There is an old expression that a picture is worth a thousand words. For the Ohio State Buckeyes, coming off a brutal and demoralizing 55-24 loss at Iowa, the below picture provides a quick summary about what transpired last week in Iowa City...
Sitting at 7-2, the Buckeyes still have much to play for in 2017. While the dreams of competing for a spot in the College Football Playoff are probably out of reach, they still control their destiny of becoming Big Ten champions. If Ohio State wins the remaining three games on its schedule, the Buckeyes will win East Division, and head to Indianapolis to battle for another Big Ten title on Dec. 2.
Standing in the way of Ohio State's goal is a familiar adversary. Coming off a disappointing 2016 season that saw Michigan State finish 3-9, the Spartans have completely rebounded this fall, and come into Columbus with tremendous confidence on the heels of last week's last-second defeat of Penn State. And Michigan State has every reason to be confident for its upcoming matchup, as the Spartans have defeated the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium every time since the 2011 season.
Michigan State at Ohio State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 11 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Ohio State -15.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Ohio State gain ground vs. Michigan State?
The Spartans boast the stingiest run defense in the Big Ten, giving up just 87 yards per game on the ground. The Buckeyes are second in the conference at 235 rushing yards per contest, so something has to give. Will Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer look to senior quarterback J.T. Barrett to lead the ground attack rather than running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber? If he does, hopefully Meyer is aware of this statistic: when the quarterback has more rushing attempts than a running back it usually doesn't lead to good results for the Buckeyes.
2. Will Michigan State follow Iowa’s blueprint when the Spartans throw the ball?
Last week, Iowa routinely threw the ball to its tight ends and running backs. The end result? Both T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant finished with at least four receptions, averaged better than 13 yards per catch and combined for four touchdowns. Hawkeyes running back Akrum Wadley also got into the act with three catches for 40 yards. No doubt Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio will notice this in the game film, so don’t be surprised if Spartans tight end Matt Sokol gets plenty of targets from quarterback Brian Lewerke.
3. The hangover effect
Ohio State was just soundly beaten on the road, in a game that stunned and surprised most of the college football world. On the other hand, Michigan State is coming into Ohio Stadium brimming with confidence, having just defeated a Penn State team that took Ohio State down to the wire a couple of weeks ago. One can argue that the Buckeyes were not ready to play coming off of their thrilling, come-from-behind victory over the Nittany Lions, but all that matters now is how they respond since the division title and a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game are still up for grabs. It will be interesting to watch to see how each team responds at the first sign of adversity.
No disrespect to the oddsmakers, but this game has not been a blowout, ever since Urban Meyer's first season as Ohio State's head coach in 2012. Quite commonly, this game comes down to avoiding mistakes, and capitalizing upon the opportunities whenever they are presented. Meyer knows that the skeptics are beginning to whisper about the Buckeyes, and it should make for must-see TV when the ball is kicked off at noon within Ohio Stadium. It should be a tough, traditional, Big Ten-style of game, and Ohio State ekes a close one out at home to keep its division title hopes alive.