OSU Turned Corner With MSU Win

One year ago, Ohio State didn't just beat Michigan State by a single point in East Lansing. The Buckeyes also came together as a team, as the fifth win in the 24-game school-record winning run by the Buckeyes is one that still stands out today

No one realized it at the time, sitting in a hotel meeting room in East Lansing, a few hours before facing Michigan State in the fifth game of the 2012 season, but the transformation from being a question mark in the first season of coach Urban Meyer to now being on the verge of a spot in the BCS National Championship was born there.

The Buckeyes were less than overwhelming in winning four nonconference games and Meyer had not see the type of fire and passion that he was used to in guiding Florida to a pair of national titles..

A 29-15 win against UAB in Ohio Stadium the previous game had the coach wondering if the Buckeyes were ready for Big Ten play..

"I think we seem like a very passive team," he told reporters immediately after the game. "It's glaringly obvious we've got to get a lot better or we won't win next week.".

With that as the background the players, coaches and staff gathered before heading to Spartan Stadium. What Meyer wanted to know was if the players were willing to buy into his system and play for each other.

The answer, he likes to recount, came at "11:22 a.m. on Sept. 29," when everyone in the room raised a glass of water as if toasting a championship – but only if they truly believed in the direction the program was headed.

"It was a commitment to ourselves, to each other, to our coaches and everybody in the program - do what we have to do to win every game," junior Doran Grant remembers a little more than 14 months later as the No. 2 Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten Leaders Division) prepare to play the No. 10 Spartans (11-1, 8-0 Legends Division) again Saturday in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.

Ohio State won the game last year 17-16 to kick the season into high gear, one that ended with a 12-0 record. Braxton Miller hit Devin Smith for a 63-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and the Buckeyes held on from there, holding the ball the last 4:10 with a punishing ground game.

"The offensive line took over the game last year where we ran off the four minutes left in the clock," senior center Corey Linsley said. "That's definitely been a point of pride from our standpoint so we're definitely going to have to do that again this year.".

Smith said the game marked a turnaround for him and the team.

"Last year it was a big turning point for us," he said. "After that game the team started getting a little closer. The leadership started to grow and get a lot stronger and led the team to keep winning ballgames and we ended up 12-0.

"For me it was a big boost in my confidence because I was getting criticized a lot by people that I couldn't defeat press (coverage) and make big plays.".

There were some hard feelings after the game when a MSU assistant coach accused the Ohio State staff of editing pre-snap motions from game film the teams exchanged for scouting purposes. Meyer said he knew nothing about that.

There was also a video of Michigan State offensive lineman Jack Allen allegedly poking fingers into the face mask of OSU defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins during the game but the Big Ten office did not render a punishment after reviewing the tape..

Still, animosity lingers, and add the fact there are 27 Ohioans on the roster of coach Mark Dantonio, a former assistant coach at OSU under Jim Tressel, and the game could be another bruising contest.

"It was very emotional," OSU junior defensive tackle Michael Bennett said of last year's contest. "You could see on both sides of the ball, it was all about the tougher team. It was just about trying to be tougher than the other team; who could run the ball. … It was a huge confidence booster for our team last year to be able to come out with a win in such a tough game against a really good opponent."

The game is a classic matchup of Ohio State's potent offense, averaging 48.2 points per game to rank third nationally, against the stout Spartans defense that has given up 237.7 yards per game (No. 1 in the nation) and 11.8 points (fourth nationally).

"That was a big game for us last year," OSU sophomore linebacker Joshua Perry said. "That was a dog fight and it's going to be a dog fight this weekend too.".

The Buckeyes are confident they can put points on the board because they are light years advanced in their offense than the game last season.

"We're explosive now," Smith said. "Now I feel we can score at any point in time during the game. I feel both teams, us and Michigan State, have improved. It all comes down to who wants it.

"We're very different in all aspects (from last year). Our leadership has grown every single week. It's always someone different stepping up and being a leader.".

Linsley sees the irony in the way the Buckeyes have come full circle from a team searching for an identity last season vs. the Spartans to one that has a 24-game winning streak at stake against the same opponent.

"We were just talking about it in the weight room the other day. Everything changed last year for us (after the win)," Linsley said. "And now everything's on the line for us and I'm sure they are feeling pretty bitter about the one-point loss last year. I'm sure they want to get us. They feel like they maybe should have won that game."

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