Just because Ohio State isn't playing this weekend doesn't mean there is nothing to talk about. The Buckeyes enter their open week a perfect 8-0, but many questions still face the team. We'll be tackling a different topic each day this week, some serious and some light-hearted, but all with eye towards the Buckeyes four remaining regular season games against Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan State and Michigan.
Is Michigan State the biggest threat to the Buckeyes undefeated regular season?
Ryan Ginn: I imagine the public opinion is very much on the side of Michigan being the toughest remaining game for the Buckeyes, and I do admit that I felt similarly pretty recently. For reasons that I will detail below, though, my gut feeling has shifted back toward Michigan State being the opponent that should most worry Ohio State.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has deservedly gotten a lot of love for the facelift he’s performed in Ann Arbor, but the Spartans have a pretty good coach themselves in Mark Dantonio – who has beaten Urban Meyer previously. It’s surely concerning for MSU fans that the Spartans are banged up and struggled against Purdue and Rutgers, but given the wins against Michigan and Oregon (wins that admittedly each come with a qualifier now) it may just be that the Spartans play to the level of their opponents.
If the Ohio State offense keeps progressing under J.T. Barrett, the best way to beat the Buckeyes will likely be to outscore them, and I’d rather have Connor Cook in that scenario than Jake Rudock, who ranks 89th nationally in passing efficiency.
Lastly, I’ll point to the fact that the Michigan game is the most important game of the season, and Meyer almost never loses rivalry games. He went 2-0 against BYU at Utah, 5-1 against Florida State at Florida and has never lost to Michigan while at Ohio State.
James Grega: I think the biggest threat to Ohio State this season is not Michigan State, but rather the Michigan Wolverines.
Despite a last second fluke play that cost Michigan the game against the Spartans, the Wolverines look to be lightyears ahead from where most people thought they would be in the first year of the Jim Harbaugh era.
The defense in Ann Arbor has been stifling and while the Buckeyes look to have found their groove with J.T. Barrett behind center, I firmly believe the Wolverines will play Ohio State tougher than anyone has yet this season.
That is in large part because the Buckeyes will be coming off of what is usually a hard fought, hard hitting game against the Spartans a week prior in Columbus.
With all the emotions that will come with senior day against Michigan State, combined with the hard hitting affair it will undoubtedly be, to take all that and still knock off a hungry Michigan team on the rise a week later will be no easy task.
If the Buckeyes are to pull off the third undefeated regular season in four years under Urban Meyer, it will need to be flawless against the Wolverines, or it will see its chances to repeat as national champions slip away.
Tim Moody: Despite having just four regular season games to play, Ohio State has by far its two biggest tests of the season still on the schedule. Both Michigan State and Michigan could ask big questions of the Buckeyes, but a home matchup with the streaky Spartans does seem like an easier task than traveling to Ann Arbor to face the Wolverines.
Sure, Michigan State beat Michigan, but winning on what was basically a fluke doesn’t say a whole lot. The Spartans do deserve credit for finding ways to win games, but they have yet to put together a truly convincing game. In fact, Michigan State has just two wins by more than two scores — a 30-10 win over Central Michigan and a 52-26 win over Indiana. Even the Indiana game wasn’t a true blowout, considering the Hoosiers were actually in striking distance deep into the fourth quarter.
Michigan, on the other hand, took a loss to a very good Utah team in the season opener by just seven points, then went on to play some of the most impressive football in the nation before faltering against the Spartans. The Wolverines beat Oregon State, UNLV, BYU, Maryland and Northwestern all in a row, and while that’s not a schedule to write home about, holding those teams to a grand total of 14 points, including three straight shutouts, certainly is.
Ohio State is certainly turning a corner at the right time, and should be full speed win Michigan State comes to town, but having just a week to turn around and travel to Michigan won’t be an easy task.
Blake Williams: It definitely looked like Michigan State was the biggest threat to the Buckeyes entering the season, but the combination of a lackluster Spartans performance through eight games and a much-improved Michigan team has me leaning Wolverines here.
Michigan State is undefeated but it hasn’t looked too impressive getting there. The win over Oregon looks less remarkable with each passing week and the victory over Michigan was lucky more than it was good. Even the 26-point win over Indiana this past weekend wasn’t as big as the score made it seem. Connor Cook has been great at quarterback, and will be the best signal-caller the Buckeyes face this year, but the Spartans just don’t scare me as much now as they did at the beginning of the season. With all that said, I think they have a shot to knock off the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium, they just aren’t my pick as the biggest threat.
That honor goes to Michigan in large part because that game is in Ann Arbor. That will be the toughest environment that Ohio State will face all season and comes a week after what figures to be a physical game against the Spartans. The Wolverines defense is for real and that combined with the timing and location of this game, not to mention the rivalry aspect, makes this game the Buckeyes biggest hurdle in my eyes.