Michigan State and Ohio State will face off for the first time this season on Saturday in the Big Ten championship game.
And while they’re a bit of an unknown to each other, they have six overlapping opponents this season, including the Wolverines. Michigan lost to both teams, though, in very different ways. Here’s a breakdown of what we can draw from the OSU-MSU matchup based off what happened with the Wolverines.
OSU OFFENSE vs. MSU DEFENSE
Michigan offense vs. MSU defense: Obviously the big takeaway from this game was the fact that the Wolverines had negative 48 rushing yards. Yes, a lot of that was due to Michigan State seven sacks, but the Wolverines never got the running game going. Fitzgerald Toussaint averaged 2.5 yards per carry which is actually above MSU’s season average of 2.2 yards per rush allowed. But he only carried the ball eight times. Devin Gardner never got going either. Gardner wasn’t bad in the passing game, as he threw for 210 yards, but he had no touchdowns, which is the identity of this MSU secondary. They’ve allowed 170 passing yards per game, but they’ve only given up 11 passing touchdowns (less than one per game).
OSU offense vs. Michigan defense: The Buckeyes had 526 yards of offense against Wolverines, including nearly 400 rushing yards. The dual-threat rushing attack of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde combined for four touchdowns and nine yards per carry. Miller completed only six passes against the Wolverines and just one receiver (tight end Jeff Heuerman) tallied more than one reception. The 526 yards was right around the Buckeyes’ average of 530 yards per game, but generally their attack is more balanced as they’ve averaged 321 rushing yards and 209 passing yards per game.
OSU offense vs. MSU defense: It’ll be strength vs. strength in this matchup. The Buckeyes prolific rushing attack will attempt to find holes against a Spartan front seven that seems to be a solid wall. It should be interesting because Michigan State hasn’t seen a duo quite like Miller/Hyde. The big key will be whether or not MSU can come up with turnovers. Hyde and Miller will probably be able to find some yards, but if the Spartans can kill some plays, it’d be huge.
MSU OFFENSE vs. OSU DEFENSE
MSU offense vs. Michigan defense: Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook threw for one touchdown and 252 yards against Michigan, but his offensive line gave him quite a bit of time in the pocket (he was sacked twice, though) while opening holes for running back Jeremy Langford, who picked up 120 yards against the Wolverines. The thing about MSU’s offense is that it's generally played much better against opposing defenses when compared to what opposing offenses to vs. the Michigan State defense. That was really the case for the Michigan-MSU game.
Michigan offense vs. OSU defense: The Wolverines put together their most complete offensive performance of the season. And it seems pretty fair to say that Ohio State wasn’t really expecting it. Gardner mainly used his arm and short, quick passes to attack the Buckeye defense. His 451 passing yards and four touchdowns absolutely destroyed Ohio State’s average of 256 passing yards allowed per game, and it definitely played toward the problems with OSU's defense. The Buckeyes have given up 30 touchdowns this season and 23 of those have been passing touchdowns, so while they might have an All-Big Ten defensive back in Bradley Roby, their secondary has been an issue.
MSU offense vs. OSU defense: Gardner’s performance against Ohio State showed that there are shots down the field that can be made against the Buckeyes. And with Cook improving with each game, he’ll have to look for those. But what really opened up the field was Michigan's offensive line protecting Gardner well enough and creating enough room for the running backs. The Michigan State offensive line is greatly improved from last season, and Langford has proven himself as a versatile and strong back. However, one of the worst things that could have happened to Michigan State was how well Michigan’s offense played last weekend. Because after that lackluster performance, the Ohio State defense will look to make a statement and Cook and his offense will be on the Buckeyes' defensive menu.