2019 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Michigan State
Ohio State improved to 5-0 after a complete dismantling of Nebraska in what was another impressive showing on both offense and defense. Nebraska offense presented the toughest test for the Buckeyes so far this season with the threat of Adrian Martinez, and skill at wide receiver, but the Silver Bullets did not back down, holding the Cornhuskers to only 231 yards, and forcing 3 interceptions.
With the win, Ohio State has caught the attention of the nation, and moved up to number 4 in the AP poll, receiving 7 first place votes, and moved to 5th in the coaches poll. In the words of Nick Saban though, the Buckeyes do not need to by into the “rat poison” that is the praises. The team really seems to embrace the one game at a time mantra, has they have not overlooked any of their opponents have have been one of the most dominate teams in the country this season.
Michigan State comes into Columbus bringing the best defense Ohio State will have faced up to this point in the season, and is the last obstacle until their first bye week. If they want to silence those on the outside who are still doubting them, they will need to be a complete team in this one, and the nation will be watching.
Ohio State will shed their Scarlet and Gray for black this game, and instead will be wearing their all black jerseys. Regardless of where you stand on the uniform debate, they are going to look sharp under the lights, and with the crowd asked to wear black, this will be an intimidating setting. Ohio State is 2-0 in the Black uniforms, and seek to improve to 6-0 for the season, and 3-0 for the jerseys.
Even though Gameday will start the day for the Auburn-Florida game, Kirk Herbstret and Chris Fowler will be calling this game, so they will get to call the game for the Buckeyes for the second straight week. This Saturday is what college football is all about, and I cannot wait for this one.
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio
2019 Record: 4-1
Location: East Lansing, MI
Conference: Big Ten
Ohio State Preview: Ohio State has caught the attention of the media and talking heads who cover college football. According to ESPN, they have the highest chance to make the playoffs at 71%, are the most effecient team in the country, and have the 6th toughest schedule, and have even been good enough for reknown Buckeye hater Mark May to declare them as the best team in the country. They need to ignore all of that.
Its cliche and coach speak to say you need to approach the season one week, one game at a time, but that is exactly what the Buckeyes need to do. As outsiders and fans and media, we can formulate and project possibilities of the season and post season, but we know that none of the goals and expectations come true if they Buckeyes stumble and lose a game. As we have seen last year, if a team goes undefeated, they are in, and 3 teams last year made it to the playoff undefeated. It’s with a loss that you hope for help or assistance or hope your resume stacks up better against other one loss teams. That was the experience of Ohio State last year.
Ryan Day and his coaching staff really seem to be living that coach speak, and the identity of the team is reflective of that belief. Every player who was on the team last year and even two years ago knows that a slip up can cost you the ultimate goal which is to make it to the playoffs. Ohio State has been able to play in Indianapolis the last two seasons, and are aiming for a 3rd straight year. But none of that is possible if they look past Michigan State. If they look past any opponent. Sparty has played spoiler several times in the past, so Ohio State will need to play its best and has a very god chance of winning.
Justin Fields continues to add to his already impressive numbers. He has a chance for post-season hardware, and if he continues his trend of his passing and rushing stats, he will have one of the best seasons for a quarterback in Ohio State history. He now has 1092 yards passing with 16 touchdowns and still no interceptions. He is completing nearly 70% of his passes, and has been smart with the ball. He has taken a few sacks, but that is something that he will work on as he gets more experience. That doesn’t mean that that he is not able to make plays with his feet, as he he now has 222 yards rushing with 7 touchdowns. He has had at least rushing touchdown and 2 passing touchdowns in every game this season.
JK Dobbins has had a monster start, and is the second leading rusher in the country, 1st in the Big Ten through the first 5 games. He now has 654 yards on the ground to go along with 5 touchdowns, and is averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Master Teague has been filling in nicely as the back up, as he now has 326 yards rushing with 3 touchdowns. Teague is the 4th leading rusher in the Big Ten.
The wide receivers have not been trending with similar yardage that they had a year ago with Dwayne Haskins at quarterback, but they have been efficient none the less. KJ Hill still leads the team with 20 receptions, and 218 yards, as well as 4 touchdowns. Ben Victor is still pacing the receivers with the most yards with 269 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not far behind is Chris Olave, who has 259 yards and 4 touchdowns. Austin Mack finally got his first touchdown of the season against Nebraska and has 138 yards receiving. The Buckeyes have spread the wealth, as 17 different players have at least 1 reception for the season. Garrett Wilson has continued to grow in his roll, and also caught a touchdown against Nebraska last week.
