Week 5: Michigan St. (3-1, 0-0 Big 10) at Ohio St. (3-1, 0-0 Big 10)
Finally. It’s here. Sparty will take on the Ohio St. Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio, at 2:30 PM CT on the football gridiron. Many of my fellow Sparty fans save their ire for the Michigan game, but I was raised a Michigan football fan. While I was born in and currently call Chicago home, almost my entire family was born and raised in the state of Michigan, attending colleges and universities from Kalamazoo Valley Community College to the University of Michigan. I’ve known every word of “Hail to the Victors” since I was three years old. I cheered for Wolverines such as Desmond Howard, Elvis Grbac, Brian Griese, Charles Woodson, Amani Toomer, Jeremy Tuman, Tom Brady, Anthony Thomas and others as a kid. I attended numerous games at Michigan Stadium and developed an affinity for hating everything Ohio St. The scarlet and gray, mascot, stadium, marching band, fans, students, alumni, and even those “good play stickers” of a buckeye leaf or whatever the hell it is that’s on the Buckeye players’ helmets. Ohio St. is an enemy of the entire state of Michigan, but the rivalry between the Buckeyes and Wolverines is legendary. However, we Sparty fans/students/alumni loathe everything about that craptastic school, too.
Sparty has lost seven straight games to Ohio St., with their last win against them coming in 1999 and their last win at Ohio Stadium coming in 1998. The schools haven’t played since 2008, a 45-7 drubbing at Spartan Stadium. Ohio St. is still “suspension-depleted”, but Sparty is still Sparty. MSU followed up a woefully uninspiring performance against Notre Dame with a sound beating of Central Michigan last Saturday, but…it was a sound beating of Central Michigan. It sort of doesn’t count.
Ohio St. comes into today’s tilt off of a 37-17 home win over Pac-12 rookie Colorado. True freshman QB Braxton Miller got his first start over redshirt senior Joe Bauserman and…got the win. He looked impressive running the football–17 carries for 83 yards–and threw 2 touchdowns against no interceptions. Forget the impressive TD:INT ratio, though. Miller was terrible throwing the ball, completing 5 of 18 passes for only 83 yeards, 32 of which came on his first touchdown pass. Luckily, the Buckeyes were able to lean on the running of Miller and running backs Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde, who combined for 26 carries, 124 yards, and 2 touchdowns. If the Buckeyes want to win today, they can’t be a one-dimensional offense. Over the last 2 games, Buckeye QBs haven’t been very good at all, going 11-38 with 145 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT and a 73.1 rating. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes have run a combined 84 times for 400 yards and 2 TD. Running the ball 42 times a game, even over just 2 games, isn’t a good thing. Sparty has been downright stingy against the run and pass so far, so with OSU’s ineptitude at the QB position, it will put even more of an onus on Buckeye ballcarriers to carry the offensive load.
Quick review of last Saturday’s MSU/CMU game: MSU dominated, in every sense of the word. Offense, defense, special teams, and I even heard that a few MSU fans beat some CMU fans in pickup basketball after the game, too.
The Buckeye defense had some problems in the run game against Miami, but has been fairly solid otherwise. There are no Katzenmoyers or Hawks in scarlet and gray, but for a defense that lost 8 starters from a year ago, they don’t appear to be lacking much talent. However, this will be the Buckeye D’s biggest challenge thus far. While MSU is no offensive juggernaut, they do indeed have toys to play with. Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker lead the rushing attack for the Spartans, and QB Kirk Cousins and top WR B.J. Cunningham are sure to give the Buckeyes all sorts of problems. MSU’s offensive line is shaky at best, but the talent at the skill positions should be enough to hide that deficiency.
This is Sparty’s toughest test of the season so far; even tougher than the Notre Lame game. Michigan is currently embarrassing Minnesota and Nebraska begins their Big 10 career tonight on the road at Wisconsin. Those two school along with (maybe) Iowa make up Sparty’s chief competition in the Big 10 Legends Division. Assuming Michigan can hold onto a 1,829-point lead, Sparty could meet a 5-0 Michigan team next Saturday. If Nebraska can escape Camp Randall with a win and dispose of Ohio St. next Saturday, MSU would be dealing with another undefeated division foe two Saturdays from now…on the road, in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Spartans need to win this game over what I believe is an inferior opponent to keep themselves in the race for not only the division, but conference crown.
A few stats for the heads (national ranking in parentheses):
MSU: 417.3 ypg (53rd) / OSU: 340.8 ypg (91st)
MSU: 143.3 ypg (65th) / OSU 184 ypg (39th)
MSU: 274 ypg (37th) / OSU: 156.8 ypg (110th)
MSU: 32.5 ppg (47th) / OSU: 28 ppg (69th)
MSU: 172.3 ypg (1st) / OSU: 276.3 (16th)
MSU: 71.3 ypg (10th) / OSU: 99.3 ypg (29th)
MSU: 101 ypg (1st) / OSU: 177 ypg (21st)
MSU: 11 ppg (8th) / OSU: 15.8 ppg (18th)
Sparty comes into this game with one of the nation’s top defenses, which is sort of a misguided ranking considering their strong performances against the weaker schools on their schedule. There are 26 players on the Michigan St. roster from the state of Ohio, some who were never even lightly recruited by Ohio St. Believe that will factor into the emotional output from Sparty today. Miller simply isn’t good enough to do anything but not lose the game for the Buckeyes, and against OSU’s toughest opponent to date, that won’t be enough.
Sparty wins, 17-13.