Like most Big Ten events, when Michigan soccer and Michigan State soccer At their best, this is usually due to defence.
So when ESPN’s Bill Connelly decided to stack the best 50 college defenses of all time it was no surprise that both programs were involved. Michigan had far more entries, with five teams making the ranks, but Michigan State had the highest-rated Big Ten defense on the list.
In 2021, MSU’s offense, led by the nation’s best running back and most stable quarterback, was explosive at an 11-2 finish, but that’s not usually the case for the Spartans.
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Mark Dantonio – thanks in large part to his defense – had six seasons of 10 wins over an eight-year period beginning in 2010, topping the 2015 college football playoff appearance. Somewhat surprisingly, none of those teams were listed here.
Michigan had a more productive, if not quite explosive, offense and the same stingy defense in 2021.
UM has featured crushing defenses before, during, and after modernizing college football. Whether it was Fielding Yoast’s early 20th century squad allowing zero, two or six points during a season Or Bump Elliott’s 1964 Rose Bowl team, which conceded just 84 points in 10 games, has consistently had one of the nation’s more talented strongholds. That’s why the five Michigan teams that made the top 50 were tied with LSU for the second most of any event after Alabama.
Here are a few more things we noticed:
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Number 1, 2, 3 and 4 rescues (2017 Alabama, 2016 Alabama, 1959 Ole Miss and 1959 LSU, respectively) hail from the SEC. But behind the top five is the Spartans of Lana Duffy Dougherty.
Connelly wrote, “These Spartans scored 13 combined points for No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 6 Purdue. They destroyed Michigan and Ohio State combined 56-14.” He claimed future Hall of Famers on both defensive end (Bubba Smith) and safety (George Webster), as well as two other All-Americans in the middle.
“If college football was still deciding its national champion before the bowl games, Michigan State would have taken the title after a 10–0 regular season.
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MSU was downright effective. In regular cause, the Spartans allowed three double-digit scores and played only one game that ended within a right.
The only time MSU allowed two touchdowns that year was against UCLA in the Rose Bowl—and that was with the help of two small fields.
“UCLA scored after a muff punt at MSU 6, then pulled a surprising onside kick and re-scored quickly. That’s what it took to score 14 points on the Spartans too … and it held a title ring to the fingers Members of what was clearly the best non-SEC defense ever,” Connelly wrote.
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The Wolverine teams from 1920 to 1997 make it to the list. Tad Wyman’s 1927 club, ranked 46th, allowed 4.9 points per game. Star UM football, baseball and basketball player Benny Osterbahn was a member of that team and would guide the elite defense as head coach in the 1940s and 50s.
Bo Schembechler’s 1973 team was ranked 40th and allowed 6.2 points per game. But their best team, and the only other Big Ten team in the top 10, was the 1972 outfit (Number 9), which scored just 5.2 points per game.
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“Safety-inspired Randy Logan and one of the best secondaries of the era… Michigan played two ranked teams in September — No. 6 UCLA and No. 18 Tulane — and allowed a combined 16 points,” Connelly wrote. “In Wolverine’s first seven Big Ten games, he allowed 20.
And even in his lone loss, 14-11 to bitter rival Ohio State, he allowed only 192 yards, 78 of which came on a touchdown drive. It was the harshest of the stingy Schimbacher era. There was a rescue.”
Not far behind that team is 1997 national champion Wolverine, who is ranked the 14th best defense of all time. Lloyd Carr’s team allowed 9.5 points per game. That season Nebraska, the co-national champions, scored 40 points in more than half of their games and even scored 70 points in one. The average of the four Big Ten teams in 1997 was 30 points per game.
But Lloyd Carr’s team, led by Heisman winner Charles Woodson, never wavered.
“Michigan’s final national title was defined by the entire defense—from lineman Glenn Steele to linebacker Sam Sword to a deep and unforgiving secondary,” Connelly wrote. “Despite a schedule featuring four top-10 opponents, the Wolverines only allowed more than 16 points once throughout the year.”
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No love for Ohio State?
People criticize Ohio State for not producing a star NFL quarterback, which is difficult to do with Bucky’s success over the past 20 years. But the ESPN list shows that some are not impressed with Ohio State’s defense. any of them.
Although Ohio State has scored 229 victories since 2001, it is usually because of the offense itself. The 2019 team allowed only 13.5 points per game and the fewest total yards per game in the country – but there is an argument that Clemson and Georgia (number 19 on this list) were better.
And in the late 1990s, OSU had several units that scored opponents 14 or fewer, but were not considered the best in the football bowl subdivision.
There was little Big Ten representation outside of Michigan and MSU.
The pre-Great Depression Illinois and Minnesota teams made the list, as did the Nebraska and Maryland defenses, though before those events joined the Big Ten (we’re not counting the history of USC and UCLA… yet). .
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This article originally appeared in Detroit Free Press: Michigan Football, Best NCAA Defenses Ever at Michigan State