Drew and Dave Thurman (2:56 pm)
Stadium: Spartan Stadium (75,005)
Coach: Mark Dantonio (2nd year at MSU, 13-7; 31-24 overall)
2007 Record: 7-6 (Lost Champs Sports Bowl 24-21 to Boston College)
2008 Record: 6-1
Base Offense: Power "I"
Base Defense: 4-3
Lettermen: Returning 37, Lost 20
Returning Starters: Offense - 7, Defense - 6, Specialist - 2
Returning Stars: RB Javon Ringer, SS Otis Wiley
-Bubba Smith: NFL star and actor
-Magic Johnson: Hall of Fame NBA pointgurad
-Kirk Gibson: MLB star, Famous for '88 LCS homerun
-James Caan: Actor
-Steve Garvey: All Star first baseman and TV personality
-Scott Skiles: NBA player and coach
-Robert Ressler: famed criminologist who coined pharse "serial killer"
Michigan State Overview:
On offense, the Spartans put the load on the shoulders of running back Javon Ringer. He has racked up an incredible 1,112 yards and 14 touchdowns already this season. Even more remarkable about Ringer's performance is the fact that he has carried the ball 35 plus times in four of Michigan State's games. In fact the only two games where he has had under 30 carries were against California and Iowa. In both games Ringer struggled averaging just 3.0 and 3.6 yards a carry.
At quarterback the Spartans start Brian Hoyer who has 1,314 yards and six touchdowns this season. Even though he has put up decent yards thus far in 2008, he has still struggled at times. He is barley completing over 50 percent of his passes, and has shown signs of being erratic. With that said, Hoyer had one of his best games last week against Northwestern completing 70 percent of his passes.
Hoyer has two main targets in Mark Dell (443 yards, 2 TD) and Westerville, Ohio native B.J. Cunningham (322 yards, 0 TD). There are several other guys to keep your eye on as well, but no one should have the Buckeyes attention more than Dell. He is a long ball threat, and is averaging 22 yards a reception.
On defense, Michigan State brings a very average defense into the game Saturday. They are allowing 362 yards a game, and a majority of this comes through the passing game (227 yards per game). Like many of the defenses in the Big Ten, the Spartans come up and stuff the run much better than when they drop into coverage.
The core of the Michigan State defense is the linebackers and safeties. Linebackers Greg Jones (52 tackles, 5.5 TFL) and Eric Gordan (45 tackles, 2.5 TFL) lead the team in tackles. The guys to watch at safety are Dan Fortener (44 tackles, 2 INT) and Otis Wiley (38 tackles, 4 INT). If Pryor has many errant throws, these safeties will make him pay!
Both the Buckeyes and Spartans are going to come out and try to establish the run. When Michigan State has the ball expect to hear Javon Ringer's name called a lot. The Buckeye defense has to stuff the middle and make Javon Ringer work for his yards. Even if the Buckeyes keep him in check (which we feel they will), Ringer will still see 25 carries in this game. So the key will be to hold Ringer's YPC down to around the 3.5 mark, and make Hoyer beat the secondary through the air. We expect Malcolm Jenkins to be guarding Mark Dell, so Hoyer will have his work cut out for him if this happens.
When Ohio State has the ball, look for more diversity in the play calling than this last week. Against Wisconsin, in the toughest Big Ten game the Buckeyes have played, Tressel opened the offensive playbook much more. For whatever reason he refuses to do this against lesser opponents, and expects his defense and special teams to help pull the team through. Yes, Beanie will carry the ball a lot in East Lansing if he remains healthy, but look for Pryor to have a few more passing plays.
Outside of Pryor the key will be the offensive line and the wideouts. The wideouts could have a big day against the Spartans if their attitude stays in check, and the offensive line does its job. Michigan State's defense if no push over, but if the run is establish, look for their run stopping secondary to be exposed a little bit. Of course there are lots of variables there.
So overall, we see a defensive battle on Saturday with two coaches who know each other and are conservative. The Buckeyes will keep Ringer in check, which would mean about 25 carries for about 90 some odd yards. If they do get in the redzone though, look for Ringer to pound it in. Hoyer will make a few big plays in this game with his arm, but these plays will set up long field goals for the Spartans instead of touchdowns.
The Buckeye offense will probably have to battle itself to try to gain a victory this week. Be assured though, if Pryor reaches Ohio State's average of 143 passing yards a game, the Buckeyes will win. Pryor will do enough in this game to keep the defense guessing, and help the rushing attack surge. This will be all the Buckeyes need as they win the turnover battle in a close game. Final score...
Dave has it: OSU 24 MSU 17
Drew has it: OSU 20 MSU 13