PREVIEW: Michigan State at Ohio State

"There can't be many schools in the country who have three guys that good. To have one guy that good is special, and they have three, it just gives them so much flexibility on the defensive packages." --Michigan State's John L. Smith on Ohio State's linebacking corps.

What: Michigan State (4-1, 1-1) at Ohio State (3-2, 1-1)
Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH- capacity 102,329 (Sold Out)
Last Meeting: Ohio State 32, MSU 19 (Nov. 6, 2004)
All-Time: Ohio State leads 23-12
In Columbus: Ohio State leads 12-7
Injuries: OHIO STATE- OT Steve Rehring-out (pneumonia), LB Mike D'Andrea-could return this week (knee) MICHIGAN STATE- none

East Lansing - The Spartans will face their toughest defensive opponent this season when they travel to Columbus, OH., for this one.

Michigan State coach John L. Smith spoke about the Buckeye trio of linebackers, saying "there can't be many schools in the country who have three guys that good. To have one guy that good is special, and they have three, it just gives them so much flexibility on the defensive packages."

Conversely, the Buckeyes look to stop one of the most prolific offenses in the country. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was impressed with the Spartan attack, "They bring two or three different backs at you," he said.

"They throw at the tight ends, they throw at the wide guys, they throw lots of screens, they throw lots of the jailbreak-type screens. …and then you add Stanton to it from a run standpoint. They bring you so much. I think their offensive line is very well schooled and do what they do extremely well. As the numbers show, they're a great offense."

Key Matchups:

Michigan State's defense vs. Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith:

Troy's mobility poses a major threat to the Spartan defense and according to linebacker SirDarean Adams, the goal will be to, "Try to contain Troy Smith because he's an awesome athlete. He can throw the ball and run the ball. If you let him get in the open, he'll make you pay."

If the Spartans can contain Troy Smith and force him to pass, then Adams will be waiting for a chance to notch his third interception of the year. Adams returned an interception for a touchdown 30 yards against Notre Dame in week three.

As defensive tackle Brandon McKinney put it: "The big thing for us is to keep our rush lanes, and not get out of our rush lanes and give him (Troy Smith) a lane to run because he will bring it down and run...quick."

Ohio State kick return vs. Michigan State special teams:

The Buckeyes have a deadly duo of super-fast receivers Ted Ginn and Santonio Holmes returning kicks and the Spartans have struggled on special teams as far as field position. These guys can create missed tackles and that's all they need to break one for a touchdown.

"We have not done a good job of changing field position. We just haven't been real good," said John L. Smith last week.

Jim Tressel stresses the importance of his team being able to block for Ginn and Holmes as a key: "The past two games, quite frankly, I don't think we've done as good a job," he said. "Let's face it -- the guys trying to cover our kicks and our punts are working like crazy too because they've seen No. 7 (Ginn) and No. 4 (Holmes) get out there and make big things happen, so we've got to get better without a doubt."

Ohio State linebackers vs. Michigan State running backs:

The top rush-defense in the Big Ten goes up against the second rush-offense. Talented Buckeye linebackers A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel will have to contain the Spartan trio of Javon Ringer, Jehuu Caulcrick, and Jason Teague on the ground. "It's pretty important that we establish ourselves in the backfield for us to have some success against a group like that," said Spartan running backs coach Ben Sirmons.

Overall, Michigan State will have to contain not only Troy Smith, but also Ted Ginn and Santonio Holmes to have success on defense. On offense, if they can establish the run early against a solid Buckeye secondary, then Drew Stanton might just find some open receivers downfield.

While some of the players involved in this one say that it's just the next game on the schedule, they know better. This game has serious conference and national implications for both teams.

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