11W RoundTable: Michigan State

By David Sokol on September 28, 2012 at 10:00a

Welcome fans to this edition of the 11W RoundTable.

This week, the Buckeyes face Michigan State in a primetime matchup. Yes, despite the poor performance of the Big Ten as a whole thus far, this game is the World Wide Leader's College Gameday site. How exciting.

To East Lansing, We Ride!Expect a nice sprinkling of scarlet all over Spartan Stadium

I am pleased to present this week's Dubster Analysts and would like to thank Ramzy, Sarah and Alex for their participation.

A reminder: if you have any questions for the staff after Saturday Sparty matchup for next week's game vs. Nebraska, feel free to shoot them my way. Hit me up!

Let's get 'er started.

The Big Ten part of the schedule is finally here and the Buckeyes haven't looked anywhere close to stellar versus the non-conference opponents. Tell us how you currently feel about this Buckeye team.

Ramzy: They're in the throes of puberty and it's awkward and frustrating and against a more formidable schedule the loss column would not look the way it does. Mystified as to why Ohio State's back seven is so deficient. It was only two seasons ago the Buckeyes lost their top six DBs and still beat* pass-happy Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

Alex: I'm still in wait and see mode. There have been things to like through the first four games and also a lot to be concerned with. This team will have to grow throughout the season and right now it's really about how quickly they can adjust on the fly. I'm not sure they'll be able to fix everything in time for this weekend's game in East Lansing, but if there is more good than bad on the field then there is a chance to come away with a huge victory.

Sarah: What quarter is it? If it's the second or fourth, I'm probably a little swoony over how good this team can be when they're firing on all cylinders. If it's the first or third, I'm probably screaming, "MISTER FALCON" (edited for TV) and on the verge of defenestrating my laptop.

Overall, I look forward to watching this team play every week, but I also know they'll be baffling at times. In many ways, Christian Bryant epitomizes this team: he can make an exciting play one minute, a frustrating play the next.

Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell has been beastly and has carried Sparty pretty much on his back with 610 yards and 5 touchdowns. What do the Buckeyes need to do to limit him in Saturday's game?

Alex: Stack the box and make Andrew Maxwell beat you. If the Spartans just ram it up the middle and the Bucks can't stop it, they don't deserve to win. If Dantonio tries to let Maxwell win the game through the air and it beats OSU, I'd feel a little better. It's kind of like playing Wisconsin and knowing they are going to run every time with Montee Ball. If you can't stop it, you don't deserve to win.

Sarah: Do whatever they did last season, when they held him to 50 yards. I don't actually know what the defense's game plan was then, since I've blocked most of that game from memory, but it seemed to work against the run.

At his press conference on Monday, Urban said that Michigan State's defense is "going to take away the run and force you to throw the ball down the field", which is the same strategy Ohio State should use and actually tackling Bell is a good place to start. Stopping him is by far the defense's #1 priority, so no whiffs and no arm tackles. I'll be in the stands, holding a wrap it up box, hoping that encourages the defense.

And if Bell starts giving piggyback rides to the Ohio State players, a la BJ Cunningham and Travis Howard, then I'll be the 100-and-however-much-I-weigh-pound crazy lady running on the field to tackle him myself.

Ramzy: Dantonio said he now realizes that deviating from the running game - their identity - against Notre Dame was a mistake. They stuck to it against Eastern Michigan last week. They need to be prepared for it for the entire game. It's unlikely they'll deviate from their identity again.

MSU QB Andrew Maxwell hasn't been great and contains many flaws throwing for just three TDs and three INTs. How must the Buckeyes expose him on defense?

Ramzy: Ohio State's terrible linebacking play in pass coverage is the great equalizer. Maxwell should have plenty of opportunities in the flat if he's hesitant to pick on the corners.

Alex: As I said, stack the box and challenge him to throw. The Buckeyes have three corners in Bradley Roby, Travis Howard, and Doran Grant that I feel comfortable with in man coverage. Use that to your advantage and send a blitzer or two to put Maxwell under pressure and make him make throws he hasn't made all season. Also, some press coverage on the boundaries would be nice, as you can bet MSU is going to try and use passes to the sideline to beat OSU as others team have this season.