The defense continues to be lights out. Jeffrey Okudah, who did not have a career interception going into the season, now was 3 interceptions in the last 2 games. The linebackers have been swarming and making plays, and Chase Young is now at 8 sacks for the year, which leads the country. They will need to step up big this week against Michigan State to help create possessions for their offense.
Michigan State Preview: Mark Dantonio is a great coach and has been the Michigan State head coach since 2006. He was the defensive coordinator for Ohio State in 2002 when they beat Miami to win the National Championship, and has since been building his brand in East Lansing after a short stint as the Cincinnati Bearcats coach.
Many were surprised when he did not let a staff member go from last years offensive side which produced one of the worst offenses in the country, but instead shuffled them into new roles. So far is seems to have worked, as they are now 4-1 heading into this game, but they are far from a finished product, and has been able to still rely on the stout defense to keep them into games. Their one loss was against Arizona State, who might actually be a contender in the PAC-12 this year, but they only managed to score 7 points in the game.
Last week, they went into Indiana and needed to come back to win the game. They led 34-31 late in the 4th quarter, and on the Hoosiers last drive, they fumbled and Michigan State was able to recover the ball in the endzone to make the score look more impressive than their actual performance was. They will need to be on the top of their game on all sides of the ball if they want to try and knockoff Ohio State at home, which Sparty has won the second most games in the Horseshoe this decade.
To try and challenge Ohio State though, it will rest on the shouilders of Brian Lewerke, who has 1325 yards passing so far this season, and has 10 touchdowns with 1 unterception. With Michigan State having some closer games, Lewerke was needed to play late in the game to give Michigan State its best chance to win. If Ohio State can force turnovers and keep pressure on him, they have a good chance of slowing down the strongest part of Michigan State’s offense.
The Buckeyes will need to focus too on the rushing attack. Elijah Collins has 413 yards for the season already and 3 touchdowns. He has been the bell cow at running though, as Lewerke is the second leading rusher with 147 yards, while 8 other players have less than 100 yards on the ground. Ohio State’s rush defense has been one of the tops in the country, so they need to account for Collins or Lewerke scrambling to try and by time for his team.
Lewerke’s favorite target has been Darrell Stewart Jr, who has 556 yards already and 3 touchdowns. They second leading receiver is Cody White, who has 257 yards and 2 touchdowns. I would expect Okudah or Wade will be lined up with Stewart Jr to make he does win on Saturday.
The defense is still stout, giving up only 55 yards rushing a game, and 253 yards per game. They will pose the biggest threat so far to Ohio State’s offense, and might be able to slow them down the first quarter before Ohio State is able to make corrections and blow them out of the water.
Buckeye Spotlight: Justin Fields. So far, Justin Fields has played beyond his experience and still has not thrown any interceptions. He is currently in the top 5 in most Heisman polls, but an impressive game in this game, with the challenge of this defense, this could catapult him over some of the other Heisman hopefuls.
Spartan Spotlight: Joe Bachie. The senior linebacker is an anchor for the Spartan defense, and already has 47 tackles for the season. He has 1.5 sacks and an interception, so the Buckeyes will need to know where he is at on the field, and try to keep his play as minimized as possible.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 1998, 2013, 2015. These are the years where Ohio State was is contention to play for a National Championship, as one of the best teams in the country, but were ruined by the Spartans. This will be the narrative all week, and the Buckeyes will need to overcome.
Prediction: Ohio State will move on past the win last week against Nebraska, and will have their sghts set on winning this big game at home. The history of Michigan State is known, and will be preached all throughout this week. Justin Fields will need to protect the ball, and attack the secondary this week, who will be playing man coverage. With the speed of the receivers, this will be an advantage for the Buckeyes, and will need to connect on the middle to deep passing routes. In order to be successful as well, they will need to find a way to run against one of the best run defenses in the country, and will be a test for the offensive line. Defensively, as long as they can put pressure on Lewerke, they can force 3 and outs and give their offense as many opportunities as possible to score. I expect for Chase Young to add to his total sack total, and be the difference in the game. This one might not be a 40 point win, but this will be a good game to showcase the Buckeyes and prove their a true contender
Ohio State 42 – Michigan State 9
Photo Credit to The Ozone