Game Eight: Michigan State Spartans
Location: Spartan Stadium (East Lansing, MI) 3:30PM EST, ABC
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio
Michigan State Players Who Were Recruited By Ohio State: DL Antonio Jeremiah. Michigan State has 10 players starting from the state of Ohio (such as Antonio Jeremiah), but not all were offered scholarships by Ohio State. The most prominent Michigan State players who had interest in Ohio State were RB Javon Ringer (academics were why Ringer was not admitted) and QB Brian Hoyer (Ohio State chose to offer QB Joe Bauserman instead). Other Michigan State players who had interest in Ohio State were WR Mark Dell, CB Johnny Adams, DE Brandon Long, LB Steve Gardiner (turned down a grayshirt option), OT Rocco Cironi, and DL Jerel Worthy. More on this in the Intangibles section below.
Michigan State Rushing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Similar to the Wisconsin game for Ohio State, this is the key to Ohio State winning or losing. Unlike Wisconsin, Michigan State relies solely on RB Javon Ringer, who is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and a smaller LaDainian Tomlinson-type back. If Ohio State can shut down Ringer, Ohio State can win this game. If Michigan State's offensive line can blow past Ohio State's defensive line (which has not played well this season and is now without DE Lawrence Wilson) and get to LB James Laurinaitis, this could be a long day for Ohio State. Michigan State will continually run the ball all game long, so this will be the key area to watch.
Michigan State Passing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Michigan State QB Brian Hoyer is a caretaker-type quarterback who manages the game efficiently for the Spartans. Hoyer is not overly mobile, and is generally a 50% completion passer. If Ohio State can get adequate pressure on Hoyer with blitzes and good downfield coverage by the defensive backfield on Michigan State's wide receivers, this could be the difference for Ohio State.
Edge: Ohio State
Ohio State Rushing Offense vs Michigan State Defense: Guess what? If Ohio State is going to stack eight in the box to shut down RB Javon Ringer, what do you think Michigan State will do to shut down RB Chris Wells? With freshman QB Terrelle Pryor struggling in the passing game, look for this type of strategy from Michigan State defensively.
To counter this move by Michigan State, it would not surprise me if Ohio State went with a four wideout formation, with Ohio State lining up Pryor and Wells in the pistol formation. This will force Michigan State to play man coverage on Ohio State's wideouts, while also opening up possibilities for Pryor and Wells in the option game. True freshmen wideouts DeVier Posey and Lamaar Thomas may see appreciable playing time tomorrow to stretch the defense.
Slight Edge: Ohio State
Ohio State Passing Offense vs Michigan State Defense: Earlier this week, RB Chris Wells implored Ohio State's coaching staff to start throwing the ball more. I have also implored QB Terrelle Pryor to take a three or four yard gain off potential scrambling opportunties when throwing the ball, versus waiting and waiting, until a sack occurs or an incompletion takes place. Hopefully this week, both requests will be fulfilled. Considering the grumbling coming out of Ohio State's players and even Coach Jim Tressel, I expect better production out of Ohio State's passing game this week. Ohio State needs to be cautious of Michigan State DB Otis Wiley, who currently leads The Big Ten in interceptions.
Slight Edge: Ohio State
Special Teams: Both teams emphasize special teams, which should come as no surprise as both teams have at least one Tressel on the staff. Mike Tressel is the son of Ohio State RB Dick Tressel and the nephew of Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel. Ohio State ranks 1st in The Big Ten in punt returns; Michigan State is ranked 2nd. I will give Ohio State the slight edge in this area, as they are ranked 2nd in punting, while Michigan State is ranked 7th. A name to remember - true freshman WR Lamaar Thomas, who may be Ohio State's fastest player, on kickoff returns.
Slight Edge: Ohio State.
Intangibles: As listed above, there are a number of Ohio players who are on Michigan State's team. The players from Ohio take pride in helping turn Michigan State around. Nothing would please these players more than to show that not only has Michigan State truly emerged as a Big Ten contender, but that Ohio State should have offered them scholarships. Also, Mark Dantonio has demonstrated his coaching prowess by turning Michigan State into a Big Ten contender in only his second season in East Lansing. Dantonio has done a superb job of identifying solid Ohio and Michigan talent, and his teams are fundamentally sound. Michigan State may not be flashy, but they play hard for sixty minutes and play hard.
Considering how the majority of the Michigan State staff has either played for or coached under Jim Tressel in some fashion and know all of Tressel's tendencies, how Mark Dantonio always plays Jim Tressel's teams tough, and how this is a sellout game for Michigan State, this is a HUGE plus for the Spartans.
Big Edge: Michigan State
Prediction: Similar to the Wisconsin game, I look for this game to go down to the wire. Considering how both teams focus on running the ball, I look for a low-scoring affair that will emphasize capitalizing on field position. Even though Ohio State fans grumble about not scoring touchdowns, do not be surprised if Ohio State kicks field goals routinely in this game. I look for a late score to seal the game for Ohio State, and for QB Terrelle Pryor to be much more effective as a passer in this game.
Ohio State 17, Michigan State 14