clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

30-Day Countdown: Day 12 - Best Defense We Will Face

Which opposing squad will cause the most trouble for the Husky offense?

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve focused plenty so far during the 30-day countdown on the Huskies themselves but today we’ll continue this quick run on some of the teams on the opposing side. Yesterday Coach B examined the best offenses the Dawgs will go up against so naturally today we’ll look at the best defenses. If a team shows up on both, well that’s probably going to be a tough game.

Michigan State Spartans

2021 Defensive Stats (per game): 337.7 passing yards (130th), 117.9 rushing yards (15th), 25.7 points (54th)

The Spartans were very good last year but that was more attributable to their offense led by running back (and now current Seahawk) Kenneth Walker II. They won 11 games but only managed to hold Youngstown State, Rutgers, and Indiana to fewer than 17 points. Still, they rarely got torched as 5 opponents scored between 17-21 points (although Ohio State did drop a nuke on them with 49 points in the first half).

The strength for MSU should come up front where they lose leading sacker Jacub Panasiuk but return 3 other players that had 24+ pressures a year ago. That includes DL Jacob Slade who had 3 sacks at 315 pounds and was a 2nd team all-conference selection last year while earning the highest defensive grade on the team from Pro Football Focus. Florida edge rusher Khris Bogle is also transferring in for reinforcements.

There’s also plenty returning on the back end where all 5 starting DBs are still on the roster. That may not be a great thing since the Spartans finished last in the country in opponent passing yards per game. Still, experience is a benefit and some of that is attributable to playing 5 of the top-13 passing offenses in the country and often holding a late lead. Safety Xavier Henderson was 3rd team all-conference last year nabbing 3 sacks when blitzing from that spot which bears watching. Georgia’s Ameer Speed opted to use his 6th year at Michigan State after being unable to break through for extensive playing time on last year’s historic Bulldog defense and could earn a starting spot.

Put it all together and the Spartans return 8 of their top 10 from last year in defensive snaps while adding a few rotation pieces through the portal. That’s good enough to earn a #20 preseason defensive SP+ ranking and the makings of a unit on the rise.

Oregon Ducks

2021 Defensive Stats (per game): 241.4 passing yards (88th), 144.1 rushing yards (53rd), 27.0 points (75th)

Last season Oregon’s defense had its bright spots early in the year. They managed to hold the potent offenses of both Fresno State and Ohio State to under 30 points. However no FBS team scored fewer than 17 against them and everyone except the anemic offenses of Cal, Arizona, (and Washington) scored at least 24. The quality of offenses they played makes the advanced numbers look better than the raw ones but this wasn’t a great D.

On top of that he Ducks will have to replace DE Kayvon Thibodeaux who ended up a top-10 NFL Draft pick this past spring. However there is definitely still talent abound in Eugene. LB Noah Sewell is a potential All-American and the DL duo of Brandon Dorlus and Popo Aumavae should be the best in the Pac-12. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler put incoming transfer from Colorado Christian Gonzalez as his #2 ranked corner for next year’s draft. Oregon also should have back former 5-star LB Justin Flowe from injury and DB Bennett Williams who was tremendous before a midseason injury cost him the 2nd half of his season.

Last year the whole didn’t equal the sum of its parts for Oregon. Now the Ducks are led by former Georgia DC Dan Lanning and we’ll see if he’s able to inspire them to greater heights. They aren’t nearly as talented as last year’s Bulldogs defense (it might have been the most talented in college football history) but it still has the potential to be quite good under Lanning.

California Golden Bears

2021 Defensive Stats (per game): 229.5 passing yards (67th), 137.2 rushing yards (41st), 22.2 points (32nd)

The Cal offense has adventure under head coach Justin Wilcox during his tenure but the defenses have generally been stellar. No team in the conference besides maybe UW and Utah have done a better job finding underrated gems on the defensive side of the ball over the last half decade and that continues on the current roster. There were some hiccups early for Cal’s defense but they forced 4 opponents to score 14 or fewer points over the back half of the schedule (Colorado, Arizona, Stanford, and USC). Even though none of those were exactly scary offenses it’s still impressive in conference play.

The red flag for the Bears is that they lose a lot of production particularly up front. Gone is the entire starting defensive line and their combined 15 sacks. However they do get back Brett Johnson who missed all of last year due to a car accident but is back and healthy after a standout campaign in the shortened 2020 season. He’ll have to anchor an otherwise question mark unit.

The linebacker core got a boost from Husky transfer Jackson Sirmon and will be supplemented by returning starters Muelu Iosefa and Femi Oladejo. The likely strength though is the secondary with corners Collin Gamble and Lu-Magia Hearns. Both were quite good in their first major college action and have the potential to be a frugal man’s Gordon/McDuffie duo next year if not this one. Safety Daniel Scott had 82 tackles and 3 picks a year ago and returns the round out the unit.

There’s nowhere close to the raw talent of the previous 2 schools for Cal but there’s no arguing with Wilcox’s history building up defenses in Berkeley.

Washington State Cougars

2021 Defensive Stats (per game): 216.8 passing yards (47th), 160.5 rushing yards (80th), 24,2points (47th)

This one may come as a slight surprise but the Cougars are now the 3rd Pac-12 North school to be mentioned here with a former DC in charge after Jake Dickert had the interim tag removed. Of course Husky fans will remember that they held the Dawgs to just 13 points in the Apple Cup a year ago although obviously those were under unusual circumstances, to be fair on both sides.

I said Oregon has the best DL duo returning in the Pac but it’s possible the Cougs have the best edge duo coming back with Ron Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson. They combined for 10 sacks and 74 pressures in earning 1st team and honorable mention all-conference honors respectively. And while their performance wasn’t at the same level, Washington State also brings back their starting pair of defensive tackles. Returning all 4 players up front is generally a pretty good recipe for success.

The linebackers should also be solid with Nevada standout transfer Daiyan Hensley coming in after a 2nd team all-MWC season. He’ll be joined by Travion Brown who put up impressive PFF grades in reserve action 2 of the last 3 years. Fellow Nevada transfer Jordan Lee should start at safety while corners Armani Marsh and Derrick Langford Jr. both return.


Which opponent will have the best defense the Huskies will face this season?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Michigan State Spartans
    (151 votes)
  • 27%
    Oregon Ducks
    (95 votes)
  • 22%
    California Golden Bears
    (79 votes)
  • 5%
    Washington State Cougars
    (20 votes)
345 votes total Vote Now