We weren’t sure it would happen, but the Michigan State Spartans will play Ohio State on Saturday despite OSU having to cancel last week’s game against Maryland and not being able to resume practice until Tuesday.
Michigan State will be hosting Ohio State at 12:00 tomorrow in East Lansing, and the game will be televised on ABC.
If Michigan State were able to pull off a miracle and upset the Buckeyes, Michigan State would move into third place in the Big Ten East behind Ohio State and Indiana, something that would have been unimaginable a couple weeks ago.
Here are some quick keys for each team heading into Saturday’s matchup.
Michigan State’s keys
Replicate and improve off of Northwestern
Michigan State showed that they do have the ability to play a consistent type of game against a quality opponent after defeating then-No. 8 Northwestern last weekend. The Wildcats had one of the best front sevens in the nation and the best defense in the Big Ten, and this MSU offense that has struggled as of late beat them by winning at the line of scrimmage.
Quarterback Rocky Lombardi knows they can continue to do that.
“I think everything that you guys saw last week, we can do every week,” Lombardi said. “I don’t understand why we can't. For us it’s making sure we communicate on the offensive line, making sure that we’re blocking the right guys and that everybody is communicating and working together. We can’t have two guys blocking the same guy. We can’t have guys missing blocks and get in the spot and change.”
Michigan State will need to have that same kind of success Saturday by running the ball efficiently and giving time for Lombardi to take shots down the field and make good decisions.
Test the secondary
There’s a theme to Michigan State’s wins and that’s big plays in the air.
Michigan State’s offense has been able to hit the deep balls to their speedy talented wide receivers downfield all season. Indiana showed that the Ohio State secondary is far from perfect, so if MSU can make plays own the field, they stand a chance.
Be up to the moment
Ohio State, right now, is on another level compared to every other team in the Big Ten conference and maybe three levels ahead of MSU nationally.
Regardless, OSU's superiority motivates Tucker more.
“Everyone has Ohio State circled on their schedule because its considered maybe the best team in the country,” Tucker said. “When you come to the Big Ten, you come to Michigan State, you come here because of the caliber of ball you’re going to be able to play.”
Michigan State has to be up to the moment in this one and show early that they can challenge the Buckeyes. A quick strike deep to Jalen Nailor could do wonders for Lombardi’s confidence, and that might be the game plan if he continues to start.
Ohio State’s keys
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Ohio State is among the Alabama’s and Clemson’s of the world when it comes to college football. The recruiting and consistent play makes them an almost surefire playoff team each year in a Big Ten conference that is struggling to find the middling teams to challenge the Buckeyes.
OSU needs to end this one early by establishing their dominance over Michigan State. If they rattle Lombardi and deflate the MSU defense early then the Spartans won’t stand a chance.
Wreak havoc for the MSU quarterback
Iowa exposed a glaring flaw in Lombardi’s game: He can’t handle pocket pressure.
Ohio State year in and year out has some of the top guys in the nation on the defensive line. With the Spartans’ inconsistent offensive line play, Ohio State needs to pressure Lombardi so he can’t make those throws that helped upset teams like Michigan and Northwestern.
With that pressure, they can force Lombardi to make bad throws and rattle his confidence with turnovers.
Establish the run
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields struggled at times in their last game against Indiana. The run game supplemented his struggles.
This is a legitimate Michigan State defense that is among probably the top five in the conference. The front seven can cause problems for a quarterback with an aggressive pass rush.
OSU needs to establish the run early so Fields doesn't feel like he has to do too much against Michigan State and force plays that aren’t there that result in turnovers.
As I said earlier, we don’t have any clue who will and won’t be playing for the Buckeyes on Saturday, but that can be the case for any game and week. Regardless, Ohio State has a treasure trove of talent that they can tap into, and that’s something that might be too much to overcome for a team that had to play it’s former backup punter in Tyler Hunt at tight end a week ago.
Michigan State will make a game out of it. There’s no reason to think Tucker won’t have his guys ready to compete as they have been ready for every big matchup this season.
OSU has too much right now to not win though. They’re a different class. Michigan State’s defense will cause problems early for Ohio State’s offense and Lombardi will have the chance to test the Buckeyes deep, but there’s too much to overcome.
Score: OSU 34 — MSU 10
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