(14) Ohio State (4-0) at (20) Michigan State (3-1)
Saturday, September 29, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Ranked foes in the Big Ten Conference square off in East Lansing
this Saturday, as No. 14 Ohio State opens league play against No. 20 Michigan
So far, so good for Urban Meyer in his first year as head coach of the
Buckeyes, his team streaking out to a 4-0 start. However, with the exception
of a 35-28 win over California, the schedule hasn't been all that daunting in
the early going as the team has also beaten the likes of Miami-Ohio (56-10),
UCF (31-16) and most recently, UAB (29-15) -- all at home.
Ohio State is embarking on its 100th year of membership in the Big Ten, while
this is Michigan State's 60th year.
The Spartans enter conference play at 3-1, as the team opened the season with
a narrow win over Boise State followed by a rout of Central Michigan. A 20-3
loss to Notre Dame followed, but coach Mark Dantonio's squad responded last
week against Eastern Michigan by securing a 23-7 victory.
Ohio State owns a 27-13 lead in the all-time series with Michigan State, and
this is the Buckeyes' first visit to East Lansing since 2008. OSU has won the
last three meetings on the Spartans' home field, and six of the last seven
there dating back to the 1998 campaign.
It wasn't pretty, but the Buckeyes kept their perfect record in tact last
Saturday by posting a double-digit win over the visiting UAB Blazers. QB
Braxton Miller ran for two TDs, and RB Jordan Hall rushed for a career-high
105 yards to help power the Ohio State offense, which racked up 204 yards on
the ground and 347 total for the game. Miller, who finished with 64 rushing
yards on the day and has more than three times as many rushing TDs this season
(seven) as his closest teammate, threw for 143 yards without a TD or an INT.
WRs Philly Brown and Devin Smith combined for eight catches and 106 yards.
Brown, while acknowledging that his team got off to a slow start last week,
believes the Buckeyes are prepared for the rigors of Big Ten play.
"I know we're ready. I've been playing with these guys every day. I know as a
team we're ready and I know how we're going to approach this week, especially
with the way some of the guys were talking in the locker room. This week when
we come out to practice we're going to have a whole different mindset."
The OSU defense gave up 403 yards to the Blazers last week, but came up with a
pair of turnovers and got double-digit tackling efforts from three players,
including leading tackler Ryan Shazier (14 stops, 41 for the year). The
Buckeyes did not allow an offensive TD in the game, and come into this contest
yielding an average of 17.2 ppg.
In addition to Shazier's efforts, CB Travis Howard has three of the team's
seven INTs this year, and the defensive unit as a whole has secured 10 sacks,
each by a different player.
Le'Veon Bell ran for a career-best 253 yards and a TD to help lead the
Spartans to a 16-point win over Eastern Michigan last Saturday. Despite
claiming a 428-183 edge in total yardage, the Michigan State offense seemed to
be out of sync, relying on three field goals by PK Dan Conroy to gain some
separation from the visiting Eagles. QB Andrew Maxwell finished the game 16-
of-29 for 159 yards and a TD, with TE Dion Sims catching six balls for a
career-high 112 yards and a score.
Not exactly the offensive juggernaut they have been the recent past, the
Spartans are averaging just 21.0 ppg this season, utilizing a balanced attack
that generates 176.2 ypg on the ground and 229.0 ypg through the air. Bell has
already eclipsed the 600-yard mark this year, and he has scored five TDs. As
for Maxwell, he is converting just 56.6 percent of his pass attempts, and is
dead even in TD-to-INT ratio at three apiece. Sims is the leading receiver
with his 22 grabs for 277 yards and two scores.
Center Travis Jackson knows that it's time to crank up the intensity as the
Spartans turn their attention to the Buckeyes and the rest of the Big Ten.
"I think it starts in practice. Going into the Big Ten season next week, our
goal is to win the Leaders Division and the Big Ten Championships, so we just
have to go in there and fix the little things. We have to go harder every
Safety Isaiah Lewis logged a dozen tackles to lead the MSU defense, which
stymied the Eagles' rushing attack to the tune of 46 net yards on 29 attempts
last week. It was the third time in four games the Spartans held an opponent
to fewer than 100 rushing yards. EMU converted just two of its 14 third-down
For the season, the Spartans are giving up just 11.8 points and 233.5 yards
per game, both of which lead the conference and rank in the top 11 nationally.
They have been particularly stingy against the run, allowing a league-best
68.2 ypg, and the opposition has scored just one rushing TD through four
games. At 164.2 ypg, the MSU pass defense ranks second in the Big Ten.
This should be an entertaining game between two teams that like to establish
the run and get after it on defense. Each has played one tough game thus far
(OSU vs. Cal, MSU vs. Notre Dame), so it will be interesting to see if there's
a "feeling out" period in this one, and just how long it lasts before a big
play breaks the game open. The Spartans, who will likely ride Bell the
majority of the time, have the edge playing at home. And while that hasn't
provided much of an advantage against the Buckeyes in recent years, expect
them to earn a hard-fought victory to kick off conference play on a positive
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 24, Ohio State 21