Although it's easy to knock the Big Ten – the conference is struggling to fill its eight bowl obligations – the dominance Michigan State's defense displayed Saturday deserves praise. By now you know, Michigan State beat Michigan 29-6. The Wolverines ran for -48 yards rushing. The minus sign is there purposely.
Michigan State beat rival Michigan into the dirt with defense. It was a combination of killer a-gap blitzes, sound secondary play and a breakout performance from a redshirt sophomore. In the NFL Draft world, pro talent evaluators had to like what they saw from a handful of Spartans.
That redshirt sophomore is defensive end Shilique Calhoun. On the day, he had six tackles, three tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. In a draft class desperate for 4-3 pass rushers, Calhoun may consider going pro after this season. Calhoun has length at 6-foot-4 and athleticism, both requisites of an NFL pass rusher. While he may not be the next Michael Strahan, as Bucky Brooks of NFL.com says, he is a first-round player if he comes out.
Even if Calhoun doesn't go pro, Michigan State's defense will put plenty of players in the draft. Evaluators have to be wondering what to do with outside linebacker Denicos Allen. He's a relentless pass rusher who can make plays all over the field. But what will teams think of a 5-foot-11, 218-pound linebacker?
They may be more apt to go after inside linebacker Max Bullough. At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, Bullough fits the mold and understands how to run a defense. While Allen finished the game with better stats, Bullough was often right there with him creating pressure and stuffing the run.
Michigan State's secondary features three draftable prospects in cornerback Darqueze Dennard and safeties Kurtis Drummond and Isaiah Lewis. The safeties are both capable of getting up near the line of scrimmage and blitzing or stopping the run, but they're instinctual enough to drop in coverage. Dennard is a top 100 pick because of his physical playing style. He had a back-breaking interception against Michigan, giving him three on the season.
Andre Williams, RB, Boston College: Everyone seems to be on Williams following his 166 yards and two touchdowns against Virginia Tech. Todd McShay of ESPN, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports and Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network also positively note Williams for his play. It's hard to disagree with that murderer's row of draft analysts. Williams is a compact runner with deep speed. He's not much of a receiver, but his running style will fit well in the NFL.
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech: Not to keep giving praise to Amaro, but he's having a ridiculous season. Just give him the John Mackey Award right now. On Saturday, Amaro pulled in 15 catches for 179 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Oklahoma State. Despite teams often putting two defenders on Amaro, he still manages to routinely make plays.
Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State: You may be wondering why this is being published on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. That is because I wanted to watch Muema's game against New Mexico. Muema had a few nice, hard runs against Fresno State a couple weeks ago and did well for himself with 233 yards and three touchdowns. After struggling against Oregon State earlier in the season, Muema showed why he's a tough downhill runner. He's hard to take down with single tacklers and can bowl defenders over. Muema is only a Day 3 pick, but he could stick on a roster because he can get tough yards.
Christian Jones, OLB, Florida State: In a season where linebackers Khalil Mack of Buffalo, Kyle Van Noy of BYU and Trent Murphy of Stanford have excelled, Jones has somewhat struggled to keep pace. Up until the draft in May, there is going to be a debate on how to rank these four. They can all do a lot of the same things and they're all good players. Against Miami, and a bunch of NFL scouts, Jones didn't do a lot to stand out.
Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan: Gardner, unfortunately, has carved out a spot in the stock down portion of this weekly post. While a fair amount of the blame can be put on the interior of Michigan's offensive line for their play against Michigan State, Gardner didn't do a lot to help. After a solid start to the game, Gardner was flustered by pressure. His pocket presence looked non-existent, he uses a weird spin move that turns his back to the field and generally has questionable pocket movement skills. That's not to say Gardner isn't a good athlete. He is. But his inexperience is evident when defenses pressure him.