- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There are a lot of familiar faces on the field, which should help in preparing for the personnel.
The schemes are likely to be pretty similar also, since the sidelines are going to be to stocked with the same people as well.
And mixed in among all the game tapes of Michigan State this season, the Ohio State coaches would be silly not to take a look back at what the same opponent tried to do against them a year ago in the never-ending search for an edge.
But the film of one of the most competitive matchups the Buckeyes have faced since Urban Meyer took over the program and launched a 24-game winning streak has to be taken with a grain of salt. As they plan for success against the No. 10 Spartans once again ahead of Saturday's Big Ten championship in Indianapolis, in some ways what worked and what sputtered last season is irrelevant given how far the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes have come since then.
"We're a lot different," Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. "The numbers on the jersey and the names on the back might be the same at a lot of positions, but we're better.
"So schematically, I think it helps a little bit. But I think the ways that if you were a defensive coordinator that you would have attacked us last year might be a hair different this year because of some of the things that we've improved upon and the ways that we have gotten better. Especially individually, across the board we have improved."
That's most clear in the Ohio State backfield, which heading into last season's Big Ten opener on the road at Spartan Stadium didn't even feature Carlos Hyde as a starter.
Eventually he would take over for an injured Jordan Hall in that game and never look back, but back then Hyde certainly wasn't the destructive force he's become as a senior. Against the Spartans a year ago, he rushed just 11 times for 49 yards -- a far cry from the 156 yards per contest he's averaging in Big Ten games this season.
Braxton Miller was already putting his multipurpose skills on display, throwing a gorgeous game-winning touchdown pass to Devin Smith and rushing for 136 yards in last year's 17-16 win over the Spartans. But the junior quarterback is far more deadly now as a passer, which has opened up pages of the playbook that were untouched at that time and figure to provide a lot more options for attacking Michigan State's top-ranked defense.
Hyde and Miller are, of course, the focal point for the Buckeyes, but they're not the only ones who survived the 2012 battle with the Spartans and grew from the experience. There are four returning starters on the offensive line pushing every opponent around, Smith and Philly Brown have given Miller two reliable targets at wide receiver, and Jeff Heuerman has been invaluable as both a run-blocking tight end and a threat in the passing game.
And perhaps more than a glimpse at what the Spartans may do schematically, that improvement might stand out more than anything when the Buckeyes rewind the film.
"It certainly helps you to watch last year and figure out the what [they do]," Herman said. "But the why might be a lot different this year because of who we are and what our personality is on offense now this year.
"We're better than we were last year, and they are too on defense. Let's not kid ourselves on that, either."
On Saturday, both teams will have a chance to see exactly how far they've come since then. No film room required.
13hDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman
12hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
2dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy
4dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman