The Big Ten version of an Alabama Crimson Tide defense wears the green and white. Thursday evening at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas Jacob Coker may have flashbacks to practicing against the Tide defense. They are a physical unit limiting runners to only 113.7 yards per game, third in the league. The defensive front, self-nicknamed AWAL, Animals Without A Least, held the fourth (Royce Freeman – Oregon) and fifth (Ezekiel Elliott) leading rushers in the country to 92 yards on 24 carries and 33 yards after 12 attempts respectively. Michigan State has successfully pressured the quarterback. They are second in the conference with 35 total sacks.
If the Tide is probing for opportunities, the Spartan secondary surrenders a 229.8 yards per contest, 72nd nationally. The numbers may be misleading. Injuries dictated seven different starting lineups. Five of the players made their first career start in 2015. Three true freshmen started in the 38-39 road loss at Nebraska.
The Spartans defense has improved steadily over the course of the season, much like their counterpart, Alabama. Top ten teams Ohio State (7th) and Iowa (5th) averaging 35 and 32 points per game scored only 14 and 13 against Michigan State.
Jacob Coker met with the media Sunday morning prior to practice. He realizes the challenge the green and white defense presents stating, “Collectively as a group, I think they are a real impressive team. They all make plays and like I said, they are going to be where they are supposed to be.” Among the topics broached during the 20-minute plus interview session were bowl game preparations, his development the past year, Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and of course, the Michigan State defense.