Stadium: Spartan Stadium (75,005)
2011 Record: 11-3
2012 Record: 3-1
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio (6th year at MSU, 47-23; 65-40 overall)
Letterman Returning: (50; lost - 20)
Returning Starters: Offense - 5; Defense - 8; Specialists - 2
Base Defense: 4-3
Base Offense: Ace & Power I
Herb Adderley, Former NFL player and Hall of Famer
James Caan, Motion Picture Actor
Robin Roberts, former MLB player and Hall of Famer
Robert Urich, TV Actor
Richard Ford, Novelist, author of Independence Day
Earvin "Magic" Johnson, former NBA player and Hall of Famer
Susan Packard, Founder of HGTV
Cheerleader Scouting Report:
The MSU offense starts and stops with Bell, an Ohioan who was not heavily recruited by the Buckeyes. At 244 pounds, Bell is a load who some have compared to former Wisconsin star Ron Dayne. However, he seems to possess more speed and agility than Dayne, and will be a handful for the Silver Bullets, having already tallied 610 rushing yards this season.
An enormous target (6'5". 285) for quarterback Andrew Maxwell, Sims was recruited by the Buckeyes but chose to attend MSU. His first three years he caught 23 passes all total, but already has grabbed 22 this season, and is the go to player for Maxwell, a quarterback who has struggled at times thus far in 2012. Sims is a mismatch due to his size, and will be a load for the OSU linebackers and secondary on Saturday.
One of the fiercest, most talented (and some would say dirtiest) players in the B1G, Gholston is a massive end at 6'7", 278. The cousin of former Buckeye star Vernon Gholston, William can play the run or pass equally well. Last year he finished with 70 tackles, including 16 for loss, and thus far in 2012 has registered 14 tackles, with 3 coming for loss. He will test the OSU tackles, big time.
In a day and age of smaller, faster linebackers, Bullough reminds you of many old-fashioned Buckeye middle linebackers - big, strong and instinctive. At 6'3", 252 he is imposing, and is the leading tackler on a tremendous Michigan State defense, with 26 stops, including 3.5 for loss. A year ago he had 89 tackles, and this fourth year junior will make inside running tough this week.
This Hamilton, Ohio, product, is one of several from the Buckeye State on the MSU roster. He may not be the biggest player on the field, but Allen has a nose for the ball and makes big plays. Last year he had 83 tackles including a team leading 11 sacks, and so far in 2012 has 17 stops, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He just beat our CB Johnny Adams for this fifth and final highlight spot.
A Zanesville, Ohio native, Dantonio is familiar to Buckeye fans because he was the defensive coordinator in Columbus for three seasons, including the memorable 2002 National Championship team. From there, Dantonio headed to Cincinnati, serving as the head coach for three seasons, before moving up to East Lansing. Now in his sixth season, this Tressel disciple has won 11 games each of the past two years.
With a physical running game, a nasty defense that is among the best in the nation, and solid special teams, some Buckeye fans may think they have morphed back in time this weekend. Indeed, Mark Dantonio is almost a Tressel clone, and just as that strategy worked well in Columbus for JT, so it has taken Michigan State to the top tier in the Big Ten, as well. Get ready for an old-fashioned tussle Saturday, because this will be a hard-nosed, take no prisoners kind of game, which should be won in the trenches. I am not sure whether the inconsistent Buckeye team is ready for this war, and though I hope I am wrong, I don't have good vibes about this game, but more on that at the end.
Michigan State brings a somewhat average offense into this game, averaging just 21 points per contest in spite of gaining over 400 yards per game. At the helm is junior Andrew Maxwell. The junior quarterback is a first year starter, and has yet to fill the big shoes of Kirk Cousins. Maxwell has thrown for 869 yards, hitting 56.6% of his passes with 3 TD's and 3 INT's. He does not look to run and has -18 yards from scrimmage so far.
The strength of the MSU team as at tailback, with Le'veon Bell averaging 152.5 ypg at 5.2 ypc. He isn't fast but Bell is very strong and has good vision and good feet. Needless to say, he is a load, and seems to get stronger as the game goes on. Larry Caper is a solid backup who has run for 811 yards in his career. Neither is a great threat out of the backfield, although Bell has been used as a check down option out of the backfield some, though only averaging 5.6 yards per reception.
