Bank Blog: Week-Eleven OSU Preview

Ohio State will host Michigan State Saturday afternoon hoping to keep their undefeated season rolling. How will this game be played, and who comes away with the win?

- Now in his fourth year at Ohio State, Urban Meyer has seen the Big Ten conference bow at his feet as he has run roughshod over the league, with one notable exception: Michigan State. Mark Dantonio whipped Meyer soundly in the conference title game in 2013, costing Ohio State a berth in the national championship game. Even though Meyer holds a 2-1 edge over Dantonio, the total scores for the three games now stand at OSU 90 MSU 87. Simply put, Michigan State is one school that is not afraid to play Ohio State.

- Michigan State is a decided underdog in this game, and rightfully so, but the Spartans do have a chance to spring the upset. Their main hope rests on the health of quarterback Connor Cook, and without him playing and playing well, Michigan State has no shot. This year, Cook has thrown 21 touchdown passes against 4 interceptions. The only true edge the Spartans have in this game is Cook throwing the football, compared to Ohio State's weak passing game. 

- The Ohio State defense is one of the best in the country, and they can take away one facet of an opponent's offense thanks to the brilliance of defensive coordinator Chris Ash. In this game, Ash will look to limit Cook's ability to throw the football downfield. The Spartans have not run the football well this year, and the Buckeye defense will not devote much energy or manpower to stopping their running game. They will not be able to bring Tyvis Powell into the box, and they will have to blitz Cook, which will open up some holes for the MSU backs to run the ball. 

- The Michigan State offensive line has been hit hard with injuries to key players, so Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington could both have big games getting after Cook. Look for Darron Lee and Josh Perry to come off the edge in blitz packages, as Ohio State cannot let Cook get comfortable in the pocket. Playing man-to-man with the cornerbacks is a given, and I don't see Michigan State's wideouts being all that special. Hard to see Michigan State scoring much in this game unless Cook goes off completely, and has the game of his life. 

- Offensively, Ohio State seems to be back to where they were in the first two years under Meyer when they really couldn't throw the football all that well. J.T. Barrett is nowhere near where he was last year in the passing game, and the Buckeye staff appears to be not confident in his throwing at all. Compare that to last year, when Barrett threw for 300 yards and two scores against the Spartans. Ohio State has more than enough weapons to hurt Michigan State through the air, and the Spartan defensive backs are not good, but will the Buckeyes look to throw it on them? Will they be able to protect Barrett? If Ohio State will be able to throw the football this week with success, this game won't be close. 

- If Ohio State continues to stay in no-throw mode, that puts the offense on the shoulders of Barrett and Zeke Elliott running the football. And that's not a bad thing, but it might not be enough to score much against Dantonio. It wasn't in 2012 or 2013 when Dantonio stopped the Ohio State offense cold. I still think Ohio State can win this game playing Tressel-Ball, but it gets a lot easier if Barrett gets the ball to Mike Thomas, Braxton Miller, Nick Vannett, Jalin Marshall and Curtis Samuel. 

- Michigan State has not played well on the road this year at all, and this is going to be their toughest test to date. Cook is 33-4 as a starter, with losses coming to Notre Dame, Oregon, Ohio State and Nebraska, so he is a winner in every sense of the word. Dantonio has built Michigan State into a national powerhouse. After last year's crushing loss at home to Ohio State, you know Dantonio has been pointing to this game for a while. A Michigan State win puts them back in the national championship conversation. They will need help from Ohio State to win, and the Buckeyes have done their part all year with lots of turnovers, lots of penalties and a horrid kicking game. There is a path for Michigan State to win, especially if Ohio State cooperates. 

- For Ohio State, this team continues to do what they have to do to win football games. While they have not lived up to expectations on the offensive side of the football, the defense has been superb. And Zeke Elliott has been as good as anyone in America at runningback. Running the football and playing great defense has been a recipe for success since football was founded. I think it's a given that Ohio State is going to play well defensively Saturday. And I think it's a given that Zeke Elliott and J.T. Barrett will run the football behind a very good run blocking offensive line. That should be enough to get the win in itself. IF, big IF, but IF Ohio State can throw the football this one turns into a blowout.

- I do think Ohio State will be able to move the football on Michigan State, while the Spartans might be very one dimensional on offense. Having Cook throw it 50 times is probably not what the Spartans want, but it might be their only hope. That could lead to sacks and picks from the Buckeyes. In the end, I just think Ohio State is the better football team. If both teams play well, Ohio State will win a fairly close game. I expect both teams to play well. 

- The Prediction: OHIO STATE 31  MICHIGAN STATE 20. 


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