Sarah: As I said above, force him to throw downfield. The defense will have to focus on Bell, so they can't afford to constantly send blitzers at Maxwell, but the occasional one, especially early, might fluster him. He's about as mobile as the Sparty statue and won't take off running, but he does seem like he could be influenced into turning the ball over,  and we know Ohio State's corners are adept at picking off opposing QBs.

Although Michigan State doesn't have much in the way of a receiving threat, Dion Sims is a quality tight end. He's the guy the defense has to account for most, after Bell. Keep him covered and dare Maxwell and his WRs to make plays through the air.

Does Coach Meyer "free Braxton" this week or will the staff limit his carries, like in the past few weeks?

Alex: I think he "frees" him moreso than in other games. I expect 20 carries from Braxton this game. He is the offense's most potent weapon. Use him.

Sarah: With Hall and Hyde in the backfield together, I think that gives the coaches more freedom and maybe they won't have to rely so heavily on Braxton's legs. On the other hand, if that's what it takes to win, they'll do it. They limited him against the likes of UAB to ease some of the burden off him and to establish the non-Braxton part of the running game, but when called upon, his feet haven't failed us yet this season.

#FREEBRAXTONTo let him run around or to keep him in the pocket?

Then again, this is the toughest defense they'll face all year, one that isn't shy from committing a cheap shot every now and then, so Braxton will also have to be protected from taking too many hits.

Ramzy: I think he frees Braxton to start the game, then does that stuff we saw against UAB to develop some other options - with hopefully more success - and then frees him again situationally if necessary.

What is one thing you saw from the Buckeyes against UAB that they absolutely cannot do this week against the Spartans?

Alex: Dumb penalties. There was running into the kicker and then Christian Bryant running his mouth (although the replay didn't look worthy of a flag) that cost the Buckeyes in that game. Those mistakes happen against MSU and it may cost them the game.

Sarah:  They really need to stop taking entire quarters off. Too often this season, the team will go long stretches where it seems like all they know how to do is derp. The Buckeyes have to play much smarter against Michigan State and let their inherent Spartyness monopolize the boneheaded penalties and miscues.

Ramzy: The defense only forced UAB into one three-and-out all day. That's how you lose to any team that isn't UAB.

How many points do the Buckeyes need to score to win this game?

Sarah: Just like last year: first one to double digits wins. Well, maybe it won't be that offensively challenged. Seventeen points might win it for them, particularly if Sparty's WRs continue paying homage to the 2011 Ohio State receiving corps, but the defense has not earned my trust yet, so I'm thinking Ohio State will need to score at least 20.

Ramzy: Every time a matchup screams for the under, both defenses end up trolling everybody into a shootout. Getting to 31 feels safe, especially if Michigan State is forced to score with urgency later in the game. That scenario on the other sideline benefits the Buckeyes, who have shown big-play potential.

Alex: I think they can score anywhere above 21 and win. I really think it will be about the OSU defense slowing down Bell and shutting down the Sparty passing game, especially limiting big plays. The offense needs to be more consistent and stay on the field to limit MSU's opportunities and I certainly think they can do so, which will obviously lead to points.

How many yards do they need to limit Le'Veon Bell to win (averages 152 yards per game)?

Alex: Well it depends how many times he carries the ball, but I will say under 100 and I am happy.

Ramzy: Keep him under 100, but more importantly keep him under 4 ypc. That's how you force Dantonio to break their identity.

Sarah: I'm less concerned with how many yards Bell totals than how he gains them. Considering how blink-and-you'll-miss-it the Ohio State offense can be, either because they score quickly or go three-and-out, I don't think the team can withstand 8-minute long drives from Michigan State where they do almost nothing but hand the ball off to Bell.

But, he was mostly held in check by Ohio State last year, and Central Michigan kept him under 100 yards, so he's not impossible to stop. The defense's goal should be something similar, and if not under 100, at least limit him to below his season average.

Oh god, did I just suggest this defense should imitate last year's team and Central Michigan?

Bonus: #BraxtonYes or BraxtonNo (Big Ten Network's poll on whether or not he was a Heisman Candidate)?

Ramzy: #BraxtonYes

Alex: #BraxtonYes, the numbers don't lie, but this game goes a far way in telling us if he is a contender or pretender in the Heisman Trophy race.

Sarah: Cue the song "I've Seen All Good People" because yes, as of right now, he is. But, it's only September and if the race was decided this month, then Denard Robinson would have 50 Heismans. These next two weeks will very much impact whether Braxton gets that invite to New York. I'm not sure if he ultimately will this season. Next season, though, I think he'll be one of the frontrunners.


