Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Scouting the Buckeyes: Michigan State faces tall task in Columbus

October 4, 2019
<p>Michael Geiger played hero in MSU&#x27;s upset road victory over Ohio State University last November, paving the Spartans&#x27; way to the Big Ten championship and eventual berth in the College Football Playoff. Overall, Geiger has improved with every year, with last season being his best. He hit 12 of 19 field goals, including 4 of 5 from between 40-49 yards, and 51 of his 53 extra points. Expect Geiger to improve even more as he becomes more confident with his short range attempts, where he went 8 for 12 last season under 40 yards. </p>

Michael Geiger played hero in MSU's upset road victory over Ohio State University last November, paving the Spartans' way to the Big Ten championship and eventual berth in the College Football Playoff. Overall, Geiger has improved with every year, with last season being his best. He hit 12 of 19 field goals, including 4 of 5 from between 40-49 yards, and 51 of his 53 extra points. Expect Geiger to improve even more as he becomes more confident with his short range attempts, where he went 8 for 12 last season under 40 yards. 

Photo by Julia Nagy | The State News

Mike Weber found a seam right down the middle of the field and bolted 47 yards, into the end zone for an untouched touchdown.

7-0 Buckeyes, seven minutes into the game. Eight minutes later J.T. Barrett trotted into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown to put Ohio State up 14-0 before the end of the first quarter.

And before the Spartans could even catch their breathe, OSU held a 35-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

"For some reason, we just blew away that game, I don’t know how to say it," Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie said. "We basically shell shocked ourselves and we had to move past it. There was still a gap between us and Ohio State at that time and we’ve battled them very well under Coach (Dantonio) and that’s what we’re going to do this week.” 

With a chance to solidify a road to the Big Ten title game, Michigan State lost 48-3 in 2017, the largest deficit in the history of its series against the Buckeyes.

Two years later, the Spartans have the same opportunity. 2-0 against 2-0 in conference, and a chance to take a leg up in the road to Indianapolis.

Michigan State will once again have its hands full when it travel to Columbus on Saturday (7:30 p.m., ABC), as it tries to rectify mistakes from two years ago.

So, what's different from 2017? Ohio State has a new quarterback, a new coach, a new starting running back — but they're just as dominant as ever.

The Buckeyes have had little — if any — drop-off in their transition from Urban Meyer to first-year head coach Ryan Day. And it helps when quarterback Justin Fields has put up video game-like numbers week-in and week-out.

Completing just under 70 percent of his passes, Fields has thrown for over 1,000 yards in five games while also accounting for 23 touchdowns, 16 of which were through the air.

"Justin Fields is playing tremendous," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said during his weekly press conference. "He gives you the ability to run and create. He gives you the ability to throw the football, great arm, strong arm."

The Buckeyes don't lack offensive talent at any position.

J.K. Dobbins ran for 124 years against the Spartan defense two years ago, but didn't find the end zone — something he's done five times this year. And the junior looks poised to continue his early season success Saturday night. Binjimen Victor led the Buckeyes in receiving the last time MSU played in Columbus. And as a senior, he has become Fields' favorite target.

On the flip side, the Spartans haven't scored a touchdown in their last two meetings with the Buckeyes. But, that hasn't killed any confidence heading into Saturday's game.

“Different year," Brian Lewerke said. "We’re not focused too much on last year, two years ago or whatever. We’re focused on what we can get done this year, and our offense is confident, so we’re good."

Defensively, the Buckeyes rank second in the nation, giving up just 223.8 yards per game to opponents. This is led by defensive end Chase Young, who through five games the junior has accumulated eight sacks and could cause MSU's offense havoc all night.

Just like 2017, and last season as well, the road to Indianapolis for the Big Ten East goes through Ohio State. Saturday's game isn't the only roadblock the Spartans will have to face to reach their goals. But, a loss in Ohio Stadium could end any dreams of a conference title before it even starts.

Because, in recent history, when the Spartans overcome the Ohio State hurdle, it has ended up with a trip to Lucas Oil Stadium.

“It's the reality," Bachie said. "The past couple years, they’ve ended up being Big Ten champs. They’ve done a great job in there, they have a great program, great talent and if you want to be the best you have to beat the best, that's kind of the mindset.

"It's a playoff game. That's really what it is. If you want to be the best, if you want to go to the Big Ten Championship, this is the game you've got to win."

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