WARR writer Kevin Luchansky normally writes about baseball for WARR.com., this college football season he expands his reach by writing on another passion of his — college football, in particular the Big Ten.
Stay up with WARR.com for his continued coverage of the Big Ten and college football at large every weekend.
This one is for all the Big Ten marbles. Well, essentially.
Saturday night’s clash between Ohio State and Michigan State in East Lansing is the game we’ve had circled on our calendars since the dead heat of Summer. The game — a rematch of last season’s Big Ten Championship game — lost a little bit of luster when Buckeye QB Braxton Miller’s season was lost to injury, but J.T. Barrett has had time to acclimate himself with the offense, and perhaps closed the gap between what we know he is capable of and what he can now produce in game situations.
Who could forget last season’s Big Ten Championship game? The 12-0 Buckeyes, who locked like a “lock” to advance to the National Championship, climbed back into the game after starting in a 17-0 hole, only to see the Spartans score the final 17 points of the game, winning 34-24. In doing so, they not only took the Big 10 Title, but they vanquished the Buckeye’s National Title game appearance hopes.
To say that these current Buckeyes are out for revenge would be putting it all too lightly. I imagine the preparation this week down in Columbus was intense to say the least. And the same goes for the preparation in East Lansing, minus the revenge factor. Personally, I think these are the two of the most intelligent in-game and preparation strategists in the Big Ten – and perhaps in the country – so a chess match of sorts is what’s to be expected.
With the realignment into the Big Ten’s new divisions — East and West — we can never see (unfortunately) another Spartan-Buckeye Big Ten title game, as both have been slotted in the East division. The silver lining in that is that we at least are guaranteed a yearly match-up between the two. Both teams enter Saturday with one stain on their resumes. Michigan State lost their season opener to Oregon in Eugene, and the Buckeyes lone loss came at the hands of Virginia Tech, back in week two of the season.
Matchup of the Game
The first matchup that intrigues me is the Buckeye defensive line unit against the Spartan offensive line. It’s been pretty easy to see why this OSU defensive line was so hyped before the season – they’ve got size, speed, and, well, studs that will play on Sundays in the near future. But MSU’s o-line has been extremely effective this season, especially in pass protection, allowing only five sacks through eight games.
If MSU can negate Ohio State’s pass rush, I feel that’s a major swing in Spartans’ favor. However, if OSU can get penetration and break the pocket, I like the Buckeyes chances on defense. I’ve got no great piece of data to back this up — just my own visuals and memory — but MSU QB Connor Cook is not very fleet of foot and didn’t seem effective of comfortable outside of the pocket. Major swing in OSU’s favor if they break through into the backfield.
As for a solid prediction on this match, I’d be lying if I said I felt very strongly in either team’s favor. For some reason though, even with a hostile road environment, this feels like a Buckeye payback game.
Final: Ohio State 32, Michigan State 27