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Nebraska vs Michigan State: By The Numbers

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows about Michigan State's defense. They're number one in the nation... well, here's the list, and it's probably not conclusive. It's enough to show where they are, though, which is well above everyone else in the nation.

1 - Michigan State's defense. The Spartans are ranked first in rushing defense (43.4 ypg), total defense (210.2 ypg, 33 yards better than Louisville at 243.7 ypg), pass efficiency defense (90.3 rating), first (12.7 first downs per game) and third down defense (26.1% conversion rate, 35-for-134). They haven't allowed a team to rush for 100 yards all season, allowing only 1.62 yards per rush.

The Spartan offense is another matter. They started the season scoring 26 points against Western Michigan, and 21 against South Florida. Western Michigan is 90th nationally in total defense, South Florida 45th. On October 19th, the Spartans only scored 14 against a Purdue team that's been crushed by nearly every one on the Boilermaker's schedule. Purdue - 96th in total defense. The season low was 13 in a 17-13 loss to Notre Dame, 35th nationally in total defense. (The Spartans have missed the Big Ten's other good defenses, Wisconsin (7th) and Ohio State (10th). So, their offense isn't that good.

Then there's the matter of history....

0 - Number of times Nebraska has lost to Michigan State, as in ever, forever, in all of history. The Huskers have beaten Michigan State seven times, starting all the way back in 1914, and again in 1920 when they weren't "Michigan State". Then it was Michigan Agricultural College, which it was named from 1909 to 1925 when it became "Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science".

2 - Michigan State's national ranking in time of possession. Chip Kelly would tell you this stat is completely overrated, but that's because it's not part of his overall strategy. It's no secret that Sparty's strategy is to control the ball, limit your offensive possessions and beat you with stellar defense. This is why turnovers will play such a factor in this game. Lose the turnover battle, lose the game.

3 - Sparty comes into Saturday's contest at 5-0 in Big Ten play for only the third time in history. The other times - 1965 and 1966. The 1965 team won a share of the national title despite losing the Rose Bowl 14-12 to UCLA (they voted for titles before the bowl game in those days, oh, how far have we come?). In 1966, Michigan State played one of the most controversial games in college football history when, at 9-0, they met 8-0 Notre Dame and the game ended in a 10-10 tie. The game dogged Irish coach Ara Parseghian forever as he was accused of playing for the tie.

3 - Michigan State's national ranking in scoring defense at 11.6 points per game. They're behind only Alabama and Louisville (10.6 ppg).

6 - Ameer Abdullah's national ranking in yards per game at 134.78. Abdullah now has 1,213 yards on the season to go with seven touchdowns. Add to that 21 receptions for 179 yards, and that touchdown against Michigan, and you've got a back you wouldn't trade for anyone else.

8 - Michigan State, along with Nebraska, is one of only eight schools that have had at least one player taken in the NFL draft each year since it's modern inception in 1967. The other six - Arizona State, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas and USC.

14 - The number of touchdowns scored by the Spartans on the ground and in the air. Jeremy Langford has 10 TDs (and one TD reception) and is the leading rusher with 167 carries for 775 yards for a 4.6 ypc average. Macgarrett Kings Jr is the leading receiver with 28 catches for 317 yards and 3 TDs, while Bennie Fowler has 5 TDs, 26 receptions and 353 yards.

16 - Nebraska's national ranking in tackles for loss. The Huskers had 15 (!) TFL against Michigan to total 69 on the season. The Spartans are 27th here with 61. They're lead by Denicos Allen (11) and Shilique Calhoun, a sophomore defensive end (11).

26 - The Spartan's national ranking in turnover margin. They are +6 on the season, .67 per game. Nebraska is 85th, -3, and -.33, respectively. Again, turnovers. Lose them, lose the game.

28 - Nebraska's national ranking in sacks allowed at 12 sacks on the season or 1.33 per game. Michigan State is tied for fourth here with seven sacks given up. Michigan State - 662 plays so far, 383 of which have been runs, or around 58%. Nebraska

29 - MSU punter Mike Sadler's national ranking in punting average at 42.83 yards per punt. According to MSU notes, Sadler is first the FBS wit 15 of his 47 punts downed inside the 10-yard line, and second with 22 punts inside the 20. Sadler also has had six punts downed inside the 5, including two at the 1-yard line. Granted, part of his success could be attributed to the "punting is winning" strategy that the Spartans employ, but his accuracy cannot be so easily dismissed.

41! - Nebraska's ranking in total defense! That's up from 70th last week, and 78 the week before. The Huskers are giving up 374.9 yards per game, good enough for sixth in the Big Ten. It's a far cry from MSU's 210.2 yards per game, but much better than it's been!

46 - MSU's national ranking in interceptions, tied. They have 10 in nine games for 1.11 per game, and have scored two touchdowns. They're fifth in the Big Ten in this category, somewhat surprising. Still, it's that 1.11 per game you need to worry about. Nebraska is tied for second in the Big Ten with 12, and tied for 23rd nationally.

57 - Michigan State's national ranking in total offense. Discussed above. Probably not as bad as you think it was, right? They are ranked 100th nationally with 5.16 yards per play, though. Just contain them, stop them from moving the chains and we win!

59 - Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio's wins at MSU in his seventh year. He is 59-29 over that span.

69 - Number of plays that Michigan State has allowed of 10+ yards. That's another #1 national ranking. Extend it to 20+ yards, and the Spartans are fourth. Extend it to 30+ yards - 16th, and at 40+ yards, 18th. If you're going to beat the Spartan defense, it's obvious you need to do it with really big plays.

91 - Michigan State's strength of schedule, according to Sagarin. If you're tempted to say "They haven't played anyone!", keep in mind that Nebraska's SOS is 98.

105 - The number of points Tom Osborne's 1995 and 1996 teams scored against the Spartans. In 1995, it was 55-10. In 1996, 55-14. Nick Saban was the Spartan head coach then. At least Husker fans have that.

142 - Total career tackles by Sparty cornerback Darqueze Dennard, cousin of former Husker Alfonzo Dennard. Over 39 career games (35 starts), Darqueze has 26 passes defended with 17 pass breakups and nine interceptions. He is a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.

164 - Total tackles between Sparty's top three defenders, strongside linebacker (SAM) Denicos Allen (57), free safety Kurtis Drummond (55) and middle linebacker (MIKE) Max Bullough (52).

Around 500,000 - The number of Husker fans who by game time will have convinced themselves that the Spartans haven't played anyone, that their first-ranked defense is smoke and mirrors and that the Huskers should roll over them.

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