No doubt the biggest storyline of this year's Big Ten Championship Game has been the matchup between Ohio State's high-powered offense and Michigan State's stingy defense.
Who wins out in the biggest battle of the game will depend on stopping the biggest weapons Ohio State can throw at you. That means trying to stop Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde.
If you are MSU, though, you can only pick one to contain. The question is, which one do you pick?
According to ESPN college football analysts Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack the answer is very simple—you stop Carlos Hyde.
"This offense is where it's at because of Carlos Hyde, it's not where it's at because of Braxton Miller," said Pollack. "Carlos Hyde is a man-child. When you turn on the tape of Carlos Hyde there's a lot of takers in the first quarter, in the second quarter there are less takers and in the third quarter it becomes a business decision. I don't know if there is a more improved running back from last year to this year."
Hyde has rushed for over 200 yards in two of the last three games and despite missing three full games due to suspension, he ranks 16th nationally in rushing yards with 1,290 yards.
Miller is no slouch either, though, averaging 6.8 yards a carry. But, if you are Michigan State, putting him in a position to have to win the game is a better proposition than stopping him and letting Hyde go off in the run game.
The passing game is efficient for Ohio State, with Miller completing 65.7 percent of his passes and ranking 10th in passer efficiency.
However, the pass game has been a lot less of an emphasis as a team in 2013. They've thrown less this season (44 fewer times to be exact) than last, and this offense has been more successful than the 2012 version.
"Going into the Michigan game last week I said that 'if Braxton has the keys to the car, Hyde is the engine that runs the vehicle.' So to me it's all about Hyde," Howard said on Friday. "He keeps that team on schedule, ahead of the chains and that's what it's all about."
Hyde is averaging 7.8 yards a carry—that certainly helps to keep your team from getting into 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long situations.
It also allows Braxton Miller and the rest of the offense to be much more flexible.
The last three weeks are perfect examples of that.
Against Illinois, Hyde went for 246 yards and four touchdowns. His explosiveness allowed Braxton Miller some freedom in the run game and he went for 184 yards and one touchdown on just 16 carries.
Two weeks later against Michigan, Hyde went for over 200 yards again and his quarterback, Miller, went 153 yards and three touchdowns on the same 16 carries.
Of course, Michigan State's defense is not Illinois or Michigan—it's vastly better—but those games provide a glimpse of what can't happen if you are the Spartans.
If Michigan State's defense hopes to slow down Ohio State's high-powered offense, stopping Hyde has to be priority No. 1.
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.
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