Comments Show All Comments

hodge's picture

"If it's the first or third, I'm probably screaming, "MISTER FALCON" (edited for TV) and on the verge of defenestrating my laptop."

Die Hard 2  cable TV reference?  Well played, Sarah.

dbit's picture

She's on her game today. I enjoyed the 

"...then Denard would have 50 Heismans"

Alhan's picture

Props to Sarah for the "Wrap it up" Box reference.

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

WC Buckeye's picture

I kinda liked "defenestrating". I actually knew what she meant and got a small, secret smile in my *very* serious work environment.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

E2Brutus's picture

I've always thought 'defenestrate' was such a ridiculous word... I mean how many definitions are so specific? And also Cam Newton amirite?

WC Buckeye's picture

Yep, and the action doesn't really fit with the sound of the word, like decapitate or disembowel. Both of which I rather like saying in the same sentence as Cam Newton...

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

btalbert25's picture

I think if they do free Braxton and he gets 20 carries as Alex thinks, Ohio State will win this game. 

ccollins0325's picture

As long as they are not the "I'm going to hand it off, no wait maybe I'll keep it... no I'll hand it off... oops I got sacked" variety of carries, I believe you are correct.

Tim's picture

I agree that Miller needs to make quicker, more confident reads.  When in doubt though, he keeps it, which is fine with me if it avoids fumbles or big losses.

CC's picture

For some reason I am very confident about this game.  The enemy you know...
They remind me of OSU last year.  Not that Maxwell throws Bauserballs, but Bell and Boom were great backs on bad offenses with great D's.  Last year's OSU team woud have been smoked by this team which is why I think we will beat MSU.

JasonBuck's picture

One thing I really like about this years team is their ability to make half time adjustments (yes not as stellar as we all may like, but still....better than the previous regime).  I think that will play a key part in tomorrows game.  I see a close game going into half time, then whoever makes the better adjustments at half will win.

IBleedSandG's picture

"You better wrap that gavel up, b!" Man, do i wish Chapelle's Show.


chitown buckeye's picture

I think Braxton will carry 20+ times this week for sure. You could tell he was held back the last few games and only called upon when needed. Hyde and Hall in the backfield are legitimate threats. I see Braxton working hard early to get everyones attention then begining to give it to the other boys when all eyes are on him.
I'm growing more confident in this game every minute. I think once  Herman/Meyer find out what works offensively Sparty is going to see a heavy dose of it. IMO we have backed off the playbook at times during these first 4 games to try/work on other things. I dont look for that to be the case this week.
Defensively- WRAP UP! Play aggresive and take proper angles. Bell is not super-human. I am not worried about how many yards he ends with becasue he will have 40+carries by days end but keep his YPC in check.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

JJB's picture

My goal for the day is to use 'defenestrate' as many times as I can in conversation.

Hamsterdam's picture

"I've Seen All Good People" is now 41 years old. Wow.

hodge's picture

And Chris Squire is still the ludicriously good bassist that he's always been, forever underappreciated by being a contemporary of Geddy Lee.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Far out!
They were awesome in concert!!!

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

The_Lurker's picture

I am weeping tears of joy to see Buckeye fans who appreciate Yes.

Cue the song "I've Seen All Good People" 

A female OSU fan who knows her Yes? That's hawt.

hodge's picture

I'll be totally honest:  I'm not a big fan, but I am quite familiar with their work.  They're a little too indulgent for my tastes, at least most of the time; but I'll concede that "Yours is no Disgrace", "Roundabout", and "I've Seen All Good People" is some damn good prog (full disclosure: I'm a bigger fan of Rush).
Fun fact: During "I've Seen all Good People" John Anderson sings the lyric "Send an instant karma to me..."--this is a send up to John Lennon's song of the same title, which drummer Alan White played the skins.

doodah_man's picture

But at what point did they decide, "what does this song really need"?
"Cow Bell - Nahh it's been done"
"How about - Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda.
Diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit diddit didda."
"Yea yea, that's it."
/why I am not rich from my musical career....

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

Alhan's picture

I gotta have more cowbell.

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

Crimson's picture

I got a feaver, and the only prescription, is more cowbell!

