Fully Healthy Buckeyes Have Sights Set on Spartans

By Kyle Rowland on September 24, 2012 at 7:00p

Four weeks into the season, this Ohio State team's performance has been mostly underwhelming. Aside from a few jaw-dropping Braxton Miller runs and spectacular Devin Smith catches, the highlights have been few and far between. 

Michael Bennett will debut on Saturday.

Still, the Buckeyes are 4-0 and ranked in the top 15 of the Associated Press poll as the conference season kicks off this weekend in East Lansing. Awaiting them is a Michigan State team that’s ranked 20th in the country and winners of 16 of its past 17 games in Spartan Stadium. 

Oh, and they possess a 250-pound bowling ball in the backfield that also acts as a running back.

“He reminds me of Ron Dayne, even more athletic,” Meyer said of Le’Veon Bell. “A guy that's extremely powerful, times up his blocks very well and runs through tackles. You see athleticism that usually people that size don't have.

“If it turns into a 200-yard rushing day where they just lock you into next week, then we're going to lose the game.”

The Silver Bullets have been prone to missed tackles and giving up big chunks of yardage this season, two things that would concern most coaches when going up against a running back of Bell’s caliber. Meyer took the opposite approach, however.

The offenses Ohio State has played this year have been of the spread variety, trying to dink and dunk their way downfield. It’s proved effective, but Michigan State is an old-school, power football team.

“I think our defense is kind of built for this,” Meyer said. “It's not built for sideline to sideline.”

As of Monday, Ohio State’s entire first-team defense will be available for the first time all season. Michael Bennett has battled a groin injury since the final week of fall camp and has not appeared in a game all season. Bradley Roby and CJ Barnett missed Saturday’s game because of injuries but should be healthy come Saturday.

If Bennett couldn’t play or reaggravated his injury, could the Buckeyes redshirt the sophomore? Not likely.

“We're not thinking redshirting at this point,” Meyer said. “I think every indication is he's going to play. If he doesn't, then I'll address that. But if he plays, he plays."

When Ohio State takes the field it will be the first time Meyer has been an underdog at Ohio State (MSU is an early three-point favorite). And it’s not just Bell that makes the Spartans go. Far from it, actually.

William Gholston and the Spartans gave OSU fits in 2012.

The Michigan State defense is ranked atop the Big Ten in total defense, scoring defense, rush defense and passing efficiency defense.

“I can only compare to what’s the strongest conference I have a lot of experience in,” Meyer said referencing his years in the SEC at Florida. “I can tell you this defense we're getting ready to play will be in the top couple of that conference. That tells you the quality of players, number one.

“I think we've seen some good defenses in my career, and this is one of the best.”

After four weeks, teams have become aware that Miller can beat you with his legs, but his right arm is still a mystery. Meyer said Michigan State will do its best to shut down the run game and make Ohio State throw the ball downfield.

“(They have) a bunch of NFL players on their defensive line,” he said. “We have our work cut out for us.”

The Buckeyes will have an added ingredient on offense this week. For the first time all season, tailbacks Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde will play in the same game and be on the field together.  It’s a dimension that could change how defenses approach Ohio State.

“Working on that now,” Meyer said. “I put together a drawing on the board with both of them in there. I think that's what you want. We want those guys in there.”

Miller was given added responsibility last week at the line of scrimmage. After the game, he said he called somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 audibiles. Meyer said he didn’t think it was that many but that it was “a bunch.”

Entering a hostile environment with 80,000 people could be a recipe for disaster for a quarterback still coming into his own with a new system.

In Ohio Stadium last season, Miller and Joe Bauserman were victimized all day, as the Spartans sacked the quarterback nine times. It wasn’t untll the final 10 seconds of the game that Ohio State scored in the 10-7 loss.

“I'm not going to watch the game. I've watched a lot of the cut-ups of the game,” Meyer said. “Braxton has come a long way.”


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buckeye76BHop's picture

Loved your article Kyle and I was hoping to hear something like this.  Every one being healthy as possible for this game is key.  I had a feeling that's what the plan was for Roby and Barnett (getting Bennett back is just icing on the cake).  Not to mention the offense having Hall and Hyde (the H & H bros on the field at the same time) should help immensely.  I REALLY hope they have two practices from Hell the next two days (tackling I'm sure will be addressed...again) and they are nothing but focused by Saturday.  OSU needs a good win and what better way than playing the best of what the B1G has to offer.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Jeremy91's picture

Hopefully Bennett can stay healthy for the rest of the year

"Do not pray for an easy life. Rather, pray for the the strength to endure a difficult one" - Bruce Lee

Poison nuts's picture

Hopefully fully healthy equates to fully focused this week...

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Tonga Buckeye's picture

Underdogs, H&H in the backfield,big ten game, I see the BUCKS stepping up this week.

