Next On To Do List: Beat Ohio State

With all the things Mark Dantonio has accomplished during his time as head coach at Michigan State, one thing has eluded him, a victory over perennial conference power Ohio State. The Spartans will look to change all that this Saturday in Ohio Stadium.

The opening of Big Ten play has No. 25 ranked Michigan State headed to Ohio State and another battle against a close personal friend.

"Luke Fickell is a very close friend of mine and our families," said Dantonio about the first year head coach. "I think he's doing an outstanding job. He was thrown into a very tough situation I feel, and he's responded. He's an alum there, he's played there, he's coached there. I think he's what Ohio State needs, and I just want to publicly say that right now."

Luke Fickell
Greg Bartram, US Presswire
While Dantonio praise for Fickell as the Buckeyes head coach may surprise some, those who know the Spartans head coach know loyalty is one of his strengths. However, friendship and loyalty will not stop Dantonio when the whistle blows Saturday as his team looks for their fourth win of the season.

One area the Buckeyes have shown well this season is on the defensive side of the ball.

"When you look at them defensively right now they really return two starters at this point," continued Dantonio. "Nate Williams may or may not be in or out, we don't really know. (Andrew) Sweat and John Simon are both outstanding football players, but they return a lot of players who have played a lot for them this past year, so even though they may not have started, they've seen a lot of action.

"They're a very active defense. If you look at them after four games statistically they're up in the top of the conference almost in every category, as well. Quick, active, very sound in what they do, good tacklers on the perimeter, secondary covers very well, and pretty much you can go through their defensive roster and their offensive roster and it's guys that we know. It's guys we've tried to recruit or were active in the recruiting process or know about them because they were national recruits or something of that sort.

"Good football team on the defensive side of the ball. Jim Heacock is the coordinator there and does an outstanding job."

While the Buckeyes offense may have some questions heading into the game. Dantonio knows there is talent on that side of the ball.

"Offensively when you look at them right now, again, not a lot of starters back when you look at them," said Dantonio. "(Zach) Boren is back, (J.B.) Shugarts and (Mike) Brewster, obviously they're going to get their other guys back after this football game, but (Jake) Stoneburner obviously has played a lot of football as some other guys have, as well.

Braxton Miller
Greg Bartram, US Presswire
"But I think the big story right now is Braxton Miller, a guy who's carried the ball 30 times in three games. Pretty much the last game was his first full time start so he's running the ball as much as some of their tailbacks really are.

"If you take (Jordan) Hall, who's been in two games thus far and has carried the ball one more time than he has, gives you a little bit of an indication how much he runs the football as well as passes it, and he is a guy that can make you miss in space and you've got to contain the quarterback in this football game. They're going to run the football."

Much like his praise for Fickell, Dantonio knows longtime OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman has a few other weapons at his disposal.

"Jim Bollman is the offensive coordinator, again, an excellent football coach," said Dantonio. "Very impressed with their offensive line, active, very athletic. Tight ends, they have a couple of them, Reid Fragel from Michigan here, big, physical type guy, and then Stoneburner is a guy that's a little bit more of a mismatch guy. Wide receivers are young on the edge, both specialists are back. We're looking forward to a great football game down there."

Mike Brewster
Greg Bartram, US Presswire
Unlike most seasons since coming to Michigan State, Dantonio made the decision to close practice along with player interviews for this week for obvious reasons.

"This week we decided to close practice obviously but also close the interview process for the players," said Dantonio. "I know that's something that we haven't done here. I guess I can just ask you to be patient with that. I just feel like our players need to focus. I feel like I don't want them in a compromising situation this week.

"We've got a lot of players from Ohio, we've got guys with pressure on them, and they don't need the additional pressure. They need to get with their teammates and we need to focus on the task at hand, and this is an important game for us, and I just felt like that was the best. So bear with me."

This weekend former Spartan George Saimes will be the team's honorary captain.

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