A look at this week’s opponent…
The Buckeyes come into this Big Ten tilt rated #14 in the nation under new head coach Urban Meyer. There is a lot of attention on Meyer who brought a resume with two national titles on it to Columbus, but since ESPN Gameday is here I pull out a Lee Corso, “Not so fast.”
It isn’t like Meyer is replacing a weakling. Jim Tressel has deep roots with this MSU staff and Dantonio reminded the media that his friend and mentor was no slouch when asked about Meyer. “There’s a lot of great coaches in this league, a lot of coaches. The one who left two years ago won a national championship. So the Big Ten Conference has always had great coaching. It’s just another great coach coming into our conference, doing his thing. “
Dantonio does however have great respect for Meyer saying, “I don’t know what impact. It’s a great conference. I just see it as another guy you got to compete with recruiting on the field, tied together schematically, doing a great job, good recruiter. There’s a lot of that going on in this league.”
When MSU has the ball…
Andrew Maxwell does not have to win this game for MSU. It does not mean that he can’t; it means he doesn’t have to. This is a good defense, not as good as Notre Dame, but still a good one.
The Buckeyes have a suspect LB group and have struggled at times with tackling. They will stack the box, as everyone does now, until the WRs can prove they can catch the ball. LeVeon will get his yards, but if the WR group is on, the offense could have a special day.
Urban Meyer has his team keyed on stopping RB LeVeon Bell. Meyer said, “If it turns into a 200‑yard rushing day where they just lock you into next week, then we’re going to lose the game. So I think our defense is kind of built for this. It’s not built for sideline to sideline thinking dunks. So that’s a challenge, the conversation that I have with our defensive staff as well. But your question was very easy to answer. That is a huge concern. That is the concern on that side of the ball. But they’ve got a really good tight end. I guess he used to play basketball. I was watching him. Big guy, athletic, can make plays. So we have to‑‑ and I was hoping I didn’t see what I saw. And it’s not because of lack of athleticism at receiver.”
Look MSU to practice ball control. They will have to go to the air to force OSU to stop stacking the box. If you see the MSU wideouts catching the ball, you will know that the Spartans are in good shape. If they aren’t, it will be a slugfest.
I realize it is real simple, but it’s factual. If Maxwell can get help from the WR group, MSU wins. If he can’t, it is a knock down brutal battle that literally becomes a game of inches.
Meyer acknowledged that the Spartan’s offense isn’t a secret. He said of that side of the ball, “Offensively, there’s no secret what they’re trying to do. I don’t think their receivers get enough credit. They’re big and athletic. I think the new quarterback is eventually, they’re coming together as an offense as well.”
When MSU is on defense…
MSU will force OSU QB Braxton Miller to beat them with his arm. They will also stack the box. You are used to seeing William Gholston and occasionally Marcus Rush going to the wide nine technique. You will see considerably less of that on Saturday.
They will pinch down the line and force an OL and S to step up and play the option toss. MSU wrote the book on stopping this type of attack with Dennard Robinson UM. Miller is a much better passer than Robinson, but Miller is not as good of an athlete.
MSU will put a lot on Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard. They will be on an island and if the Spartans get the pressure on Miller, they will have a shot at some big plays.
Miller is much improved under the tutelage of Urban Meyer. Mark Dantonio talked about the progression of Miller. “First of all, physically he’s more developed. He’s a bigger, stronger guy than he was last year. He was a true freshman last year. I think he was playing in his third game last year maybe, as I remember. He was a brand‑new freshman in a system. Now he has all of last year under his belt, a spring, summer practice, four more games, a new offense under his belt. He’s a much more experienced player. He’s more in control. He’s seen more as a leader.”
He went on to add, “All those things are helping him grow as a player. You’ve seen immense growth in a year. He’s a very exciting player, dynamic player, and he makes them go. He’s a tailback that can throw in the backfield. He can make you miss, do a lot of different things, run with power and then throw it. He’ll be a tough guy to defend.”
Miller is a runner. If he gets in space, he makes things happen. That is why sure tackling is key. Getting him in space one-on-one is fine with the good tackling Spartans. If they have a bad day, it will be a long day. Dantonio addressed that saying of Miller, “He’ll be hard. He’s that type of guy. He’s a guy that’s going to create loose plays. But he also has quarterback‑designed runs that are for him, certain different things that they do. I don’t want to talk about things schematically. But there are designed runs and passes obviously, then there’s loose plays.”
Dantonio talked about him being tailback at QB. He said, “It’s going to be a tough job because he’s like a tailback in the backfield that can throw it. He runs with power. He’s a spin runner which means he’ll spin on contact, he’ll juke if you set up on him a little bit. He brings a different dynamic to the football game. A different dynamic that Everett Golson didn’t do as much in our Notre Dame game. He’s a different type of quarterback. Where Golson may look to throw first, he may look to run first.”
Meyer has big respect for the Spartan defense. He is used to good defense in the SEC and he respects what DC Pat Narduzzi and Mark Dantonio do on that side of the Spartan attack. Meyer said of the MSU defense, “I think we’ve seen some good defenses in my career. And this is one of the best. This is very well thought out. They’re going to take away the run and force you to throw the ball down the field. Very good players. Very, very good players. A bunch of NFL players on their defensive line. We have our work cut out for us.”
Meyer is used to facing Nick Saban in the SEC. He sees some similarity to what the Crimson Tide do with MSU. “Commitment to stop the run. I think coaching against Coach Saban for‑‑ he’s a little more complicated in the pass defense. But very similar pro‑style, pound‑you‑on offense. Very similar‑‑ I didn’t think about it, but very similar type mentality. Very sound kicking game which they do.”
This game has always been personal for Dantonio. It is now. He has deep roots at Ohio State and still has some close relationships with that program. It has impacts on friendships, recruiting and more. It is personal.
Meyer can’t play in the postseason, so no doubt he will talk to his team about unseating the Spartans. He is a master motivator.
We will learn on Saturday how good the Spartans really are. If the Spartans WR group responds, things could become very exciting for Spartan fans. If they don’t, this is still a game the Spartans can win.
I think the Spartans have so much more on the line. I get it and so do you. They have put a lot of stock in this season with monster expectations. MSU has always responded under Dantonio and I think they will Saturday.
Until the WR group demonstrates that they can catch a ball and play at a higher level I won’t expect it. I look for the Buckeyes to get a full dose of LeVeon Bell and Dion Sims as the Spartans get two touchdowns and a Dan Conroy field goal.
I look for the Spartans defense to contain Miller and give up a touchdown and three field goals.
Make it MSU 17 and Ohio State 16