"go not where the path may lead, rather go where there is no path and leave a trail"

Jeremy91's picture


"Do not pray for an easy life. Rather, pray for the the strength to endure a difficult one" - Bruce Lee

factor11's picture

I am really curious to see the split in carries between Hyde and Hall and the TYPE of carries they receive.  It is encouraging this year to see the coaching staff use our stable of rb's in the right situations e.g. Rod Smith in goalline/short distances last week versus using Hall last year.  Still glad he's gone #Walrus.

tampa buckeye's picture

Something to note is this coaching staff has been beating up these guys since fall camp started I think this week they ease up in practice and let them get the legs back.  It would not shock me if Ohio State has their best game this season.  

JohnBoy's picture

I agree....I think we will see some fireworks Saturday from both our offense and defense. i am convinced that meyer and herman have been sand baggin' with the offense.

Thank you sir! May I have another?

GABuckeye's picture

I'm torn about this sandbagging thing.  At times they just look unstoppable, so a large part of me thinks they're just saving up.  But another part of me sees some of these awful throws Braxton makes and I wonder if this is truly what we got right now.  We shall see Saturday - I can't wait for this game!

Ahh Saturday's picture

“I'm not going to watch the game. I've watched a lot of the cut ups of the game,” Meyer said. “Braxton has come a long way.”

I have a feeling the Buckeyes will be seeing exactly the same defensive game plan from Sparty as they saw last year.  Might be worth it to watch that game. 

Haybucks's picture

Withers and Fickell need to watch it with Fickell paying attention this time.

If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later. -  Mark Twain


pjtobin's picture

I am excited for Saturday. Glad to hear that guys are recovering. I hope grant and Roby start. Has Washington been starting ? I haven't seen last sat game yet. So I am not for sure if he even played. A great group of young men. Once the timing is right they will be firing on all eleven cylinders. How was Braxton's play calling? Man am I pumped for this road trip. I hope we witness Braxton make a highlight reel. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

CCatanzaro's picture

Just reading through the comments and your signature struck me.  Stated well enough to give me goosebumps in accounting class.  Thanks for sharing!  I'll be at the game Saturday, hopefully they can pull one off for your pops.  RIP!

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otrain2416's picture

Idk if the game plan from Sparty will be the same. If you remember from last year we ran the ball 95% of the time that game against a top 10 defense which was just stupid on Bollmans part. All Sparty had to do was put 8-9 in the box. This year they'll probably only be able to keep 6-7 in the box with our spread and have one of their LB spy Braxton. lHopefully Bennett is 100% because we could definately use him on the pass rush and as a force against the run

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

UABuckeye's picture

Good News.

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Culp's Freaking Hill's picture

Those Michigan State uniforms were so awesome.  They'd be really brilliant to bring them in every once in a while.

Twitter: @conquestnorman

Doesntwork's picture

I seriously thought they were in oregon uniforms wearing ND helmets when i first saw that last year...

jestertcf's picture

I wonder with our densive line depth woes, if Bellemy ever regrets his "losing his love of the game"? He sure could have seen some more playing time then any could have wagered.

~Because we couldn't go for three~

Culp's Freaking Hill's picture

Interesting thought.  Thinking about our incoming recruiting class, I think depth issues might disappear, so he might get lost in following years.

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Rfahncke's picture

I'm excited to see the Double-H in the backfield this weekend. 
I also think a variation of a "flash and bash" with Braxton/Hall around the ends and Boren/Hyde up the middle might be interesting. 
All 4 on the field at the same time would be tough to scheme for and stop. Imagine Boren lead blocking on a pull on the mike with Hyde up the gut out of a triple read-option on the DE on the outside.
^ill let that dance in your heads for a minute!

"Have you earned your buckeye today?"

kgratz's picture

reminds me of christmas morning

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chitown buckeye's picture

Already getting excited for Saturday! Is it really only Monday?

"I'm having a heart attack!"

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

The Silver Bullets should be the key in this one. Forget Bell, he's bound to get 100 yards simply because he'll carry 30 times. More importantly, the Bucks need to get pressure on Maxwell, and stay on him all day. It's his first B1G game, and he needs to be properly welcomed to the league.

headina's picture

Having everyone healthy will be huge. Let's hope the D can play using fundamentals, and the O shows up at LEAST once a quarter. Sparty's O has been far from impressive either. Bell is good but I highly doubt relying on him to carry 40 times a game will work, even against Ohio State's tackling.


BUCKfutter's picture

Added D Line and RB depth will be huge.  Hyde and Hall at the same time is something that Dantonio will at least have to game plan for, whether it happens for one snap or 15.
Also, am I the only one wishing Basil had a few more FG attempts through the first four games? Kicking game could prove enormous; already missing an XP and having minimal FG attempts could lead to shaky confidence.

the kids are playing their tail off, and the coaches are screwing it up! - JLS

miggitymack's picture

I still think something strange happened on that XP. It looked like the D Lineman one the outside left either timed the snap count perfectly or might have jumped offside. It almost looked as if Basil stutter stepped thinking there was a penatly coming and then realized he still had to kick the ball. I feel it was more than just shanking the kick.
I'm not using it as an excuse, just wondering if anyone else saw it the way I did.

