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Michigan State football defense ranks No. 2 in country in key statistic

Not too shabby, Scottie Hazelton.



Michigan State football
© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State football is No. 2 in the country in this key defensive statistical category. What could that be?

The Michigan State football defense has gotten off to a noticeably better start this year. After a few seasons of poor defensive play, it has been nice to see the unit get off to a great start.

Would you be surprised if I told you the defense is No. 2 in the country when it comes to one key statistic?

What stat is Michigan State’s defense dominant in?

When you think of dominant defenses, you think of teams that do well in terms of total yards allowed, turnovers forced, and points allowed. What about third-down efficiency? A major key to any good defense is getting off the field on third down. Currently, Michigan State is No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 2 nationally in third-down defensive efficiency.

In two games so far, the defense has held opposing teams to 4-of-28 on third-down conversions. That’s a blistering 86 percent rate of success on third-down plays for the Spartans. The only team better than that in the country is Memphis which has held its opponents to 4-of-29 on third down.

In my opinion, this is one of the most telling statistics on how a defense is performing. Your chances of winning football games increase dramatically when your defense is able to get off the field consistently on third downs. Especially with an explosive Washington coming to town this weekend, we need our defense off the field as much as possible.

How has the rest of the Big Ten done?

To put it lightly, Michigan State is dominating the rest of the conference in third-down defensive efficiency. Indiana is the only other team within nine percent of the Spartans in this statistic.

Here is how the rest of the Big Ten teams have done this season in third-down defensive efficiency:

  • Michigan State: 85.7% (24/28)
  • Indiana: 82.6% (19/23)
  • Penn State: 76% (19/25)
  • Maryland: 72% (18/25)
  • Michigan: 68% (17/25)
  • Wisconsin: 67.7% (21/31)
  • Rutgers: 67.7% (21/31)
  • Iowa: 65.7% (23/35)
  • Ohio State: 63.3% (19/30)
  • Northwestern: 63.3% (19/30)
  • Minnesota: 61.9% (13/21)
  • Purdue: 55.2% (16/29)
  • Nebraska: 51.4% (18/35)
  • Illinois: 42.9% (12/28)

Key stat to watch this weekend

This will undoubtedly be a key stat to pay attention to this weekend. If Michigan State is going to be competitive and win this game, it needs to do well on third downs again. Washington’s offense scares me. However, they don’t scare me when they’re sitting on the sidelines. To accomplish that, Michigan State needs to dominate on third downs again and hope the offense can get the job done themselves.