On Saturday, Ohio State will do something it has not done yet in the 2012 season–play a game away from Ohio Stadium.
The No. 14 Buckeyes will travel to East Lansing for a date with the No. 20 Michigan State Spartans and if OSU plays like it has in its previous three games, the Buckeyes will be coming back to Columbus with a 4-1 record.
Before the season, when most looked at this game on the schedule, it was more than likely viewed as a defensive struggle. But, the Buckeyes find themselves in unfamiliar territory this season as they rank dead last in the Big Ten in total defense–allowing 394.8 yards per game.
On the other hand, Michigan State’s defense allows just 233.5 yards and 11.8 points per game–both good for No. 1 in the conference. Sparty also has the No. 1 rushing defense in the conference (69.2 ypg).
OSU averages 229.2 yards per game on the ground, so something must give.
If the Buckeyes want a win on Saturday, they must do it with their defense.
Basically, this means 11 sets of eyes must be on Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell at all times. Bell, the conference’s leading rusher at 152.5 ypg, is a workhorse runner who is often called upon to carry the team.
Those missed tackles we have been seeing by Ohio State cannot happen on Saturday. Not if the Buckeyes want to win. They must hit Bell early and gang tackle him. But they simply cannot miss tackles.
Bell will no doubt have some added motivation, too. A native of Columbus, Bell wasn’t heavily recruited by Ohio State as the Buckeyes landed running backs Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith in the same class. And it is never a good thing when the conference’s best back has any extra motivation.
Last year, the Buckeyes were almost shut out at home by the Spartans. An Evan Spencer touchdown with ten seconds left saved that embarrassment for the Buckeyes, but OSU still fell 10-7.
Under Urban Meyer, though, expect the Buckeyes to put up more than seven points. It’s limiting the Spartans to just ten that will be the main concern.
We know Michigan State’s defense will show up on Saturday. Will Ohio State’s?
If it does not, the Buckeyes will be in for a long trip back to Columbus and Meyer will have experienced his first loss as Ohio State’s head coach.