Spartans and Buckeyes - Keys and Storylines

Spartans and Buckeyes - Keys and Storylines

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Spartans and Buckeyes - Keys and Storylines

#18 Michigan State hosts #10 Ohio State in a huge matchup on Saturday at Spartan Stadium. What are some keys to success for Michigan State as the Spartans prepare to avenge last season’s drubbing in Columbus?

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On Saturday, a football game will be played at Spartan Stadium.

Despite the way Experts are insinuating that Michigan State’s season is limping to its underperformed conclusion, the game is a huge one and the ramifications of a Spartan victory would be immense for the program.

I’ve read about 67 pieces of editorial content across the newspapers that serve Detroit area readers and the sense from that coverage is that the rest of the games that Mark Dantonio’s team will play this season will be not much more than exhibition scrimmages.

Has anyone stopped to really think – especially after Tuesday night’s CFP rankings were revealed – that a #18 vs #10 matchup in mid-November qualifies as a good, old-fashioned monster of a football game for the people who wait all year to hold a cold can of beer in hand with the smell of burgers grilling, loud classic rock blaring on the speakers, and the Autumnal colors of East Lansing along the banks of the Red Cedar River making the entire environment magical?

For one thing, for the narrative about the “slumping” or “lethargic” Buckeyes is inoculated immediately when one considers the reality that Ohio State controls its own destiny for the Big Ten Championship and has every bit of the chance to reach the College Football Playoff as The Circus down the road has.

More importantly for readers of SpartansWire, this ball game presents Michigan State with an opportunity to almost (almost and just for now) wipe away the frustrations of the season and, especially, the ugliness that ruled the day in East Lansing on that dreary afternoon back on October 20th.

A victory over Ohio State would, all of a sudden, catapult the Spartans into the College Football Playoff’s Top 15 and give Spartans a clear view to yet another season of double-digit victories.

And if Michigan State can beat the Buckeyes this Saturday, a consolation prize for not winning the Big Ten Championship could become the Rose Bowl.

Let that sink in.

The Experts have been asking, What is Michigan State playing for now that the Big Ten Championship is out of reach?

Those Experts obviously were writing for high school newspapers (or maybe weren’t even born yet) when Bobby Williams and John L Smith were around.

It’s perfectly legitimate to point out that this team entered the season with the highest of expectations and the 3 losses weren’t anticipated, with the possible exception of the loss to Michigan.

But to wonder if there is anything for this team to play for is, to put it very diplomatically, cynically obtuse.

And, to take the point further, if anyone thinks Michigan State isn’t poised to win this game this Saturday against Ohio State, that is, to put it mildly, sardonically naive.

If you’re a Spartan and you’re going to be in East Lansing this Saturday, don’t let the narrative influence your perspective.

Crank the music as loudly as you would on an October 3rd tailgate prior to a battle with Wisconsin.

Bring as much booze as you would to a September 20th night game against Notre Dame.

And get ready for an intense, hard-hitting, well-played, very meaningful battle between two teams that have gone after each other like two rivals are supposed to for the last decade.

It’ll be in the low-30s and the sun will be out all afternoon in East Lansing this Saturday – which means it’ll be great November, Big Ten, Michigan State weather for what will be a fantastic day on one of the nation’s most beautiful campuses with two of the nation’s best football programs fighting their butts off against each other.

And SpartansWire is guaranteeing that no Buckeye will stand in front of the Spartans as they do their traditional Spartan Walk across the field before like the game as they have done for the last twelve years.

SpartansWire is also guaranteeing that no Buckeye will have a babyish temper tantrum by stomping his feet, tearing up the Spartan logo at midfield with moronic foot scufflings and stompings that actually make the baby look like he has an affliction that compromises motor skills, act like a seven year old who wasn’t allowed to go out and play after dinner, and behave like a buffoon all prior to the game.

