2018 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Michigan State
Ohio State Preview: A win is a win. It wasn’t flashy, but it was still a win. If the Buckeyes are able to run the table the rest of the way, no one is going to think about the Nebraska game. However, they need to get through this week, which should be the their second toughest game in the last three games of the regular season. As has been the history for this series in the past, this is going to be a tough game, as both teams are looking to get a statement win. Ohio State still has the Big Ten Championship goal in mind, and in the scope of the season, that should be their first focus. They are currently 1 game behind Michigan, and a loss on the road would all be eliminate any chance of them making it to Indy, to potentially face Northwestern. Michigan isn’t facing murderer’s row leading up to the Ohio State game either as they travel to Rutgers this week, and then host Indiana in their home opener. There is no room for error for the Buckeyes.
Dwayne Haskins took a step back this week in the passing game, and that is a result of the combination of some less than accurate throws, and some dropped passes. He also threw an interception, bringing his season total to 6. He is however still one of the top quarterbacks in the country, leading the Big Ten in passing yards and touchdowns, and is third overall currently in the country in passing yards with 3053, and tied first nationally with 32 touchdowns. With the ru defense being the strength of the Spartans, Ohio State could look to exploit the secondary and gaps with their speed.
The balance will still be an emphasis though, and as has been the trend for the season, JK Dobbins and Mike Weber have alternated series as the lead running back, although there were a few plays where they were both in at the same time. Both backs had good ground games against Nebraska, and hopes to have holes opened up from their line to hopefully get to the second level on their runs in which both backs are very dangerous. Dobbins paces the Buckeyes with 684 rushing yards, and will need some big games and post season to help push him over 1000 yards for the season.
KJ HIll, who leads the receiving group with 695 yards, is looking to bounce back after his worst week. He should lead Zone6 again, and Parris and Dixon should be the primary targets for Haskins. Don’t be surprised if Luke Farrell is used more as well, as the passing game is expanding more towards the tight ends.
Brendon White emerged as a star in the Nebraska game after Fuller went out. Meyer has raved about him, and he should see some playing time this week as well. Pryor sat out last week, and is expected to return this week, as well as Fuller who was ejected due to a questionable targeting call. The linebackers though are the obvious weakness for the defense, and will need to clean up on missed tackles and keep to assignment, or this team will lose at least one more game this season.
Michigan State Preview: This has not been the ideal season for Dantonio and the Spartans, as they lost the Michigan, and narrowly defeating Penn State. Injuries have also impacted the Spartans, as their star running back LJ Scott has missed games due to a lingering ankle injury. Another key player in wide receiver Felton Davis is out for the season due to a torn Achilles tendon. Other linemen and offensive players have been in in out based on injuries, including quarterback Brian Lewerke, although Rocky Lombardi stepped in admirably to beat a Purdue team who was riding high after beating Ohio State the previous week.
Even with the injuries Lewerke has still been able to put up a respectable 1740 passing yards and 8 touchdowns. He has turned the ball over a few times though, with 8 interceptions, so this could be a game with the Ohio State secondary should be on alert to help create opportunities for the offense.
Connor Heyward leads all running backs with 358 yards on the season, and that is also due to a big game against Maryland last week, where he was able to add 157 yards and 2 touchdowns. If LJ Scott is still sidelined this week, the defensive line will need to keep him contained near the line of scrimmage because he is an shifty back and could hurt the back 7 in open field.
Felton Davis leads the pack with 474 receiving yards, but bunched together is Cody White, Darrell Stewart Jr, and Cam Chambers, who all have over 221 receiving yards. On top of containing the run, the Buckeye defensive line will need to get pressure on Lewerke to limit his time to throw the ball. Otherwise, he has a plethora of receivers who can get good yardage.
Defensively, Michigan State is one of the top run defenses in the country, a category Dantonio still is able to maintain since his coaching days at Ohio State when he was the defensive coordinator. His pass defense however is not to par, and will be the biggest opportunity for the Buckeye offense to attack if they want to move the ball.
Buckeye Spotlight: JK Dobbins. Can he build on the success of last week? That will be the question going into this game as Ohio State continues to set its sights on the Big Ten Championship and potential playoff. Weber has looked to be the stronger running back this season, but Dobbin’s has had the better games statistically.
Spartan Spotlight: LJ Scott. If he plays, which his ankle injury had sidelined him for most of the season, he should add a new level to the Spartan offense, who have ad injuries at the wide receiver position. Behind him though is former Buckeye great Cameron Heyward’s younger brother, Connor Heyward.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 6-0. Since 2000, Ohio State is 6-0 against the Spartans in East Lansing. The series has been close since Urban took over, but Ohio State has found a way to win in its trips to Michigan State this century, and lead the all time series 31-15.
Prediction: As much has Ohio State has had to deal with struggles on defense, they should be able to slow down the injury plagued Spartan offense. The real question will be if Ohio State can move the ball against one of the top rushing defenses in the country. Expect a few screens and zone reads in this game to counter the aggressive approach for Michigan State. Ohio State has the talent, and still fighting for its season goals. They win this one on the road in a close one, and not until late in the game.