Early Thoughts On Clash With The Buckeyes

Early Thoughts On Clash With The Buckeyes

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Early Thoughts On Clash With The Buckeyes

#24 Michigan State (6-3, 4-2) will host the #7/#8 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1, 5-1) this Saturday at Spartan Stadium. What are some early thoughts on the matchup?

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For as great of a turnaround season as 2017 was for Michigan State, there was an undeniable face plant that any rational Spartan recognizes.

In the 10th game of the season last year, the Spartans marched into Ohio Stadium ranked 13th in the nation, had a 7-2 overall record, were 5-1 in the Big Ten, had just beaten #7 Penn State on a last second field goal, and had their eyes on yet another Big Ten Championship.

Michigan State’s previous visit to Columbus ended with this occurring:

The Spartans went into The Shoe last season having beaten Ohio State there in their previous two trips (a 10-7 win in 2011 and the 17-14 Geiger Windmill win in 2015).

Michigan State was confident that it’d be three straight for the Green & White in Columbus.

Ohio State had other ideas, of course.

It was a bludgeoning from the opening kick.

Ohio State pummeled the Spartans in every way.

524 total yards.

335 yards rushing.

8 yards per carry.

Mike Weber had 162 yards on 9 carries and 2 touchdowns.

J.K. Dobbins went for 124 yards on 18 carries.

J.T. Barrett didn’t really need to do too much but he was efficient in throwing for 183 and 2 touchdowns against 2 interceptions that were meaningless.

The final score was 48-3 and that didn’t even properly represent the beatdown Ohio State administered.

Michigan State was flat and Mark Dantonio even alluded to a flat week of practice.

Coaches have said forever that it’s nearly impossible to get a team “up” for every game.

The Spartans had just taken down Penn State in that wild game that was delayed several hours due to weather challenges.

The week before that, Northwestern out-lasted Michigan State in a thrilling and draining triple overtime game that the Cats won 39-31.

It’s possible that the Spartans were a little drained when they took the field against the Buckeyes.

It’s certainly no guarantee that Michigan State will come out on top against the Top 10 Buckeyes this Saturday – but it’s safe bet that the Spartans will show up this time.

And, this Ohio State team isn’t the team that destroyed Michigan State a year ago.

This season has been challenging ever since Big Ten Media Days when Urban Meyer had a series of memory losses, Brett McMurphy decided he’d dedicate his career to destroying Ohio State University with his clever conspiracy to fabricate all sorts of police records and unearth past transgressions that were, really, just the handiwork of previously motivated goblins who were, like McMurphy, trying to bring down Ohio State.

ESPN, of course, was also determined to ruin the lives of all Ohio State fans by doing things.

SpartansWire isn’t exactly sure how the SEC (the Securities & Exchange Commission or the Southeastern Conference?) warranted inclusion on that smart Buckeye fan’s sign but we’re sure there is a very reasonable explanation.

Eventually, Purdue dared to contribute to the ongoing conspiracy when David Blough, D.J. Knox, and Rondale Moore wove their web all night long in what turned out to be a 49-20 dismantling of the Buckeyes at West Lafayette.

Just a few days ago, Nebraska managed to throw their conspiratorial hat in the ring by daring to almost pull of a win at Columbus – but Meyer and his victims managed to stave off the evil forces with a 36-31 win.

What were the Huskers and the Boilers able to do against Urban and his student athletes?

Let’s give Ohio State the benefit of the doubt against the Huskers since the Buckeyes won the game.

But what about that annihilation in West Lafayette?

David Blough and Rondale Moore simply torched the Buckeyes.

Blough – who was, at the time, probably the hottest quarterback in the Big Ten and maybe the nation – was 25 of 43 for 378 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Blough connected with Moore all night – Moore finished with 12 catches for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns.

What kind of jumps out even more, however, is how D.J. Knox carried the ball 16 times for 128 yards and 3 touchdowns.

And in looking at the game, these guys – Moore and Knox – just ran over the Buckeyes.

They were tougher all night long, breaking tackles and coming up with big gainers that demoralized Ohio State.

Meanwhile, Dwayne Haskins didn’t exactly have a crummy night for the Buckeyes.

Haskins was 49 of 73 for 470 yards and 2 touchdowns.

So, what happened?

Here’s what happened –

In addition to lighting up the Buckeyes through the air, Purdue’s defense held Ohio State to 76 yards rushing on 25 attempts.

Purdue was going to win that game even if Blough had merely a so-so night due to the way the Boilers shut down the Buckeyes on the ground.

It’s probably hard to envision either Brian Lewerke or Rocky Lombardi throwing for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns against Ohio State – although, we shouldn’t rule it out.

What is far easier to envision is the nation’s #1 defense against the run shutting down Ohio State and limiting the Buckeyes to minimal big plays through the air.

Can Michigan State’s front seven shut down the Buckeyes’ ground game?

Why not?

Can Michigan State’s week-by-week improving interior pass rush – particularly when combined with the opportunistic and effective blitzing from guys like Brandon Bouyer-Randle – make life difficult for Haskins?

Why not?

For two weeks now (and, as we’ve said, for 80% of the game against Michigan), the Spartan defense has been suffocating, stifling, and smothering in virtually every way.

There are plenty of reasons to think that Michigan State can win this game against the Buckeyes.

We’ll dig in on more of this as the week goes by – but, for right now, think about whether or not Michigan State’s defense can continue to play like the nation’s #1 unit against the run and if that same defense can minimize big plays for the Buckeyes through the air.

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