SpartansWire is also guaranteeing that Ohio State’s head coach – win or lose – will not talk and act and behave like a bully who is anxious to drive false narratives and act like a babyish buffoon since he hasn’t been able to bully people for many years due to the inability to do what he was hired to do amidst more superfluous publicity than Evel Knievel used to generate prior to one of his jumps across a profound canyon.

This is a game that warrants a lot of respect, a lot of excitement, and a lot of optimism for Spartans.

What are a few things that are “key” for Michigan State as it creeps closer to the bout?

PROVE THE #1 RUSH DEFENSE IS #1

Ohio State always will be able to run the football.

This is a fact that is as hard, fast, and undeniable as a smug Michigan student from Massachusetts thinking Michigan State University is in Lansing.

The Buckeyes, of course, ran for 793 yards against the Spartans last season during the Buckeyes’ 48-3 demolition exhibition.

Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins destroyed the Spartans last season with a combined total of 286 yards on the ground.

This season, Weber and Dobbins are still destroying opposing defenses.

Dobbins has rushed for 684 yards on 143 carries and he has 7 touchdowns through 9 games.

Weber has 607 yards on 105 carries and 3 touchdowns.

These guys run behind an offensive line that is the typical Ohio State machine.

The Buckeyes are averaging 178 yards per game on the ground.

They’re averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

Meanwhile, as good as Michigan State’s rushing defense was last season, nobody would win an argument that last year’s gang was tougher, faster, meaner, more focused, and just plain better than this year’s unit.

The Spartans are #1 in the nation – #1 in the nation – against the run in allowing merely 72 yards per game.

Michigan State is allowing 2.5 yards per carry.

Raequan Williams has only gotten better with every single game he’s played for the Spartans and he doesn’t just gobble up space.

Williams is fierce, fast, strong, disciplined, and intense on every snap and he simply doesn’t let stuff happen.

Mike Panasiuk is a brick wall made of Polish sausage.  The guy is playing football like a man possessed right now.

Mike’s brother, Jacub, is made of toughness and intensity.  I saw where the fellas from The Circus were claiming Panasiuk was “trash” because Panasiuk was, well, playing football.

The Panasiuk Machine is a machine that was manufactured by laborers in a factory in an undisclosed location who toil all day every day under the auspices of building steel cages for the UFC people – but, really, what those laborers do is build college football playing monsters that they deliver to Mark Dantonio under dark of night from time to time.

Naquan Jones is in the process of becoming the next Lawrence Thomas.

Kenny Willekes is Kenny Willekes.

Jack Camper is becoming another Kenny Willekes.

Do we need to even name the members of the linebacking corps that is among the best Michigan State has had in the Dantonio Era?

Joe Bachie, Tyriq Thompson, Andrew Dowell, Byron Bullough, Jon Reschke, Brandon Bouyer-Randle, Antjuan Simmons – these guys are elephants that possess the speed of the cheetah.

Can Michigan State shut down – or, at least slow down – the Buckeyes on the ground?

IS THE NO FLY ZONE IN THE PROCESS OF REAPPEARING?

For all of the talk about how Michigan “dominated” Michigan State, the truth is that Michigan’s defense shut Michigan State down in a historic way in limiting the Spartans to 94 total yards – but the Michigan State defense didn’t exactly roll over.

Shea Patterson finished the afternoon 14 for 25 for a total of 212 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Nice numbers, for sure.

But if anyone wants to say that those numbers represent a “shredding” of the Michigan State secondary, I’d like to have that person’s mental stability measured since that person would be demonstrating symptoms of dissociative amnesia.

And if Shea Patterson says there was anything “easy” about earning that victory, he’s a liar.

Penn State’s Trace McSorley finished the game against the Michigan State defense 19 for 32 with 192 yards and a touchdown.

Again, nice numbers.

But McSorley spent most of that afternoon being harassed and pressured by the Michigan State defense and he left the field having lost the football game.

David Blough was all set to be carried off the Spartan Stadium field in one of those things that Egyptian Pharaohs were carried around on by their subservients.

