OVERVIEW: This is THE rivalry in the Big Ten currently, not Ohio State vs. Michigan, and these programs truly do not like each other at all. Mark Dantonio has two of his greatest all time wins in this game recently, and Meyer stands 2-2 vs. the Spartans. There is no question both coaches want this game badly, but for different reasons. For Michigan State, ruining another Buckeye season is about all they have left, while Meyer and the Buckeyes have higher goals left on the table. Regardless, this should be a hard fought game, and extremely physical.
KEY FOR BOTH TEAMS: I repeat myself just about every week, but for Michigan State to have any shot at winning they must stop the inside run off the zone read. They must stop turning the ball over at the current rate. Ohio State is a plus 13 in the turnover department, which is excellent. Michigan State stands at minus 3, which is awful. Michigan State's offensive line has been able to control the Buckeye defensive line in the past three games for the most part, and they will need that to happen again today. Michigan State needs to keep it close, or have the lead, going to the fourth quarter to have a shot. If they fall behind early they will get murdered. For Ohio State, they need to stop the run first and make the Spartans throw to beat them. Michigan State is never a tough team to prepare for, but they've always been a tough team to play against. Until this year. They aren't a good football team, and if Ohio State plays well they will win.
WHAT WILL OHIO STATE DO OFFENSIVELY: Trust J.T. Barrett. Run the entire playbook. Spread the ball around. Rinse and repeat. Just about every Michigan State opponent has moved the ball and scored on them. This is not the typical Spartan defense, and while Ohio State won't score 62 this week, they should be able to put points on the board. Eight of the last nine Michigan State opponents have scored 28 points or more against them, which should put the Buckeyes in the 35-40 range. If they decide to run Barrett 25 times behind 10 blockers, I would not expect to see them score 28, but if they come out aggressively on offense, the yards and points are there for the taking.
WHAT WILL OHIO STATE DO DEFENSIVELY: If Ohio State can stone the run early and get off to a lead, this game could get ugly as Michigan State tries to play catch up. There's no way Dantonio wants to throw the ball more than 20 times in this game, and the only way he won't be forced to do so is if he keeps it close. Sell out to stop the run, keep the DB's in man coverage and look to cause turnovers. Michigan State is not very good at the QB position, and I'm expecting two or three turnovers Saturday, with a defensive score. Simply put, the Ohio State run defense is better than the Spartan O-line, and the Buckeye DB's are much better than the MSU skill players. By a lot.
THE "X" FACTOR: I know Michigan is on deck, and there is a school of thought that Ohio State might get caught looking ahead. But I do not buy that for one second. Urban Meyer was totally embarrassed last year on his field by Dantonio. This one's personal. You can still get your team right for Michigan and administer an azz whipping, and that's what I expect Saturday in East Lansing. I think Ohio State takes control early and never looks back.
THE VEGAS LINE: Just hate giving up 21 points on the road to any conference opponent, but that's what I'm going to do in this matchup. I think Meyer wants this one, and while it might not be a 50-point win, I think the Buckeyes win rather easily. The weather could limit the deep throws, but the ball can still be distributed to Samuel, Wilson, Brown and Baugh through the air, and Ohio State should be able to run the football against this front. Should MSU sell out to stop the run, Ohio State can have a field day throwing it, even in bad weather. Michigan State is not good enough on the back end to cover the Buckeye skill threats. I'm calling for Urban Meyer to lay the pimp hand down this Saturday on the road.
THE PICK: OHIO STATE 42 Michigan State 13.