Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, December 19, 2015
The 2015 season was further validation of the elite program Mark Dantonio has constructed since arriving in 2007. The 12 wins this season mark the fifth time in the last six seasons that Michigan State has won at least 11 games. The Spartans also took home their third Big Ten title under Dantonio, while earning the program?s first playoff bid.
But, 2015 often was not easy for Michigan State, due mostly to injuries that impacted the offensive line and secondary the most. The tumult caused the Spartans often to ?win ugly,? leading many to question how good this team was. Style points don?t matter, though, and MSU found a way to march through the adversity and enjoy a stellar season in which the only loss came by one point under controversial circumstances on the road.
The Spartans were fueled by a strong passing led by the Connor Cook-to-Aaron Burbridge connection. And true freshman RB LJ Scott is emerging as a future star. The defense was anchored by a sterling front seven that helped the Spartans rank No. 1 in the Big Ten in turnover margin (plus 16).
Record: 12-1 overall; 7-1 Big Ten/1st East
Bowl: Cotton vs. Alabama
High point: There were many in what has been a season of glory. There was the 31-28 win vs. No. 7 Oregon, the miraculous 27-23 walk-off victory at No. 12 Michigan and the 17-14 last-second triumph at No. 3 Ohio State with star QB Connor Cook sidelined with injury. But let?s go with the 16-13 win over Iowa in the Big Ten title game that clinched Mark Dantonio?s third league title and first playoff bid. The Spartans trailed 13-9 in the fourth quarter before going on an epic 22-play, 82-yard drive that consumed 9:04 and culminated in a one-yard TD run by LJ Scott that clinched the game and championship.
Low point: The 39-38 loss at Nebraska was the lone blemish on an otherwise sterling resume. Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong drove the Huskers 91 yards in the final minute, culminating with a 30-yard game-winning TD pass with 17 seconds left to Brandon Reilly, who went out of bounds before returning to make the scoring grab. That should have made Reilly ineligible. But officials ruled Reilly was forced out by MSU corner Jermaine Edmondson. Needless to say, it was a controversial end to the Spartans? perfect start.
Offensive MVP: QB Connor Cook will leave East Lansing as the school?s best quarterback ever with a 34-4 record as a starter-and maybe two games to go. He added to his legacy this season by hitting 56.9 percent of his passes for 2,921 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions in earning consensus All-Big Ten honors and Big Ten QB of the Year honors.
Defensive MVP: DE Shilique Calhoun. The effervescent senior pass rusher earned consensus All-Big Ten honors, finishing third in the Big Ten in sacks (10.5) and tallying 14.5 TFLs. Calhoun was part of what was arguably the Big Ten?s top defensive line that helped MSU ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten in rushing defense (113.1 ypg).
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