We are now within 40 days of the college football season beginning. While 2013 was one of MSU's most successful seasons ever, it is time to turn the page and start getting prepared for 2014. One way I'm going to try to help us get prepared for 2014 is by previewing all 12 (which we hope to be 14 or 15) games this season. The Ohio State Buckeyes are the next team on our tour..
School: Ohio State Buckeyes
All-Time Series Record: 28-13 OSU (Last met in 2013 B1G Conference Championship Game; MSU 34, OSU 24)
2013 Result: 12-2 (8-0 in B1G Leaders); Lost to Clemson in Orange Bowl
Head Coach: Urban Meyer (3rd year at OSU, 24-2 at OSU, 128-25 overall)
Returning Starters: 11 (4 Offense, 6 Defense, 1 Specialist)
Fun Facts: Urban Meyer has never won less than 8 games in a season … OSU, along with Notre Dame, has the most ever Heisman winners with 7 … In 2004 they set the record with the most players selected in the NFL Draft with 14 … Notable Alumni: Cris Carter, Eddie George, Jack Tatum, George Steinbrenner, Bob Knight
Overview: With the news of Braxton Miller's season ending surgery coming out in the past twenty-four hours, the luster of this game has certainly worn off some. What was thought to be a potential top 10 clash at night in East Lansing, along with the de facto B1G East Division championship game, has now turned into a favorable matchup for the men in green. Still, with Urban F'n Meyer at the helm, it'd be silly to count the Buckeyes out, especially with this game more than two months away.
The replacement for Miller will be Redshirt Freshman J.T. Barrett, although Sophomore "We ain't here for school" Cardale Jones could be given a shot should Barrett struggle early. As we know, Meyer runs a spread offense that is dependent on the QB making the right reads. Expect Meyer to dumb down/shorten the playbook now that he's putting an inexperienced guy back there. I'd anticipate even more handoffs now, which puts much pressure on the offensive line to win the trench battle. Speaking of the offensive line, they return only one starter, that being LT Taylor Decker. Ohio State does have the type of talent all over that only a few teams can boast, but we shall see if talent wins out over experience in this scenario.
Defense is going to be what carries OSU, at least in the beginning of the season. They are absolutely loaded at the defensive line with Noah Spence, Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington, and Joey Bosa as the projected starters. As far as units go, you would be hard pressed to find a better one in the country than those four. However, the secondary will need to shore up to fix some of the problems they had last year, and that's with losing CB Bradley Roby to the first round of the NFL draft. Doran Grant is the lone man returning and should be on Thorpe watch lists, so it's just a matter of the other guys developing enough to give that line time to get to the quarterback.
Final Analysis: With the news on Miller the game goes from a toss-up both in Vegas and by perception to MSU being decent favorites. The loss certainly anoints MSU as the favorites to win both the B1G East and the B1G overall, although OSU still has the talent to win 10-11 games. These are still the two best teams in the B1G, but the favorites have switched. Dantonio will have two weeks to prepare for this game, with a bye week being nicely placed the week before. Dantonio has had MSU play close to OSU for a few years now, and I'd expect much of the same here.
It will be a good day for MSU if: They contain OSU's defensive line. To put it short, Connor Cook should be given passes that make him get the ball out quick. Short passes would limit the effectiveness of those guys and keep Cook out of harms way.
It will be a bad day for MSU if: The run defense doesn't show up. OSU is going to want to shorten this game up, and there's no better way to do that than by running the ball. If MSU doesn't force Barrett (or Jones) to beat them with their arm, they're gonna have a bad time. I'd hope Narduzzi/Dantonio stack the box and test their arms.
Bold Prediction: OSU will have no more than 1 loss when this game comes around.
My Call: I was already leaning MSU in this game anyways, partly due to the extra week of rest, partly due to the home game at night. Millers injury makes me even more confident with them. MSU, for the first time probably ever in my lifetime, is the favorites to win the conference and the hunted. If MSU wants to show it's capable of handling expectations, this is a game they should win. They won big games just last season, but they weren't the favorites in either. They'll be the favorites in this one and OSU is still a talented team, just without their best player. If they still have playoff dreams come November, they have to take care of business at home. No sad pizza this time, but another MSU win. Michigan State 28, Ohio State 17.