Can’t really say I blame you, Coach Meyer. Last year’s 17-14 defeat at the hands of Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans in Ohio Stadium was tough to take. I know – I was there too.
So many people are quick to point out to me that Michigan State this season is not the same team as last year’s team. Quite true.
I will merely point out something that many Ohio State fans have either conveniently forgotten, or are denying – Urban Meyer has only lost five times since taking over as Ohio State’s head coach in 2012. Do you want to guess which team can claim responsibility for two of those losses?
Yep. Michigan State.
Want to hear something else that may make you pause your enthusiasm for this one? Check out the below tweet from Ramzy Nasrallah of Eleven Warriors…
Lastly, and this is something that Mark Dantonio is a master motivator at exploiting…There are 29 Ohioans on Michigan State’s roster. Several of these players were recruited by Ohio State, such as L.J. Scott or Justin Layne, and chose Michigan State over Ohio State. The reality is the vast majority of these players were not recruited by Ohio State, and Dantonio seems to be able to get those players to truly rise up and play their best against the Buckeyes. A case in point ~ Spartan quarterback Tyler O’Connor, who came into the starting spot last year, and played well enough to help the Spartans upset the Buckeyes.
Now that I have your attention, below are three areas I will be focusing upon when the game kicks off at 12pm EST on ESPN…
- Ohio State’s running game vs. Michigan State’s rush defense: Last year, Ohio State inexplicably did not give the ball to Ezekiel Elliott, and it hurt the Buckeyes tremendously. This year, Ohio State has Mike Weber, Curtis Samuel, and J.T. Barrett in their arsenal to battle the Spartans. It will bear watching to see if stud defensive lineman Malik McDowell will play against the Buckeyes; McDowell was listed as questionable heading into this contest.
- Has Michigan State figured out its offensive woes? Last week against Rutgers, the Spartans raced out to an early lead, eventually winning against the Scarlet Knights, 49-0. The aforementioned O’Connor played well, but has battled consistency throughout 2016. Ohio State was able to sack Maryland’s quarterbacks five times last week. Will the Buckeyes be able to generate the same kind of pass rush against O’Connor?
- Will the weather be a factor? As I write this, the weather forecast is calling for a windy, rainy, and possibly snowy day…eerily, that screams to me of the 2015 contest. Look for field position to be at a premium, with both teams looking to capitalize upon mistakes by the special teams units.
Prediction: Mark Dantonio has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by embracing a riverboat gambler mentality against Ohio State. Knocking Ohio State out of the playoffs would be quite soothing for what has been a disappointing season in East Lansing. Urban Meyer seems to play closer to the vest against the Spartans, and that could make this game much closer than the Las Vegas oddsmakers are anticipating. I see this as a slugest, with the Buckeyes slowly pulling away in the fourth quarter. I have it Ohio State 31, Michigan State 17.