Preview: Michigan State at Ohio State

By Johnny Ginter on September 30, 2011 at 12:30p
46 Comments
Mark Dantonio, in his natural state of being
Ohio State Buckeyes Ohio State 3-1, 0-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 3:30 PM ET - ABC/ESPN —— Ohio Stadium Columbus, OH Michigan State Spartans Michigan State 3-1, 0-0 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

Ah, Sparty. When I was a kid I harbored an unusually strong hatred for the Michigan State Spartans, mainly due to a night game in 1998 that ruined my dinner at Lone Star Steakhouse and turned my traditional teenage frown into a full on scowl.

But that was then. Then, I was young, foolish, and spiteful, and as the years went by I would grow to understand, and yes, even learn to love Sparty. Because the truth of the matter is that the essence of college football is chaos and throughout the years the Michigan State Spartans have been the closest thing to some unholy combination of Loki and Willy Loman that will ever exist in organized sports.

Even when these guys find themselves on the winning side of the coin, everyone and their mother knows that it's only a matter of time before the universe corrects itself and MSU ingloriously falls flat on its face in dramatic and oftentimes hilarious fashion.

In 2011 the Spartans had one of their most successful seasons ever, winning 11 games for the first time in school history and being the Big Ten's representative in the Capital One Bowl. Edwin Baker had over 1200 yards on the ground, Kirk Cousins threw for over 2800 yards and 20 touchdowns, and it looked like for once, maybe, the Spartans had overcome their sisyphean nature and established a foundation for a consistent future.

But that's only if you ignore Mark Dantonio having a (probably) victory induced heart attack and Sparty losing to Alabama by 42 in the bowl game. And then getting completely torn apart against Notre Dame this year for no reason.

Ah, Sparty.

Opponent

On paper the Spartans field one of the best teams in the Big Ten. Mark Dantonio still opts for a run-first venture, but the heartbeat of the team is still Kirk Cousins. Captain Kirk (oh ho ho) has improved every year he's been a starter, evolving into one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Against the Irish he threw for over 300 yards, but if Cousins ends up throwing over 50 times like he did in South Bend, something is amiss in the Spartan offense. His role is to be a facilitator, and he does it pretty well; 200ish yards and a couple of TDs is what you get out of this guy almost every time. Unless he doesn't, like say, at the end of the game in the opponent's red zone.

Edwin Baker and Reynoldsburg native Le'Veon Bell are here to make Kirk Cousins look way, way better than he might otherwise. Baker's spirit animal is Javon Ringer, but truthfully this year Bell is the guy who has looked the best of the two of them so far this year. Bell is a big dude who can wear out a defense if given the opportunities, but that brings us to the unit on the Michigan State team which will probably decide the outcome of the game.

The Spartan offensive line is more or less made from the hopes of small children and bits of string at this point. Injuries have decimated this unit, with three guys expecting starting or significant playing time out against Ohio State. Left tackle Dan France was originally a defensive tackle, and his backup Micajah Reynolds has more or less the same backstory. Notre Dame's d-line ate these guys for breakfast and neither Bell or Baker could get anything going on the ground, effectively shelving their offense.

Statistically MSU has the best defense in the nation; in reality it isn't as good as some nice games against FAU and Central Michigan would have you believe, but for our purposes all that really matters is that they're at least as good and probably better than Miami. The d-line has William Gholston, Big Vern's cousin, but the real star is DT Jerel Worthy, who will likely make every Dave play even more excruciating to watch than usual.

The other two units on defense don't provide any household names, especially after the loss of Greg Jones, but cornerback Johnny Adams (woah, cool name, bro) has experience and will make plays when provided with a boneheaded mistake. What's more important is that this group is very gap sound and solid on fundamentals, and given their propensity to go into nickel quite often, should have a pretty interesting dueling banjos thing going on with the OSU defense during the game.

Buckeye Breakdown

Normally I start with the offense here, but I truly think that this game will be won or lost depending on who wins the battle between Michigan State's offensive line and Ohio State's defensive line. Hankins, Bennett, et al should be able to be solid against the run, but they absolutely cannot miss on tackles. Until Nate Williams' injury, John Simon was mostly seen lining up closer toward the middle of the line, but recent weeks have seen him moving closer towards the Leo role. If he can be effective coming off the edge and stay on the field, OSU should have a decent shot at containing MSU's run game.

Moving Christian Bryant into Orhian Johnson's spot has paid dividends so far, and hopefully Tyler Moeller continues to improve along with the rest of the secondary and safeties. They'll need to be solid against WR B.J. Cunningham, who is off to a ridiculous start in 2011, but even more worrisome is that Andrew Sweat and the rest of the linebacking corps will be asked to not screw up their coverage assignments against the billion or so TE's Sparty will throw at them. Ryan Shazier getting more and more playing time sounds pretty awesome, but may be less so if he ends up forgetting which coverage scheme the defense is in and a tight end gets behind him for a 30 yard gain.

Giddyup

Hard to say exactly how much Braxton Miller is going to be able to get from the MSU defense. This may be another situation like last week where Miller ends up being about as effective on the ground as he will be through the air. Michigan State's obvious play on defense is to stack the box with like 8 dudes and just blitz everybody else, but this could lead them to overextend themselves and allow Braxton some room to pick up yards on the ground.

Jordan Hall still needs to keep 'em honest, though. The offensive line has been playing at their highest level in years, so Hall (and Hyde) should in theory have the opportunity to strut their stuff against a pretty decent linebacking corps. Still, both of those guys will probably find it tough going unless receivers can get some open looks downfield. Jake Stoneburner has disappeared in the past few games, and if he could re-emerge in the endzone with a couple of footballs, that would be a pretty huge help.

Finally, there's a better than decent chance that special teams will play a significant factor in this game. The Buckeye special teams unit has been coming on strong lately, what with Ben Buchanan and Drew Basil both having two consecutive games of excellence and the return game looking strong. Michigan State has had some special teams lapses recently, and boy oh boy wouldn't it be just perfect for them to lose on a punt return or something?

Prediction

Braxton Miller runs this show now, and this is the first time where he might be asked to win the game. A lot of the passes that he misfired on last week he'll absolutely have to be able to hit this week; MSU's secondary won't give up much, and if their d-line gets pressure things could get pretty hairy for the freshman. Zero turnovers is a must, because I think that eventually either Bell or Baker are going to break out on a run and get a quick 6 for Sparty. Right now Ohio State is not a team that can play from behind, and unless the Spartans hand the game back to the Buckeyes, this game will have to be all about ball control.

Last week the 11W council of elders was almost as divided as we are this week, but Sam managed to claim the crown of King Cool Guy with a prediction of 42-13. This week we've got some dissension in the ranks with some calling for an OSU loss, but in the end we feel that the Buckeyes will pull out a squeaker at home:

Ohio State 22, Michigan State 19

46 Comments

Comments

Irricoir's picture

Any new news on Jamaal Berry?

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

BucksfanXC's picture

We need to run more of those delayed draw plays against MSU. The power run game will make this game look like a 9-6 slugfest. MSU had a lot of trouble in ND with the bubble screen/delayed draw kinda thing. Obviously we've established we don't run the bubble screen in our offense. Braxton needs to have a break out game then. "Step into manhood" Braxton!

MSU's D will be familiar to us, and I like that thought. We do well against our own type of schemes and gameplan. I favor OSU in games like this, running offense against running defense. I hope we can pull it out. It's gonna be first to 20 wins.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Pfef's picture

So I lucked into some tickets into tomorrow's game.  I also have to take the LSAT down on campus in the morning, wich means I'll have a few hours to kill before kickoff.  Any hot tailgate spots I should know about?

TheHostileDwarf's picture

Don't go to law school unless you are 100% sure that you want to be a lawyer. It's not worth it unless you are absolutely positive. Then it might still not be worth it. :)

BoFuquel's picture

It's like selling your soul to the devil. Ain't gonna' be no lawyers in heaven,Jesus said so.

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

jenks's picture

I'm in law school now. It's not so bad. Having said that, I also have an engineering degree which helps with IP.

BucksfanXC's picture

I agree with this. It's a lot of money and even more work. I'd describe law school as, if you were in undergrad, and you have two final exams the next day so you know you have to divide your time, there is an infinite amount of studying you could do, only a finite amount you can do, and you have to learn how to best utilize your time and balance all out = that's every day in law school.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Denny's picture

'Study in infinitesmal portions.' - Gottfried Leibniz

Taquitos.

Denny's picture

I took the chem GRE right before my final home game and still managed to get nice and sauced by the noon kickoff. Anywhere around the stadium should be good, just be sure to bring a funnel to sling that ish down your gullet extra quick-like.

Taquitos.

buck i's picture

If you're a real baus you skip the funnel and shotgun your beverage of choice. It's nature's beer bong.

oribiasi's picture

I also got some tickets for this sucker, way under the pressbox. I'm coming in from Cleveland to see it.  Any 11W's meeting up before the game?

EDIT:  I am not a lawyer, btw.

SilverBullets's picture

Whatever you do, do not turn on ESPN Classic right now

Bucks43201's picture

 ahh, the '98 MSU debacle ... I remember that game, I was watching at a bar on Lakeshore in Chicago ... I'm pretty sure a tear rolled down my cheek when we lost

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

oribiasi's picture

Ugh...I can't stand that game.  It might be the first time I have ever said I am glad I'm at work.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Will the '98 game end up being the only OSU v. MSU game shown on espn classic this week?

DotThei's picture

The best Ohio State team I can recall (watching closely since 1978). I was in a sports bar in D.C., catching congrats from fans of other top-ranked teams that were to kickoff in the afternoon slot. We were so in control and then...

My dad as in the Shoe with a friend who played at State in the 60s. Apparently he mumbled something about how the Buckeyes better not go to sleep and let the Spartans back in. Damn if he wasn't right.

I loved this team so much I went to the Sugar Bowl in NO to watch them whip up on the Aggies. Recall seing a few of the players--David Boston and Damon Moore--out on Bourbon Street later that night...ah, good ol Coop. But, hey, it was their last game and they earned the party for sure.

DotThei

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I just had a spiritual vision that the Buckeyes defense will play better tomorrow - shut down MSU's run game and get good pressure on Cousins in the 18 mph wind.

Weirdly, I'm channeling an especially vivid premonition of Tyson Moeller flying into the MSU backfield and blowing up some fools (as opposed to his recent trend of airmailing ballcarriers). The vision is eerily reminiscent of his 2008 ILL performance. 

RoweTrain's picture

Tyson? As in Mike?

DotThei's picture

For me, the game tomorrow will be the harbinger of the season. With a win we're quasi-competitive in the B1G and battling (or should I say hoping to upset) Sconi for the division. A loss probably means we're stuck in the middle of the conference with an outside shot at improving enough, by season's end, to beat those scUM suckers up north...

Feels like a field goal game, either way...

DotThei

Run_Fido_Run's picture

That seems about right to me. If we can't handle Sparty at home, it will be tough to go even 1-2 in the games at Nebr, at ILL, and v. Wisc. 

Under that hypothetical, though, after starting the season 4-4 or even 3-5, they'd figure to get better down the stretch and possibly win out to go 9-4/8-5.

If they win tomorrow, they should be able to at least split the Nebr and Ill games, with the Wisc. game likely deciding the Leaders Div.

poguemahone's picture

Impostor Sam has it right.  42-13 might be a tad excessive, but I wouldn't be shocked to see 27-6 or something similar, with our score buffered by short fields and turnovers. MSU's OL is a  hodgepodge of converted defensive linemen, walk-ons and freshmen. If Simon, Big Hank et al. don't have a field day in the MSU backfield, then, well, this will probably be a longer season than any of us can admit. It might be the worst offensive line they'll face the rest of the year, excepting perhaps Indiana.

Colin's picture

So this is off topic/random but all of Kitchell's highlight videos that were posted to this site got swipped for copyright. Does anyone know if that means the 11W weekly highlight videos are no more?

Jason Priestas's picture

We're trying to figure something out. Hopefully we can come up with something.

Colin's picture

Hopefully, he makes great videos and to have them as a weekly thing here is pretty nice. I'm surprised they are only taking out the newer stuff.

Menexenus's picture

Just saw Mark May pick the Buckeyes on ESPN's Friday night CFB show.  You could almost hear the sarcasm in his voice as he talked up the Buckeyes.  Basically, he's way behind Dr. Lou in win-loss record and wants to catch up.  And since Holtz picked MSU to win, May was all but forced to pick OSU (even though he still clearly hates us). 

Real fans stay for Carmen.

RunTellMatt's picture

Just saw the same thing at half time of the BYU/Utah ST game.  Couldn't believe what I was hearing.

klfeck's picture

I am pretty sure hell has frozen over.

Kevin
OH!!!!!
Proud parent of a Senior at The Ohio State University

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

May did say the ref's calls favor Ohio State in the Shoe to give his pick reason with all the hate he harbors for tOSU.

BoFuquel's picture

Public Service Announcment: When you go out drinking tonight.Be extra careful to whom you spread your alienation.The old gray haired hippy at the end of the bar can now legally be packin'.Wow Don't take a knife to a gun fight for real.I sure hope Sparty knows the new law,probably not.

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Bucksfan's picture

I seriously doubt it's a gray-haired hippie that will be packin'.  Scary nonetheless.  Stupid Ohio legislature...this isn't Alabama.

RunTellMatt's picture

In a bar, under the influence?  I have a concealed weapon permit and that is one of the situations in which you are not allowed to carry a concealed weapon.  At least it was.  What's the new law?

Menexenus's picture

Unlike the lawyers among us, I am free to tell you what I heard about the stupid new law:  now it is legal in Ohio to conceal-carry in a bar as long as you do not order or drink any alcoholic beverages while you are there.  (I'm not sure there's anything preventing you from drinking *before* you get to the bar, though....)

