Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Know Thy Enemy: Sparty vs. Buckeyes for No. 1 atop the Big Ten East

November 9, 2017
Junior safety Montae Nicholson (9) and senior cornerback Darian Hicks (2) tackle Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) during the game against Ohio State on Nov. 19, 2016 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans were defeated by the Buckeyes, 17-16.
Junior safety Montae Nicholson (9) and senior cornerback Darian Hicks (2) tackle Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) during the game against Ohio State on Nov. 19, 2016 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans were defeated by the Buckeyes, 17-16. —

Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes, from the eyes of the Spartans to the eyes of MSU football’s next foe. The State News asks the opposing team's student newspaper a few questions and see football through a different lens.

Just like in past years before 2016, the MSU vs. Ohio State game has huge implications on the Big Ten conference as a whole.

Spartan fans will remember 2015, though Buckeye fans will point at 2014. But no matter, Saturday's game at noon is for sole position at the top of the Big Ten East division.

Win, then either the Buckeyes or Spartans will control their own destiny. Lose, hope for a hiccup or two despite just two games left in the regular season afterwards.

J. T. Barrett still collects stickers on his helmet, despite the jokes of eligibility raining down from other Big Ten schools. Joey Bosa is in the NFL, but his brother, Nick Bosa, now patrols the defensive line.

And despite Ohio State's blowout loss to Iowa last weekend, the Buckeyes are still No. 13 in the nation, according to the College Football Playoff committee. The Spartans, of course, are at No. 12, a shade above their conference foes.

To better understand life in Ohio, The State News interviewed Colin Hass-Hill, sports editor for The Lantern, and asked him four questions on Ohio State football.

Q: Obviously, last game, the Buckeyes got shelled against Iowa. J. T. Barrett struggled and Ohio State allowed 55 points to the Hawkeyes. What exactly happened in that blowout?

A: It was sort of a confluence of every single problem that they had earlier in the season sort of coming up at the worst possible time. So if you go back early in the season, they beat Indiana 49-21, but for the first half the game was super close. Then they lost to Oklahoma 31-16, that game wasn't as close as the score sounds. They've had issues. If we want to go to offense first, there's this weird case of J. T. Barrett where if you look at him in the first few weeks, you're like, 'oh, this guy, I don't really know if he can ever reclaim the form that he was as a redshirt freshman.' He seems to have regressed and even though they hired two new offensive coordinators Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson in the spring, you still see that he regressed. But then over the next six games, he played about as well as you've ever seen Barrett play, especially against Penn State. And then against Iowa, it looks as if none of that had ever happened and Barrett totally regressed to where he was against Indiana and Oklahoma. 

And then on defense, it was just the defensive line couldn't get to the quarterback fast enough. And when that happens against teams, the opponents will pick apart Ohio State's mediocre defensive backfield. Damon Webb, he's a shaky spot at safety. And then at cornerback Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette have been question marks all year. And that continued against Iowa. They destroyed them in the play-action pass game and the linebackers. When people were looking at Ohio State at the beginning of the year, they thought that linebackers were going to be a strength and it's turned out that not only have they been a strength, at times, they've been a total weakness. And that was definitely the case against Iowa. 

Q: Joey Bosa’s gone, but his brother, Nick Bosa has taken his place and generated a lot of hype. How his play been compared to his brothers? Is the hype warranted? 

A: The hype is totally warranted, Nick Bosa is the real deal. It's sort of hard to tell that sometimes this year just because Ohio State rotates four starting defensive ends. But next year, Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis, who will graduate, Sam Hubbard, will likely leave for the NFL, so he'll have a defensive end spot to himself. You will see the full Nick Bosa experience. He's just a total difference-maker. He only has four sacks on the season, but he has a ton of pressure. People know others have to game plan for him. He's the total real deal. Will he believe as good as his brother? I don't know because his brother was an all-world defensive end, but he's on track to be that guy. You'll see the full Nick Bosa experience next year when he has more playing time.

Q: Despite losing in blowout fashion, MSU vs. Ohio State is for sole control of the Big Ten East division still. How do you think the Buckeyes will respond at home against the Spartans? 

A: It's going to be super interesting to see just because this is a team, that when they enter the season, when Ohio State enters a season, when Urban Meyer enters a season, they all expect to be competing for a National Championship. Unless chaos ensues, they will not even have a chance to one of the top-four teams this season. So we're sort of in uncharted territory, especially recently. These Urban Meyer teams, until the end of the year, will be in talks to potentially have a shot at being in the College Football Playoff. A lot of fans, regardless of how well they play down the stretch and what bowl they make it to, the fact that they won't make it to the playoffs is going to make this season a failure. How will they respond? I think Michigan State has a chance to knock them off, I really do. We're in uncharted territory and I'm really interested to see which Ohio State team comes out. Because we've seen two Ohio State teams. Which team comes out? Honestly, I lean slightly toward the Iowa and Oklahoma team at this point just because we're in uncharted territory. I'm as interested as anyone else.

Q: What is your score prediction and why? 

A: I'm probably going to pick Ohio State just because I've seen them at their best. And I do believe that the older guys on the team are going to put in their best effort and are going to try to make this the best season they can. Urban Meyer still seemed relatively upbeat today. I think that this is going to be a big struggle for Ohio State. If they lose this game, oh my. You should go read the Ohio State message boards. This team is way too talented to lose this game. I don't know how that sounds to Michigan State fans, but it's just true. ... This team is too talented to lose these games. People will have warranted questions if they lose this game and that's why I just think talent wins out in this game. I've been wrong before, I was very wrong last week.

31-24 Ohio State

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