The 2012 edition of the Spartans lacks the big-time receivers they possessed a year ago, although they do have an excellent tight end. The top wideouts in terms of production are Keith Mumphery and Bennie Fowler with 15 and 14 catches respectively, with both averaging just a little over 10 yards per catch. However, huge tight end Dion Sims is Maxwell's favorite option and has 22 catches for 277 yards ana pair of touchdowns.
The offensive line has not been quite as strong as Dantonio would like despite bringing back three starters from last year. The best of the bunch is 5th year senior Chris McDonald at right guard. Overall, in spite of failing to overwhelm, this group has only surrendered 4 sacks, and done a solid job opening holes for La'Veon Bell.
Defense is the calling card for the Spartans as it was a season ago. Most Buckeye fans still have nightmares of last year's game against MSU, when they held Ohio State to 178 total yards, while registering nine sacks. So far this year the team hasn't been getting many sacks, but are only surrendering 233.5 yards and 11.8 points per game. These guys are good.
The d-line is missing Jerel Worthy from last year's team but still has William Gholston, who is a force at defensive end. Across from him is talented sophomore Marcus Rush, who registered 58 tackles a season ago as a freshmen. In the middle of the line, MSU rotates a number of players, and while none stand out, they are all big and solid.
Linebacker is probably the strength of an excellent defense, with Max Bullough, Denicos Allen and Chris Norman. All three started a year ago, and they have nice size and speed, but more than anything else, just know how to make plays. Running the ball on this unit will be a huge challenge.
With three returning starters the secondary is also very good. Leading the way is corner Johnny Adams, who isn't real big but is super fast. So far this year he has a sack, an interception and 4 passes broken up. Also watch for hard hitting safety Isaiah Lewis, who is second on the team with 22 tackles.
Special teams feature returning starters at kicker (senior Dan Conroy) and at punter (sophomore Mike Sadler), and Nick Hill is a dangerous return man. Don't sleep on the MSU special teams for sure.
An improving, mostly explosive OSU offense faces one of the elite defenses in the nation, while an underachieving MSU offense goes up against a disappointing Buckeye defense. That's a script for a tight, competitive game, and it should be just that.
There is no doubt that the Spartans want to establish the run, and feature a steady diet of Le'Veon Bell. A year ago the Buckeyes did a good job against him, limiting Bell to 71 yards on 31 carries. Their defense is set up to stop power rushing attacks, which is good news heading into East Lansing. Maxwell has not been a world beater, doing a mediocre job at quarterback, using mostly short and intermediate throws. So if the Silver Bullets can slow down Bell they have a great chance to win this game, but that won't be easy. I think MSU has a few long drives, but not too many.
Ohio State will put this game on the shoulders of Braxton Miller, and I don't think you will see his rushes limited. Meyer will want to balance the read option with a solid passing attack, and I think they will try and throw down field a few times. It will be difficult to have many sustained drives against a top-notch defense, but I do think the Bucks hit on a couple big plays. Limiting turnovers is a key on the road, so hopefully Brax will continue to take good care of the ball. Look for Dantonio to dial up plenty of blitzes and try and duplicate last year's sack fest. Also watch to see if Hyde and Hall are in the game at the same time, and what effect, if any, that might have.
If either team can get a touchdown from their defense or special teams that will probably tilt the game in their favor, and that is certainly a possibility. In the end, though, this one is likely to be decided by a field goal.
My heart wants to pick Ohio State, and I do think they come with a good game plan and more focus than we have seen the last couple of weeks. But a young team that has lacked consistency and has been plagued by penalties and missed tackles is a lethal cocktail when headed into an hostile environment. So in the end I am afraid mistakes will do in the Buckeyes. If they get off to a good start I think they can win the game, but as of now, I am picking the Spartans in a close one.
Father vs. Son Prediction Battle:
Dave: MSU 20, OSU 17
Drew: OSU 21, MSU 20