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Monday, September 26, 2011
Buck the Buckeyes: Keys to a Spartan Victory
Apologies for my absence but I’m finally back to chip (no pun intended) in my two cents about the boys of fall. There’s a lot of talk, hype and speculation surrounding MSU & OSU game. I’m going to list a few key points to this matchup in an “Advantage/Disadvantage” format for Michigan State and Ohio state.
There’s no question that MSU has regressed in this category. Whether it is kickoff returns for TDs, blocked punts, missed FGs (or fakes) this squad has greatly underperformed all season. Where has Keshawn Martin (or Nick Hill) been as a big-play threat this year?
MSU Offense vs OSU Defense:
I still don’t know what this Michigan State squad is or what it wants to be. Clearly the Spartans ran the ball well last week… but it was against CMU (the same CMU team that lost 44-14 to WMU). This is the same running trio that put up an abysmal 29 yards to Notre Dame two weeks ago. How will the offensive linerespond to another big test up front? While Baker, Bell and Caper anchor the ground game, MSU still ranks 34th in the country in passing. Kirk Cousins is boasting a 69% completion percentage and is on his way to being one of the best (and most efficient) Spartan QBs of all time. But he has made some bad decisions this year. How bad? Try “2009-Cousins” bad. I think he struggles most with down & distance on 3rd downs. Too often times do we see him “lock-on” to WR B.J. Cunningham at the expense of other open receivers especially TEs Brian Linthicum or Dion Simms and other WRs like Bennie Fowler and Keith Nichol. MSU is going up against the 16th best defense in the nation, but the Buckeye defense got torched by Miami for 240 yards on the ground in their rout over OSU.
MSU Defense vs OSU Offense:
It’s been one of the more pleasantly surprising components to this year’s team. Chalk MSU’s nation-best defense up to a weak schedule, but they still held Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees to 161 yards and 1 TD and 2 turnovers (comparison note: Rees threw for 315 yards and 3 TDs against UM). This team has come up with key turnovers, two of them leading to defensive TDs. But the Buckeye’s will be the best offense they’ve faced so far. It’s hard not to compare QB Braxton Miller with former (disgraced) OSU QB Terelle Pryor’s freshman year. Both have shown an ability to escape the pocket for positive yardage and inconsistent passing downfield. Despite splitting time under-center, I think Miller is a gamer. Plus he’ll have the scarlet & gray fans at his back and a strong kicker too. If MSU can hang tough up front and shut down the rushing attack, the secondary is strong enough to beat the Buckeyes.
First, there’s a battle of two big ten champs playing each other (something that they didn’t get a chance to do last year). Both teams are looking to avenge bad non-conference losses two weeks ago, and posted big wins in the previous game. OSU might have an “us verses the world” mentality (last game for suspensions), but MSU has the slight edge since it was the Buckeyes that cost the Spartans a chance to smell roses last season. It was also Dantonio’s former stompin’ ground (along with many other Spartan players). But we can’t forget that it was back to 1998 when the Spartans last beat the Buckeyes at the ‘Shoe.
MSU has more talented players at skilled positions. But the battle of the “Big-Uglies” up front will determine this game’s winner.
MSU: 20-OSU: 17