EAST LANSING, Michigan — Ohio State got back on the winning track last week against Nebraska after a blowout loss at Purdue two weeks prior, but the Buckeyes still have plenty of questions to answer and issues to fix as they barely skated by the then 2-6 Huskers by a score of 36-31.
Many were expecting Ohio State to dominate last week following a frustrating loss and two weeks of nothing but practice, but all that resulted from the bye week was a five-point win over a team that won’t even make a bowl game.
The College Football Playoff committee was unimpressed by Ohio State’s slim victory over Nebraska, and as a result the Buckeyes stayed put at No. 10 in Tuesday’s latest rankings despite some losses by Top-10 teams last weekend.
After last season’s disappointing loss to Iowa, Ohio State took out their frustrations on Michigan State the following week with a 48-3 demolishing of the Spartans.
Ohio State failed to replicate that performance last week, but the Buckeyes will have a chance to do so on Saturday against the same team that they worked over a year ago.
Ohio State Breakdown
As previously mentioned, Ohio State has been struggling quite significantly in many areas, particularly on defense and in the run game, which has led to many fans having doubts about this team’s potential the rest of the season.
Ohio State players are starting to embrace the role of the underdog though, a role that is very foreign to them in recent years.
“It’s exciting when people doubt you,” said Ohio State right guard Demetrius Knox. “The doubt that we have coming toward our program, we love that. Everybody here expects us to win, and that’s the mindset, but when people have a little bit of doubt toward you, you get to prove them wrong.”
Knox may be excited that people are doubting Ohio State, but those doubts aren’t unwarranted. After all, everyone saw the rails come off at Purdue and the Buckeyes didn’t exactly look dominant the following game against an outmatched Nebraska team.
After all, Ohio State is giving up nearly 400 yards a game on defense this season and the Buckeyes hadn’t rushed for over 150 yards in a game since their game against Tulane back in September up until last week against Nebraska.
The Buckeyes are still trying to figure things out defensively as their linebackers and secondary have been suspect at best this season.
Although, Ohio State may have finally found a good starting safety opposite of Jordan Fuller last week as Brendon White came in for Fuller after he was ejected from the game in the second quarter vs. Nebraska.
White came in and led the team in tackles (13), solo tackles (8) and tackles for loss (2) in the 36-31 victory over the Huskers.
“My confidence level has definitely gone up knowing that I can make plays out there,” White said following his breakout performance vs. Nebraska. “I’m just trying to stay focused and I can still get better at everything. The biggest thing for me is not letting my head get too big and trying to get better each and every day.”
Overall, Urban Meyer believes that the defense is improving.
“I think we’re getting closer,” said Meyer. “It’s getting closer, but it’s nowhere near the standard we want.”
On the offensive side of the ball, it could be another record-setting day for quarterback Dwayne Haskins on Saturday as after setting the Ohio State single-season record for completions last week against Nebraska, Haskins is just 278 passing yards away from breaking Joe Germaine’s single-season passing record (3,330 yards) and just four touchdowns away from breaking J.T. Barrett’s single-season record for passing touchdowns (35 TDs).
Michigan State Breakdown
Michigan State is not a great team offensively this season. The Spartans are only scoring 23.4 points per gamed averaging 360.3 yards per game, ranked 110th and 105th in those categories respectfully in the country.
A lot of that is due to injuries as Michigan State’s main running back for the past few seasons L.J. Scott has only played in four games this season due to an ankle injury while starting quarterback Brian Lewerke has thrown for less than 100 yards in the past two games due to a shoulder injury he’s been dealing with. Also, Michigan State’s leading receiver this season, Felton Davis III, is out for the rest of the season with an Achilles injury. As far as starting offensive linemen go, the Spartans are without David Beedle and Matt Allen as well.
Even uninjured, Brian Lewerke has not been a very successful quarterback for Michigan State this season, completing just 55.9 percent of his passes while throwing just eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions.
However, what MSU lacks on the offensive side of the ball, they make up for on the defensive side of the ball.
“They’re playing as good of defense as anyone in the country,” said Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer of Michigan State.
And it’s true, at least in their run defense as the Spartans are only giving up 71.7 rushing yards per game, the best run defense in the country. Michigan State is also only giving up 19 points per game, good for the 16th-best scoring defense in the country.
However, Ohio State could easily decimate Michigan State through the air on Saturday as the Spartans are allowing an average of 253.4 passing yards per game, only 98th in the country in that category while Ohio State is throwing for 369.1 yards per game, the 3rd-best passing offense in the country statistically.
Even if Ohio State’s struggles in the run game reemerge, the Buckeyes may very well be able to beat the Spartans through the air alone.
Probably the biggest motivational factor for Michigan State is the amount of players from the state of Ohio that they have on their roster. With 28 players from the state of Ohio and many of them not being recruited at all by Ohio State, it’s certainly a big motivational factor to want to beat that team, especially since many of them have never experienced a win over the Buckeyes with the Spartans’ last victory in the series coming in 2015.
Michigan State has not beaten Ohio State on their home turf in East Lansing since 1999. They’ll need all phases of their game to be at their best of the season on Saturday if they want to beat the Buckeyes.
Despite Ohio State’s struggles and playing on the road against a Top-25 opponent, the Buckeyes are still favored by 3.5 points against Michigan State and I am taking the over.
This will most likely be a close game for the first half but Ohio State will wear down Michigan State in the third quarter and that’s when you’ll see the run game explode and Ohio State finally show off a little dominance.
Score Prediction: 31-17 Ohio State
Bold Prediction: Ohio State will run for 150+ yards against Michigan State’s top-ranked run defense in the country.
No. 10 Ohio State will kick off against No. 18 Michigan State this Saturday, November 10th at noon ET at Spartan Stadium. The game will be broadcast on FOX.
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