Run for the roses: Big Ten Championship Game predictions
INDIANAPOLIS— Run for the roses.
At least for one team, that’s the goal in tonight’s Big Ten Championship Game (8:17 p.m, FOX)
Looking to break a Rose Bowl drought older than any of its players, the No. 10 Spartans (11-1 overall, 8-0 Big Ten) take on No. 2 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) for a chance to get somewhere the program hasn’t been since the 1987-88 season.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook leads the Spartans under center. The first-year starting quarterback finished the 2013 regular season with 2,119 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Cook also has the benefit of having junior running back Jeremy Langford, who rushed for 1,210 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, in the backfield.
On the other side, the Buckeyes feature two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller at quarterback. Miller passed for 1,759 yards and 21 touchdowns and five interceptions along with rushing for 891 yards from scrimmage.
Thirteen games in, State News football reporters Dillon Davis and Stephen Brooks make their predictions for what should be an exciting night of football in Indianapolis.
Since head coach Mark Dantonio arrived at Michigan State in 2007, he’s talked about making a trip to the Rose Bowl. Now, for the first time in more than two decades, the Spartans are on the doorstep of what Dantonio’s always tried to do. The No. 10 Spartans (11-1 overall, 8-0 Big Ten) take on No. 2 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with the vision of a postseason dream close to being realized. I’ve spent a few days trying to come up with a prediction, weighing each variable as carefully as time would allow. Which version of quarterback Braxton Miller will the Spartans see? How will the defense respond to Miller? What about sophomore quarterback Connor Cook? Is he ready for the big stage? We’ll find out soon enough. A little more than a week ago, I don’t think I’d pick the Spartans to beat a team that certainly deserves a trip to the BCS National Championship Game. However, after seeing what Michigan was able to do against the Buckeyes last week, it’s not hard to see the Spartans holding Miller along with OSU running back Carlos Hyde in check. I predict MSU will be smelling the roses in a winning affair.
Prediction: MSU 31, Ohio State 28
I can’t remember a more difficult game to pick than tonight’s Big Ten title matchup between No. 10 MSU and No. 2 Ohio State. Prior to last weekend, when the Buckeyes narrowly escaped a shootout with an underwhelming Michigan team, I was confident Ohio State would win by double digits. That performance made me realize the gap between these two teams may not be as large as I once imagined. This should be relatively simple: If the Ohio State backfield combo of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde run wild, MSU will lose. If the Spartans can back up their No. 1 total defense and stall the best offense they’ve seen thus far, they’ll be in great shape to win if their own offense doesn’t beat itself. MSU plays well in big games, and this arguably is the biggest since the last Rose Bowl trip in 1988. Ohio State knows it’s playing for something bigger than this game. For MSU, this game is everything, and that, coupled with the painful memories of the 2011 loss here, gives the Spartans a significant mental edge that you can’t quantify. The Spartans have been doubted all season, and answered the call every time. They constantly feel overlooked, and most of the time they are, which will fuel an emotional upset win here at Lucas Oil Stadium. MSU will ride a ridiculous wave of motivation and come out firing to upset Ohio State and return to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
Prediction: MSU 34, Ohio State 31