Like most Big Ten programs, when Michigan State soccer and Michigan State soccer are at their best, it’s usually because of defense.
So when ESPN’s Bill Connelly decided to compile the 50 best college defenses of all time, it’s no surprise that both programs were included. Michigan had a lot more entries, with five teams in the ranks, but Michigan State had the highest Big Ten defense rating on the list.
In 2021, the MSU attack, led by one of the country’s best and most consistent quarterbacks, was explosive en route to the 11-2 finish, but that’s not usually the case with the Spartans.
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Marc D’Antonio – thanks in large part to his defences – has led six 10-win seasons in an eight-year period beginning in 2010, and topped the list with a college football appearance in 2015. Somewhat surprisingly, none of these teams are listed here.
Michigan had a more productive, if not explosive, offensive in 2021 and the same stingy defense.
UM features overwhelming defensive units before, during, and after the college football update. Whether Fielding Yoast teams in the early twentieth century allowed zero, two or six points all season long Or the 1964 Rose Bowl, which lost just 84 points in 10 games, always had one of the most talented defenses in the country. That’s why the five Michigan teams in the top 50 tied with LSU behind Alabama for second place ever in any program.
Here are some other things we noticed:
We all salute the 1965 Michigan State Soccer
Defenses #1, 2, 3, and 4 (2017 Alabama, 2016 Alabama, 1959 Ole Miss and 1959 LSU, repsectively) hail from the SEC. But Davi Dougherty and the Spartans are in the back of the top five.
“These Spartans allowed a combined 13 points for No. 4 at Notre Dame and No. 6. Purdue. They destroyed Michigan and Ohio with a total of 56-14,” Connelly wrote. “They boasted a future Hall of Fame in both the defensive end (Bubba Smith) and safety (George Webster), plus two more All-Americans in between.
“If college football had still decided its national champion before football games, Michigan State would have won the title after a 10-0 outbreak in the regular season.
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Michigan State University was downright dominant. In the usual reason, the Spartans allowed double-digit points three times and only played one game that ended with a possession.
The only time MSU allowed a touchdown twice that year was against UCLA in the Rose Bowl—and that was with the help of two short fields.
“UCLA scored after a low kick in MSU 6, then took a surprising side kick and quickly scored again. That was what it took to score 14 points over the Spartans…and kept the title ring off the fingers of the members of what was clearly the best defense outside of the SEC.” Not at all,” Connelly wrote.
Michigan’s Best Football Defenses: A Tradition Over 70 Years in the Form
Wolverine teams spanned from the 1920s to 1997. There’s 1927’s Tad Wyman club, ranked No. 46, which allowed 4.9 points per game. Football, baseball, and basketball star Benny Osterban was a member of this team and would direct elite defense as head coach in the 1940s and ’50s.
Bo Schembechler’s 1973 team ranked No. 40 and allowed 6.2 points per game. But his best player in the box, and the only other team in the top ten, was the 1972 team (No. 9) who conceded only 5.2 points per game.
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“Randy Logan is walking safe and one of the best minor players of the era… Michigan played two ranked teams in September—UCLA No. 6 and No. 18 Tulane—and allowed 16 points,” Connelly wrote. “In the first seven games for the Wolverines, they allowed twenty.
“And even in their only loss, 14-11 to arch-rival Ohio State, they only allowed 192 yards, of which 78 yards were in one touchdown. This was the toughest defense of the Schembechler era’s stinginess.”
Not far from this team is the 1997 Wolverines, who ranked 14th best defense of all time. Lloyd Carr’s team allowed 9.5 points per game. That season, Nebraska scored 40 points in more than half of its 70 games. The four top teams in 1997 averaged 30 points per game.
But Lloyd Carr’s team, led by Heisman Prize winner Charles Woodson, has never wavered.
Connelly wrote: “… Michigan’s last national race was determined by the entire defense—from hookup Glenn Steele to linebacker Sam Sword to deep, unforgiving high school.” “Despite a table with four top ten competitors, Wolverine’s allowed more than 16 points only once throughout the year.”
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No love for Ohio?
People criticize Ohio State, which is hard to do with all of the Buckeyes’ success over the past 20 years, for its lack of producing star quarterbacks in the NFL. But the ESPN listing shows some are not impressed with Ohio’s defenses. None of them.
Although Ohio State has had 229 wins since 2001, crime is usually to blame. The 2019 team only allowed 13.5 points per game and the lowest gross yards per game in the country – but there’s an argument that Clemson and Georgia (seeded #19 on this list) were better.
And in the late 1990s, OSU had several units that kept opponents to 14 points or less, but were not considered the best in the football division.
There was little representation outside Michigan and MSU.
Before the Great Depression, Illinois and Minnesota made the list as did the Nebraska and Maryland defenses, albeit before these programs joined the Big Ten (we’re not counting the history of Texas and Oklahoma…yet).
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