CoachGrasso's picture

So glad my parents brought me up on jammy/fusion classic rock. Been on a Rush kick all morning for no particular reason other than it makes me happy. Definitely Rush >>>> Yes, and this is no way discredits the work of Yes.
Go Bucks!

Maestro's picture

Tater would have a Heisman too if it were awarded in September, but #BraxtonYes can get a major boost tomorrow.

vacuuming sucks

JLP36's picture

Ah, good ole Toot Fumblier.  Him fumbling in his own end zone with pee running down his leg in front of Cam Heyward is easily one of the most entertaining plays in the history of sport.


tennbuckeye19's picture

Braxton may have to run 20 plus times, and not by design. He may not have time to do anything else. I'm worried that the offensive line may have some issues containing MSU's d-line tomorrow afternoon. 

shortbus20's picture

Playing at home it seemed the bucks always played better going to the south end of the stadium. Wonder if we are a "directional team" ourselves...LOL   Which way is south at MSU?

  • shortbus20
otrain2416's picture

I feel like that play action play and quick throw to the reciever would work really well this week. MSU likes to sell out verse the run.

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

osu07asu10's picture


We're 91st in the nation in passing.  Can't send a QB to NYC when his team's numbers look like that, even though that isn't entirely his fault or the only facet of his game.

Still think he's an amazing QB, but Junior and Senior years are his years to be in NYC

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

Maestro's picture

Without a doubt next season and '14 are likely more appropriate, but if Miller throws for over 2,000 yards and 20+ TD's while also running for 1,200 yards and 20 TD's he will be on everyone's short list.

vacuuming sucks

osu07asu10's picture

I can't argue that either. Guess this is one of the rare occassions I am probably tougher on a buckeye player than the general media

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

Earle's picture

MSU will be selling out to stop Braxton.  Jordan Hall will run for more yards than Bell.  Write it down.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

AC1972's picture

Hope you're right, Earle.  It's definitely plausible.  Jordan is primed for a break out game..flying a bit under the radar...

JohnBoy's picture

I am predicting a complete game on offense to the tune of 24+ points and a near shutout on defense.
One special teams score...not sure which team though.
I am calling it. We explode in this game.

Thank you sir! May I have another?

Hoody Wayes's picture

Urban Meyer is 38-4 in September.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

I believe Urban will unleash the Braxton tomorrow in ways we have not witnessed to date!  The offensive and defensive schemes have been vanilla against weaker opponents for a reason, in my professional couch coach opinion, and that all changes against MSU.  I think Urban has made an overt attempt to limit what the other coaches have to game plan against in a way that will force them to go back to his UF days.  I could be totally wrong here, but I just have a gut feeling the team we see tomorrow playing MSU will be a vastly different team than we've witnessed over the last 4 years.

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

Maestro's picture

I agree about the offense having the opportunity to look different/better/more explosive.  Especially compared to last week.  I don't think Herman and Urban are going to have Braxton making 20 audibles.  They are going to call the game and open it up a bit.  Miller has to hit a long one early to make it all work IMHO.

vacuuming sucks

Grayskullsession's picture

I would like to see Fickell and Withers dial up some zone blitzes on 3rd and longs when they have to pass. That should confuse Maxwell enough into throwing some INTs. As for Le'veon Bell I think that we can take him. We have had trouble tackling the smaller, quicker RBs who can evade tackles. Hopefully Urban has stressed wrapping up and driving the RBs to the ground because Bell can most definitely break through the arm tackles, and shrug off shoulder tackles.

"if irony were made of strawberries, we' d all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now."

gwalther's picture

Sometimes I get the feeling Sarah is "Jess," and the male writers on the site are her 3 roommates.

