calhoun and fifth-year senior Marcus Rush return. Calhoun, a second-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection was named the 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year after racking up 7.5 sacks (45 yards) and 14 tackles for loss. Rush recorded 30 tackles, including 7.5 for losses (38 yards) and a career-high five sacks.

At linebacker, Taiwan Jones returns after starting 13 of 14 games at STAR linebacker and ranked fourth on the team with a career-high 67 tackles.

On the secondary, fifth-year senior free safety Kurtis Drummond, a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, was second on the team with a career-high 91 tackles and tied for the team led with four interceptions is back, along with junior cornerback Trae Waynes.