MSU faces 'Bama defense that's 'like a bunch of caged animals'
Dallas — The numbers alone paint a fairly menacing picture of Alabama's defensive front, but that really doesn't do justice to the intimidating nature of the core of the Crimson Tide's defense.
All-American A'Shawn Robinson stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 312 pounds and comes complete with a bald head, full beard and an ominous glare. End Jarran Reed is 6-4, 313 pounds, and linebacker Reggie Ragland packs a punch at 6-2 and 252 pounds.
"They're very big, athletic, strong guys," Michigan State center Jack Allen said. "Very intimidating, but that's college football. We see a lot of big guys every week."
In other words, the Spartans aren't easily impressed.
The college football world sure is, and that's no surprise. Alabama allows just 74 rushing yards a game, best in the nation, and has allowed only one runner to reach the 100-yard mark (Nick Chubb, Georgia — 146).
The Crimson Tide defense has also piled up 46 sacks this season, the most in the country.
End Jonathan Allen leads the way with 10 sacks while nine Alabama defenders have at least two sacks, including linebacker Tim Williams (9.5), linebacker Ryan Anderson (5) and Robinson (3.5).
Alabama safety Eddie Jackson had a unique way of describing his bigger teammates.
"I call them savages, like a bunch of caged animals," Jackson said. "You go out there and you just see them. They're jumping around. They're hyped. They're pumped.
"Just watching those guys go out there and do what they do, it really affects you to come out with your 'A' game and play your best. It's like we got something called 'Code Red.' You hit everything. So it would be fun."
Robinson, who was a first-team All-American this season with 7.5 tackles for loss, wasn't holding back on Monday when describing how he and his teammates up-front approach the game.
"We're out there on the hunt," he said. "I feel like they're with me on it. Really, it's just we're hungry, you know? We want something. So we got to go get it. And we try to do it day-by-day, play in and play out."
Michigan State, however, has played well against its share of good defensive lines.
The Spartans ran for 203 yards on Ohio State, who beat Alabama in last year's playoffs, and it didn't give up a single tackle for loss against a Penn State team that entered the game leading the nation in sacks and was in the top 10 in tackles for loss.
"We believe we're the best offensive line in the nation," left tackle Jack Conklin said, "and we think we can handle them and keep them off the quarterback."
Freshman LJ Scott got all the attention after his game-winning touchdown in the Big Ten Championship game, and it was much-deserved.
What his performance overshadowed, however, was the play of redshirt freshman Madre London, who carried the ball 12 times for 60 yards. But it wasn't the numbers that were the most impressive, it was the way London ran.
He hit the hole with power and speed, something that was evident in the first few weeks of the season before London hurt his knee and ankle in the victory at Rutgers. He returned to play the final three regular-season games, but looked his best against Iowa in the title game.
"Yeah, I'm 100 percent and feeling good about myself," London said. "My ankle doesn't hurt, my knee doesn't hurt. I should be good."
London started the first six games before suffering the injury and was replaced by Scott at Michigan before Gerald Holmes started the last six. Through it all, London said he was confident he'd get his carries in a crowded backfield.
"I'm cool with it because I always felt I'd work my way back into it anyway," London said. "It's made it even better with Gerald doing good and LJ doing good."