The #2 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0) head to Indianapolis, IN for the B1G Conference Championship game against the #10/#9 Michigan State Spartans (11-1, 8-0). Aside from the outright conference championship, there are national championship implications. An Ohio State win should maintain their place in the top two BCS positions; a loss and they’re out of the picture, heading for another bowl. A win for MSU gives them the opportunity to represent the B1G as its champion.
Ohio State on Offense
Ohio State brings the top B1G offense (48.2 ppg and 531 ypg), into the game. Their offense runs at a decent tempo of 73 plays per game, good for 5th in the B1G. The Buckeyes lead the league in rushing at 321 yards per game and in total yards per play at 7.33.
We’re beyond kidding ourselves at this point; the offense is driven by Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. This is who we are. By “driven”, I mean a soul-crushing running game. Braxton and Carlos combine for 32 carries per game (of 73 plays) and 232 yards rushing per game. Oh, the offensive line is pretty damn good, as well.
The challenge is the Michigan State defense. They lead the conference and the nation in yards allowed per game at 238. Forget that for a moment, since games are determined by points, not yards. The Spartan defense leads the conference and is 4th in the nation in points allowed per game at 11.8 per game. Not exactly reassuring.
Ohio State on Defense
The Spartans are averaging 380 YPG total offense (10th B1G) and 186 YPG rushing (7th B1G). Their 29.4 points per game are also middle-of-packish (7th) in the Conference, but with their defense, it works well for them. Michigan State is led in rushing by Jeremy Langford at 1,210 yards for the season on 4.9 YPC. At 100.8 YPG, Langston is also a member of the Century Club.
Connor Cook’s quarterbacking has improved throughout the season, peaking against Illinois on October 26th when his stat line was 15-16 (94%), 208 yards, 3TD/0 INT, for an incredible QB rating of 264.83. However, in his last four games, he’s come back down to earth going 59-107 (55%) with a TD/INT ratio of 5/2. In fact, for the season, Cook’s passing numbers are comparable to Miller’s.
Of MSU’s 71 plays per game, they run it 42 times (4.5 YPC) and pass it 29 times (6.6 YPA). Like any B1G team that’s worth its salt, they prefer to run the ball. They’re sort of OK doing this, but it’s just enough to go undefeated in the Conference.
After Ohio State’s last defensive outing, I’m not sure what to say. There were too many missed tackles against Michigan. Similar results on Saturday will not work out well for the Buckeyes, because OSU needs to neutralize MSU’s running game to put the game on sophomore QB Connor Cook. If Langston breaks tackles, it could be a long day for the Silver Bullets. Let’s try not to fall for throwback screens this week, OK?
So, how’s it going to shake out? The early line has OSU -6 with the over/under at 49.5, which comes out to around a 27-21’ish score. The weather forecast for Saturday is high of 25 degrees (lower at kickoff, obviously) so it may be chilly for tailgating, but inside the Lucas Oil Stadium (assuming dome will be closed) there should be a fast track. I’d think this would favor the Buckeyes, but..
The Silver Bullets have to play a sound game and not give up any “cheap” scores. Same goes for OSU’s special teams. The offense will ride Hyde-Miller, but will need to spice up the play calling to plant some doubt into the Spartan defense. The offense has to play mistake-free; no penalties, no turnovers. Points will be hard to come by on Saturday, let’s make sure they’re Ohio State’s.
The game is scheduled for an 8:00 PM EST kickoff with television coverage on FOX. Please join us at tBBC for live in-game chat approximately 30 minutes before kickoff. We look forward to seeing you.