Ohio State has done everything it can to earn the right to play in the BCS National Championship, with the exception of two things: Beating a Top 10 opponent and winning the Big Ten title. The Buckeyes will have to do both on Saturday when they take on the Spartans for the Big Ten Championship.
Not only does Urban Meyer have a chance to return to the BCS title game for the third time in his career, but he also has about over $4 million riding on beating Michigan State, according to Chris Smith of Forbes.
While many are already looking ahead to say why Ohio State doesn't deserve to go to the national championship over Auburn, here are a few matchups that could produce a win for Michigan State and halt any hopes Ohio State has of another undefeated season.
Ohio State's passing game vs. Michigan State's passing defense
The Buckeyes do just about everything right on the offensive side of the ball, but the passing game comes second to the rushing attack. Averaging just 209.2 passing yards per game, the Buckeyes are seventh in the Big Ten.
On the other side, Michigan State is the No. 1 passing defense in the Big Ten and has held opponents to just 172.9 passing yards per game. The Spartans have also given up just 11 touchdowns on the year, which also leads the conference.
In two games that the Buckeyes played against Iowa and Wisconsin, two other top five passing defenses in the Big Ten, they put up an average of 210 yards passing but also scored six touchdowns through the air in those contests.
If Michigan State can stop Braxton Miller from getting the ball to his receivers on medium- to deep-range passes—four of the six touchdowns scored against Iowa and Wisconsin came on passes of 25 yards or more—the Spartans have a good chance of taking the Big Ten title back to East Lansing.
Jeremy Langford vs. Ohio State's rushing defense
While Carlos Hyde will likely get all of the attention going against the No. 1 rushing defense in the conference, Jeremy Langford will have to get going against the No. 2 rushing defense in order for the Spartans to pull the upset.
Langford hasn't been a schlub for Michigan State, rushing for an average of over 100 yards per game this season, but he hasn't exactly gotten the attention of a guy like Hyde with his 143.3 yards per game. If the Spartans are looking to knock off the No. 2 team in the nation and get to the Rose Bowl, they will need a huge game from Langford.
The junior tailback actually leads the conference with 16 touchdowns on the ground and has five multi-touchdown games on the year. In its last two contests, Ohio State has given up over 150 yards rushing against Indiana and Michigan, so the rushing defense doesn't look as impenetrable as it was earlier in the season.
Ohio State's scoring offense vs. Michigan State's scoring defense
One note about Ohio State: Its offense can score at will. One note about Michigan State: Its defense doesn't allow teams to score. Those facts alone are what make this a great game to watch.
The Buckeyes average 48.2 points per game, good enough for first in the Big Ten and third in the country in scoring offense. Much of that success is due to the rushing attack of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, who have combined for over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns despite playing in only 10 games and nine games, respectively.
The Spartans allow a staggering 11.8 points per game, first in the Big Ten and fourth in the country. Michigan State's success comes from balance in both defending the pass and stopping the rush, ranking first in the Big Ten in both categories, and allowing opponents to score just 16 touchdowns on the season.
This may not be a matchup that is easy to watch, for it will be one that could send Ohio State to Pasadena or potentially on the outside of a BCS bowl berth all together.