[sarcasm/on]  Thanks for making us all safer, NRA!  [sarcasm/off]

Real fans stay for Carmen.

klfeck's picture

Actually, the law is being misrepresented. The truth of the matter is that the law was proposed so those that legally carry can carry into establishments that serve alcohol such as restaurants that serve been and wine. The same left wing loons who screamed that the streets would run with blood should the citizenry be allowed to carry are now misrepresenting the new law. Those of you suffering from knee jerkiitiss should remember that concealed carry permit holders are not now nor have they ever been the problem and they tend to have more respect for the law than the average schmo.

Kevin
OH!!!!!
Proud parent of a Senior at The Ohio State University

William's picture

Concealed Carry owners actually commit fewer crimes than any other group in America.

SilverBullets's picture

Well that's certainly a broad statement.  Didn't know nuns these days were getting rowdy

Menexenus's picture

+500

Real fans stay for Carmen.

BoFuquel's picture

I think it's open season as of today Especially on old gray haired hippies like me.

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

BoFuquel's picture

Didn't mean to be flippant. My advice is run a search. The Bar frowns on legal advice over the net.

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Jugdish's picture

Saw on SportsbyBrooks that Trent Richardson got caught speeding in his new 2011 $40,000 plus GMC Yukon. He and his mother have had 5 cars in the last two years. It's probably nothing though. Just a poor college student just barely making his way through college. Life is rough in the SEC!!!

Remember to get your wolverine spade or neutered. TBDBITL

Bucks's picture

Yay for sleepless night NOT.

 

While I am skeptical every year when it comes to B1G teams & their OOC being a platform, I am way way way past that with this game. Had MSU demolished ND like I thought they would, this post wouldn't exist. Instead, ND pretty much showcased weaknesses & issues in almost all faucets of the game with Dantonio's squad.

Win or lose, if this D doesn't end the game with 3-5 sacks & around 6-9 hurries + 1 turnover ... I will consider it a failure. It is almost like vultures on a wounded animal but MSU's O-line is incredibly suspect with all the injuries. The scheming thus far has been very safe to account for our backfield. Don't see that happening this afternoon.

Please Please Please MSU, load the box as every team has done thus far. With the exception of Toledo, this interior has held up admirably. I gladly eat my crow in this regard & hope I'm still eating it after the game. We have been able to gash teams that are dedicated to run d consistently. I can only grin if we show some screens & WR's CATCH THE BALL. I'm harping on this but rightfully so. We move the ball with complete dedication to stopping it. Imagine what happens if we can get some coverage respect in the air game?

People are insanely down on ST's. I'm not. Started like the end-of-the-world was coming for sure. Since then, I've seen great leaps each week. I look for that to continue. Just hope our coverage matches our return ability.

---

 

This game is absolutely won on the line play (almost always is but more so in this game). I don't care if they load 10 in the box, we'll move the ball on the ground. I just hope we can dominate the run defense and get pressure like backyard football.

 

 

 

CGroverL's picture

Call it a hunch...but I look for MSU to stack the box making the Bucks win by going through the air. With Miller, I think the Buckeyes will run anyway and also look for a few big passing plays. I just hope that one of those freshman WR's can finally come alive. I can see a couple or few long passing TD's if the freshman WR's can play well.

 

The Bucks are obviously talented on offense...they are just too young. That hasn't been an issue in the recent past, but the Buckeyes have never been this young when it comes to ball catchers. Besides Posey and a couple seniors and juniors that never see the field...the Bucks' #1 through #4 WR's are all freshmen. Someone...please...step up. T.Y. Williams is almost as big as Stoney and simply cant catch the ball. UNREAL...we finally get a 6'5" WR that is fast and he can't catch...that is almost unfair. He is 6'5" and nearly 230 pounds. UGH!

GO BUCKS!

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

nickma71's picture

I can't wait until Devier Posey is back in the game so he can drop some key would be first down receptions right when Miller needs it.

Hoody Wayes's picture

It's October 1st and already, there's a Halloweenish suspense.

For Ohio State football, October 2011 is more like a divisional series in baseball. It's a best of five. But, it's a set of four games and one big - off-the-field - decision.

BuckeyeChief's picture

I saw a lot of fellow Buckeyes out at my race today, which is always a good sign. I wore my lucky Buckeye running socks, and ran my best 8K ever. Good omen... 

 

"Clutch has no boundaries"

Hoody Wayes's picture

I had good run, too. 

Buckeye weather - scarlett cheeks and gray skies.

BuckeyeChief's picture

Where/ what did you run?

 

"Clutch has no boundaries"