Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 9/28/12

It says a great deal about this year’s Big Ten that the two highest ranked teams in the conference have been widely criticized for underperforming this season.

Saturday afternoon those teams will meet and decide, for now, who is the best of what looks to be a mediocre bunch.

The #14 Ohio State Buckeyes (4-0) will travel to East Lansing, Michigan to face the #20 Michigan State Spartans (3-1). Last season, the Spartans won a defensive struggle 10-7 in Columbus, but much has changed this year for both teams.

Ohio State – Michigan State Preview

Ohio State has jumped to what, on the surface, looks like an impressive undefeated start, but the games tell a different story.

After blowing out Miami (OH) 56-10 to open the season, Ohio State has struggled to put away their last three opponents at home: Central Florida, California and Alabama-Birmingham.

The big story in Columbus and much of college football, of course, is Urban Meyer leading the Buckeyes. Many expected sophomore quarterback and dynamic athlete Braxton Miller to shine in Meyer’s brilliant offensive schemes, but many have been critical so far.

Miller has shown an incredible ability to run the ball, making highlight reel moves with his feet in each of the first four games. Meyer and many Buckeye fans think that Miller has taken to running too much and that he needs to make more plays in the passing game and improve his ability to make reads.

As effective as this has been, Urban Meyer hopes Braxton Miller doesn’t have to run often. Photo by: Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com

Michigan State has faced major change as well, mostly on their offense. Quarterback Kirk Cousins in gone to the NFL, as are two of last year’s best receivers, B.J. Cunningham and Keith Nichol.

Junior Andrew Maxwell now starts at quarterback, and after a dismal start against Boise State (3 interceptions) he has managed to play better. Completing passes at a 56.6% rate and throwing three touchdowns in four games, however, is a far cry from what Cousins brought to the table in making Michigan State a national power last season.

Let’s look at the keys to the game for both sides.

What Ohio State Must Do To Win

As much as Urban Meyer may want Braxton Miller to take shots downfield, Michigan State has been really strong against the pass this year. The Spartans have allowed just 164 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks.

As a counter, I think Ohio State should try to establish the run with running back Jordan Hall to open the game. Hall has averaged 96 yards on 17 carries in each of the last two games, but has yet to find the end zone. The Buckeyes have relied so heavily on the legs of Miller that Michigan State will surely key on him. If they can find success with Hall between the tackles, Michigan State will be forced to stack the line. Stacking the line will open the middle of the field for Miller’s passes and running lanes.

Jordan Hall could be a key Saturday afternoon. Photo by: AP Photo/Jay LaPrete via espn.com

Ohio State’s defense has struggled tackling this year. Against Cal, without question the most talented team the Buckeyes have faced, they allowed 512 yards of total offense. PAss defense has been especially troublesome, as Ohio State has allowed at least 249 yards in every game this year.

The good news is that Michigan State’s strength is running the ball with LeVeon Bell. If Ohio State can bottle up Bell, or even slow him down as Notre Dame did (17 carries, 77 yards), they have a great chance of forcing Maxwell and the Spartans into tough long distance third downs and possibly turnovers.

What Michigan State Must Do To Win

Michigan State must win the battle at the line of scrimmage. It is vital for them to stop Jordan Hall and apply pressure to Miller. With Miller still being somewhat unproven as a thrower, pressure could mean bad decisions, which in turn can mean good field position and, in the best case scenario, easy points.

Senior defensive end William Gholston, a player who looked like the next great Big Ten pass rusher last season, needs to improve on what has been a lackluster to start to his final year in East Lansing. Getting a sack or two on Miller would be a great start to a turnaround to this season.

 

William Gholston needs to return to his 2011 form if the Spartans want to beat the Buckeyes. Photo by: Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE via freep.com

Also important is staying to assignments to keep Miller from getting outside the pocket and making huge plays on the ground.

Michigan State needs to capitalize on Ohio State’s weakness against the pass. So far this year, though, the Spartan receivers have had great difficulty making plays and catching passes. Maxwell will need his receivers to get separation, have sure hands and make the Buckeyes miss in the open field. It is important for Maxwell to not have to do too much, because that could lead to forced throws and costly mistakes.

Ohio State has an incredible ability to pull out close games with big plays at key times. It will help if Michigan State’s crowd can get rowdy and throw the Buckeyes off their game in those key moments.

Ohio State – Michigan State Prediction

Despite the home field advantage and the questions on defense, I think the Buckeyes go into East Lansing and take this game. I expect Miller to have a huge game and the Buckeyes to win with relative ease.

Final Score: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 17

Ohio State – Michigan State Game Info
  • Ohio State – Michigan State Date: Saturday, September 29, 2012
  • Ohio State – Michigan State Kickoff Time: 3:30 PM ET
  • Ohio State – Michigan State TV Info: ABC
  • Ohio State – Michigan State Point Spread: Michigan State -3
  • Ohio State – Michigan State Over/Under: 42

*********

Follow me on Twitter @KeithMullett

*********

Image Credits: cleveland.com, espn.com, freep.com

The post Big Ten Game of the Week: #14 Ohio State Buckeyes at #20 Michigan State Spartans appeared first on Midwest Sports Fans.


GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Dodgers transfer Andrew Toles and Scott Kazmir to the 60-day disabled list

Looking back at 40 years of women racing in the Indianapolis 500

U.S. national soccer teams to wear LGBT-themed jerseys to celebrate pride month

Mike Zimmer: Teddy Bridgewater still has ‘long ways to go’

Turkey: Kanter a member of terrorist group, issues warrant

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Seahawks players feel Sherman bombshell story ‘nailed it’

Report: Clippers concerned about Chris Paul leaving to sign with Spurs

Patriots to sponsor Gay Bowl in Boston this fall

Michael Irvin offers advice for Odell Beckham

Mike Golic denies report of ‘icy’ relationship with Mike Greenberg

Report: Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves ready to move on

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Box Score 5/26: Bring on the Finals

Why wait? Our too soon Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals preview

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Three Up, Three Down: Some surprises way out (NL) West

The 'Let's go to the videotape!' quiz

It’s our civic duty to stop attending Super Bowls in new stadiums

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'More like Whiffer, Texas Ranger...amirite?' quiz

Stanley Cup Final: A David vs. Goliath matchup that's not as lopsided as it may appear

Manu Ginobili gave life to the San Antonio Spurs

The Rewind: Vince Carter's graduation day celebration that wasn't

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Kicking It: East is East, and West is West

Three Up, Three Down: Some surprises way out (NL) West

The 'Let's go to the videotape!' quiz

Why the Indianapolis 500 is called 'the greatest spectacle in racing'

The 'Farewell to the Manu, the Myth, the Legend' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker