Another highly ranked team looking to salvage its season has Michigan State coming up on its schedule.
That all changed when the Buckeyes (3-2, 1-1 conference) fell on the road 17-10 to the Nittany Lions. Linebacker A.J. Hawk said that anyone who thinks Ohio State is going to lay down, doesn't know the mentality of the program.
"We're not worried about that. It's a tough loss, but any loss is tough. We have too much character on this team and too many guys have been around just to lay down."
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel blamed the loss on turnovers. "You can't turn [the ball] over, and we turned it over twice. I don't think Penn State, to their credit, turned it over at all."
Meanwhile, Michigan State (4-1, 1-1 conference) has had an extra week to prepare for the road trip to Columbus and hopes to make the most of it.
The loser of this contest - for all intents and purposes - will be out of the Big Ten championship race with Penn State (6-0, 2-0 conference) still undefeated and two other one-loss teams in the conference.
For Michigan State, the problem remains their defense.
The Spartans have been able to move the ball effectively in every game behind the nation's leader in passing effiency Drew Stanton, (190.10) scoring over 30 points in each, but they've given up (7th in Big Ten in total defense)a ton of points. Ohio State has struggled to (10th in Big Ten)score to support their outstanding (1st in Big Ten in scoring) defense
Worrisome to the Spartans are Ohio State's tandem of Ted Ginn, Jr. and Santonio Holmes (10th in the conference in receiving yards who have been bottled up by opposing defenses to date. MSU hopes that the duo doesn't pick Saturday to get untracked.
Ohio State's two-quarterback system seems to have throttled its efforts to move the football more than anything.
Tressel has alternated between junior Troy Smith and senior Justin Zwick. Smith is the more explosive of the two, but is an erratic passer (three TDs, two interceptions). Zwick is the better passer (72% completion rate) and figures to get time if the Buckeyes get down.
Lately, Michigan State coach John L. Smith has lamented the lack of production on special teams and made it a focus of the teams bye week preparation. "We've done nothing to create a change in field position or a change in momentum," said Smith. "We just haven't been real good."
Buckeyes pilot Tressel echoed Smith's sentiments for his squad.
"You talk about the things you need to do on the road against a good team, and one of them is to come up with some plays on special teams. I don't know if we had any difference-making plays there."
MSU may make some changes in its return units. Kyle Brown (11.0 per return average) hasn't been effective returning punts and bandit Sir Darean Adams and flanker Diego Oquendo both have gotten work there.
MSU also needs some punch from its kickoff return (no player ranked among the top-100 return men) and coverage units.