Blough limped off of the Spartan Stadium after his 3 interceptions and countless efforts to escape the Spartans overshadowed his 22 for 49 and 277-yard output.

If someone wants to point to the success Clayton Thorson, Manny Wilkins, and Jordan Love had earlier in the season, that’s acceptable.

But if a person has eyes that function properly, that person can see that this defense’s ability to lock down on coverage, apply constant pressure on the quarterback, and create turnovers has lead this defense to being one of the best in the nation.

Dwayne Haskins is averaging 370 yards and almost 4 touchdowns through the air per game.

Haskins has about 46 options when he wants to chuck the ball around.

K.J. Hill has 695 yards on 51 catches – 13.6 yards per catch – and 4 touchdowns on the season.

Jonnie Dixon has 380 yards on 26 catches – 14.6 yards per catch – and 5 touchdowns.

Terry McLaurin has 398 yards on 21 catches – 19 yards per catch – and he’s caught 8 touchdowns.

This is Ohio State so there are 17 other future NFLers who have contributed to the Buckeyes’ aerial attack.

Josiah Scott’s return to the field after missing the first seven games due to his knee injury is a huge boost for a secondary – and overall defense – that’s already playing lights out football.

And the pressure the Spartans are applying in the backfield is making life miserable for quarterbacks of all stripes.

Can the Spartans get to Haskins enough to disrupt his comfort and rhythm in order to limit his ability to find his guys downfield?

Can the Spartans limit the Buckeyes’ ability to turn good plays into big plays?

CAN THE SPARTAN OFFENSE CAPITALIZE ON OPPORTUNITIES?

Since this is Ohio State we’re talking about, we have to simply assume that the Buckeyes will be punishing, fast, and tough in every way on defense.

The Buckeyes’ defensive numbers are good – but this isn’t the same defense from last year and Nick Bosa is missed.

Ohio State is allowing 154 yards per game on the ground and 243 yards per game through the air.

As we’ve said here at SpartansWire, it’d be silly to think that Michigan State’s offense is, all of a sudden, going to turn into a 2018 college football version of The Greatest Show On Turf.

The question isn’t whether or not Michigan State can take advantage of whatever opportunities it has in the redzone or even within sniffing distance of the redzone.

Can Brian Lewerke make a play or two that catches Ohio State not giving Matt Dotson the respect he deserves?

Can Connor Heyward break that one tackle that needs to be broken so he can burst into the open field and reach the endzone without the need to pound against the Buckeyes?

Can the Spartans give Matt Coghlin three chances to be the assassin he is?

And, can Michigan State protect the football and not turn the ball over when it’s in position to threaten?

CAN THE SPARTANS CONTROL THE CLOCK?

The challenges of the Spartan offense are well documented.

The inability to pound the ball on the ground has been the team’s biggest bugaboo all the way up until last week’s 269 yard performance against Maryland.

Brian Lewerke has been limited by his shoulder injury these last few weeks but he’s had a disappointing season in terms of creating passing productivity nevertheless – and it’s necessary to beat the dead horse to death by pointing out that his main targets have been in the newly-fangled injury tent on the sideline that every team now has.

How has Michigan State – with such a challenging offensive situation – been able to get to a 6-3 record and a #18 ranking?

Michigan State is 11th in the nation in time of possession.

The Spartans are averaging 33:25 of possession per game.

As it’s been said before here, sometimes the simplicity of Mark Dantonio’s approach is overlooked – when the opposing team does not possess the football, it cannot score points.

And even a team with a less-than-prolific offense can find opportunities to get points up on the board if it can sustain drives even if the sustaining of the drives isn’t exciting or pretty.

Can Michigan State’s offense find ways to convert on 3rd down against the Buckeyes?

Can the Spartans keep the clock moving as it inches its way down the field?

Can Michigan State, “simply” maintain possession of the football for a long enough time to keep its own defense fresh and hungry while stymying the Buckeyes’, tiring their defense out over the course of four quarters, and deliver a knockout punch in the 13th or 14th round?

Prediction for the game comes tomorrow….

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