Class of 2008

Run_Fido_Run's picture

So far this season, MSU is back to running the Javon Ringer offense, which is not particularly productive - i.e., give it to Ringer/Bell on +70 percent of the run plays and end up as a middle-of-the-pack rushing team.
Surprisingly, four games into the season, MSU is only 53rd in rushing yds/game and 63rd in rushing yds/attempt. 
In terms of passing yds/game, at 61st in the nation, MSU is ranked higher than Ohio State, which is 96th. However, the Buckeyes are 56th in passing yds/attempt, whereas MSU is a woeful 105th in passing yds/attempt. 
Basically, MSU's offense has relied on its defense to get lots of three-and-outs and after trying, trying, and trying again to move the ball . . . eventually they get something done out of sheer volume, not out of offensive efficiency. MSU is surprisingly 28th in offensive plays per games (at 77.75), whereas "hurry up" Ohio State (70.25) is 59th. 
All of this explains why Ohio State (0.537) is 20th in the nation in points per offensive play, while MSU (0.270) is 110th! (I couldn't find the data on #s of possessions to calculate points per possession).
Moral of the story: Urbz's dictum that his offense must get two first downs every series is especially important in this game. Obviously, the Buckeyes offense needs to limit penalties, TOs and mistakes. But they also need to execute on early downs, get ahead of the chains. Yes, they'll need to hit some big plays, including in the passing game, especially as that's what MSU's defensive deployments will be "giving them," but they can't afford the quick three-and-outs tomorrow. Yeah, they need to be more aggressive on defense, too, but another way to suffocate MSU's inexperienced, underperforming offense is to put them in bad field position and make them feel like "it's now or never," that their opportunities are closing in on them (classic Tressel ball). Put both physical and psychological pressure on Maxwell and his "green" receivers.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Note: in MSU's one big offensive performance, against CMU, they did go for 495 total yards in that game, but the MSU offense began most of its scoring drives from great field position. That's not unusual. But MSU has had only three TD drives longer than 70 yards and all three came against the directional Michigans.   

LouGroza's picture

Great breakdown and conclusion Run. But with his presence on the sideline coaching, amongst all other B1G coaches, Urbz has already dictum.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Well, after this past NLOI day, both Dantonio/Narduzzi and Bielema were supposedly pretty butt hurt.

LouGroza's picture

Yep and it has to a part of their collective dreams to this day and beyond. We will undoubtedly see some extra spirit in Dantonio Saturday.

bassplayer7770's picture

I know most of these things have been discussed, but here are some of the key questions to the game in my mind.
1.  Will the Defense wrap up better on tackles?  This is obviously important going up against a big back like Bell.
2.  Will a MIKE step up and have a good game?  Once again, this seems crucial against a back like Bell.
3.  Will the DBs stop giving WRs so much cushion?  Giving cushion against a team like UAB and still expecting to win may work out in the end, but you can't be giving MSU WRs that much space.
4.  Will our D force more 3-and-outs?  I believe, if those things do happen, then the Defense will generally perform better on 3rd downs.
5.  Will Braxton settle down quickly and hit his WRs?  In addition to that, when a ball is well-thrown, will the WRs stop dropping them particularly on key 3rd downs?  It seems obvious that MSU will be focusing on the run and forcing Braxton to throw the ball.  If they're hitting these passes, then that would certainly help eliminate so many 3-and-outs on Offense.  Not to mention, it might open up our running game.
6.  Will our Offense actually consistently run a high tempo Offense?  If we can tire out MSU's Defense, that would be a huge advantage, but the Offense hasn't been truly high tempo most of the time.
7.  Will our O Line capably handle MSU's D Line?  It seems like, in general. Braxton won't be able to take a lot of time to throw the ball, so I could foresee some dinking and dunking of our own.
8.  Will the stupid penalties stop?  Personal fouls are totally uncalled for.  Play smart.  Don't shoot yourselves in the foot.
I'm a homer, so I'm optimistic the guys will step up a get the W.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Nice catch by Sarah regarding Dantonio saying they need to be true to their identity, unlike in the ND game. Means expect a heavy dose of Bell tomorrow. Grant and Klein...get your sleep boys, in bed by 10:00 and don't even be the "master of your own domain" - save all energies for Sparty. You too Ryan and Sabino. And for crying out loud, Mr. Shazier, please put the "Damn" back in Ryan Damn Shazier.....

Maestro's picture

Ha, I am running in a 10-miler this weekend.  Better take it easy on the mastering.

vacuuming sucks

Denny's picture

Be the Maestro of your own domain.


Maestro's picture

Well played taquito lover.

vacuuming sucks

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

On purpose?

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

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Stop - you had me at "defenestrating".......

Denny's picture

I just hope Maxwell doesn't have a daemon on his side. If so, entropy will be reversed and all hell will break loose.


BuckeyeEd's picture

Saw them in Philly back in 79.....(In the round). "Heart of the Sunrise" was probably my favorite Rip....Chris Squire and Rick Wakeman were Awesome.....I was trashed too!!....Great Show!!