Sorry, that's the best you get :/

Jdadams01's picture

I saw the same thing. I thought that perhaps the holder was late adjusting the ball and Basil had to stutter step. 

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I could very well be going through withdraws from my this weekend's lunacy during my '24 crazy friends weekend outing of golfing, drinking, drinking, smoking cheap cigars, golfing, drinking, going to strip clubs, golfing, drinking, golfing, drinking and drinking' but I'm starting to wonder if there is some sort of plan to not unveil anything of substance both offensively and defensively during the first 4 games.  I am not suggesting that the missed tackles, penalties, and sloppy play is on purpose but the vanilla offensive and defensive schemes seem so ordinary that I am wondering if we are not going to see a completely different team and game plan come out this Saturday against MSU?  I may be over thinking it but I have been wondering why we haven't seen many big time fireworks displays so far against weaker opponents.  Thoughts?

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

miggitymack's picture

I agree with you. Outside of the UCF game, we were heavy favorites to win all of them. I know that whenever Tressel played Michigan, it alway seemed he had 2-3 plays drawn up that were unlike anything else we'd see the rest of the season. I'd love it if Meyer had been playing it close to his vest (jacket?) these last four weeks and opened up the entire playbook to blow out Sparty.

Sorry, that's the best you get :/

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

Something just seems to smell of an effort to "lull em to sleep" when it comes to the Spartans. Noticed this past week one screen pass goes for 7 yards, then disappears the rest of the night. Hmmm. Brax with so few runs. Nothing creative at all. I'm hoping Urban is up to his sneaky ways and has a joyful surprise in for fans. Wouldn't it be cool to finally get that beatdown of an opponent we've all been dreaming of...but get it against the #20 team in the nation? All the close calls will be forgotten, look away, look away, look away. Dixie Man! Our own "Dixie Man" is planning on bringing the party, ala SEC style game, to the B1G. I refuse to be a glass-half-empty fan, and am looking forward to just plain fun this year from a young, not-great-yet team. It will get, it will get there!;

I like cookies.

miggitymack's picture

I'm hoping we see these two things:
1) Load up the box, keep Bell in (relative) check and try to pick off an errant Maxwell pass or two. 
2) Get Miller, Hall, and Hyde all in there together, maybe run a little triple option here and there. I think, in the end, it could be too much for Sparty to handle.

Sorry, that's the best you get :/

BeijingBucks's picture

I was ruminating on our defensive performance, lack of sacks, adjustments, etc.

I am not sure if our Safeties/LBs are thaaaat bad that we need to give up the 5yd curl/cross so easily... but I am sure that if we were to close up our CBs at bump em off the line, with our D line crashing in we would definitely shake up their QB a lot more.

Seems like I've heard a ton of bashing of Simon, etc. for not getting more pressure but, how can the D line prevent a quck 3 step drop underneath route? Our LBs are abysmal in coverage.

Curious who you lot feel is the 'general' of the defense who makes sure people adjust and are in position? isn't that usually an experienced middle linebacker (aka our void). Bucks simply don't appear to have the talent/experience to react to plays... i.e. a screen play is all about reactions. I mean, does a player really need a coach to tell him 'uh I'd expect a few more hundred screen plays'?

I am honestly quite relaxed and enjoying this season as a clinic... no massive irreplaceable graduations... next year if they play like this though... Someone gonna get a hurt real bad!

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

MediBuck's picture

I wouldn't be surprised if Coach Urb elects to start with the ball, tries to put a couple touchdowns on quickly, then stacks the box against Bell. The clear game plan against Sparty is to make Maxwell beat you with his arm, because that's not something he's been able to do since he won the starting job.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

Jdadams01's picture

My biggest worry isn't Bell, it's Sims. Our LBs better bring their A game in coverage or he'll eat us up underneath and over the middle.

Dougger's picture

yes! exactly. maxwells not good enough to beat us with his arm on long throws, but possibly out routes and to sims. for sure. hopefully the d dials up a few cb blitzes early and smacks maxwell around and the lbs lay the wood on sims too in the middle. please please please

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740 BUCKEYE's picture

With Hall and Hyde being healthy and Rod Smith emerging and the threat of Braxton running....I want to see this over-rated secondary of MSU tested down field. Run a few and play-action.

IBleedSandG's picture

It'll be interesting to see what Bennett can bring to the table. Lord knows he's better than J.T. Moore, but I think Mike is more of a tackle than a DE. I'm hoping Curtis Grant gets some PT, Klein makes zero plays and he is a senior who had his chance. Grant needs game reps to learn and improve. Maybe Fickell should try and use Grant as a rush end some, that's what Heacock thought he would be best at.


ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

A big game.  Games like these are where Urban has made his mark and his stellar reputation.  I'm predicting a hard-fought victory for the Buckeyes.  I think both these teams are better than they have looked, and it will come down to whichever one is moreso.  The coaches probably should look at some game film from last year, though I imagine it's not too hard to figure out what this team needs to do differently this year.  Two big games coming up - if the Buckeyes can prevail in both - should go into the bye week 10-0.

Class of 2010.