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Has Michigan State Spartans defense become a liability?

Kiss the “no fly zone” goodbye, say sayonara to the mythical greatness of the Michigan State defense. In 2014, the Spartans supposed strength has become its greatest liability, something that was showcased over the last two Saturdays against the state of Indiana.

Let’s set the scene over the past few weeks for you — Purdue gives the ball to quarterback Austin Appleby for his first collegiate start by choice, while Indiana goes to 3rd string Zander Diamont for his first start as a replacement for the injured Nate Sudfeld.

Easy peasy, Michigan State should have a field day with these offenses and cruise to victory, right?

In the words of one Lee Corso…”not so fast my friend.”

Rather than taking advantage of two first-time starters, the last two weeks have been all about Michigan State’s offense showing up where its defense couldn’t for the most part.

Purdue put up 31, yes THIRTY-ONE, points on a Michigan State defense that came in allowing a respectable 20.6 points per game (a far cry from the 13.2 points per game the 2013 defense allowed). The Boilermakers came in to that contest in Week 7 averaging 12 points against the two good defenses it faced (Notre Dame and Iowa).

At the very least one would expect MSU to find a way to duplicate what ND and Iowa can do on the defensive side of the ball. Instead, Michigan State’s defense made Austin Appleby look like he’s been the starter forever. Appleby went 24-of-37 for 211 yards and one touchdown, while the running game went hog-wild on Michigan State as well.

The Boilermakers’ Akeem Hunt managed a very un-MSU-like 96 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

All of that just one year after getting blanked 14-0 by the Spartans at home in West Lafayette, Ind.

Fast forward to this week and it was another running back doing work against what was supposed to be a stout Spartans front seven. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman wasn’t able to get a lot of carries, but he made the most of his 15 carries, gaining 132 yards for an 8.8 per carry average.

As a team the Hoosiers ran for over 200 yards and averaged nearly 7 yards a carry on the Spartans, and again that’s something that was a rarity last season. Things weren’t looking good early, but a butt chewing came after the second Hoosiers TD of the first half.

Eventually the Spartan defense figured some things out thanks to that butt chewing, but don’t let the 49-17 scoreline fool you. A lot had to do with the quarterback Zander Diamont

If the last two games don’t do it for you, how about the season stat comparison between last season and this one:

[ws_table id=”31″]

Given those numbers, Michigan State is lucky to have the offense it has or 2014 could be a very eerie reminder of the 2012 season to say the least.

With arguably the two biggest games for the Michigan State fans and season coming up (Michigan and Ohio State), it’s the defense that is going to tell the story of the Spartans playoff hopes.

Play as aggressive as they did in the second half against Indiana and it could be trouble for opposing offenses, but for now teams aren’t (and shouldn’t be) afraid of the good ‘ol Spartan Dawgs.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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