Is anyone else ready for Saturday night?
No? Me neither.
Anyway, here’s another batch of the 3-2-1 preview coming in HOT. And, no, we didn’t just say 1998’s magic, 2013’s determination and 2015’s destiny as our Three Things We Want To See.
3 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE
CONTROL AS MUCH TIME OF POSSESSION AS POSSIBLE
The likeliest recipe for a win is this – keeping the game low-scoring and hanging around until the fourth quarter. I really can’t see a shootout Spartan victory happening, but hey, I’ve been wrong more than a few times.
If the offense takes their time with drives, limits three and outs and can eat whatever clock they can, that keeps the game low-scoring. And, more importantly, it keeps the defense off the field and not running around with Ohio State’s dynamic playmakers to the point where their batteries are drained by the fourth quarter.
It’s wishful thinking that MSU can control the time of possession. Ohio State’s defense has a top five third down defense and a top ten run defense. Now a glimmer of hope is that MSU has been decent at third down with a 44.6 conversion rating, and the Buckeyes haven’t seen a running back like Elijah Collins yet.
MAKE ADJUSTMENTS FROM LAST SATURDAY ON DEFENSE
Indiana sliced up MSU’s defense pretty well last week to the tune of 286 receiving yards, and somehow it felt like 486 of those yards were on screens and short passes. They got the ball to their playmakers in space and set up a lot of one-on-one tackling matchups. If Indiana’s athletes can create enough damage to hang up 31 points on MSU (and no disrespect to the Hoosiers) but imagine was OSU’s athletes can do in space. Plain and simple – Indiana laid the blueprint on how to break MSU. It’s up to Mike Tressel and Co. to make those adjustments.
THE EMERGENCE OF ANOTHER PLAYMAKER
Elijah Collins will have his work cut out for him. Whatever receiver that’s covered by Jeff Okudah will be having a long night. Surely MSU has a third player in the mix that can be somewhat of a dynamic playmaker that can make some noise on Saturday…right?
Maybe it’s Cody White’s turn for a breakout game if he doesn’t have Okudah shadowing him. Maybe it can be Julian Barnett or Anthony Williams being freshmen stunners. Perhaps either Matt Dotson or Matt Seybert has the game of their lives. Regardless, MSU is going to need more than Collins and Darrell Stewart to have a prayer on Saturday.
2 KEY STATS
That’s the national rank for Ohio State defensive line’s stuff rate AND sack rate. Stuff rate is percentage of runs that are stopped before or at the line of scrimmage, and the Buckeyes do that at a 35.9 percent clip. Their sack rate is at 15.1 percent. My fear level is also at about 103.2 percent.
This game already reeks of 2017 when MSU got completely mauled in the trenches and couldn’t get anything going on either side of the ball. That game felt like it was over by the second series where you realized that Lewerke will have .2 seconds to throw the ball on every drop back and every handoff was going to promptly be met by a Buckeye.
I’m not saying this game will be a duplicate of 2017 but, man, on paper that’s what it’s suggesting. Especially with a banged up offensive line that MSU has for the second year in a row.
On the flip side, that’s the Ohio State offensive line’s sack rate. That puts them at 94th in the nation, which is one of the very, very few holes in the armor for Ohio State. Having the front seven Michigan State has to give the green and white faithful some hope that enough pressure can be applied to give Justin Fields an uncomfortable game.
1 BEST BET
OSU -20, over/under 49
FINALLY a game where MSU isn’t favored. Let’s get that underdog mentality back into our lives.
It looks like Vegas is predicting a final score to the tune of close to 35-14, which seems completely in bounds. Can I see MSU covering +20 with their great defense and tendency to shock OSU at certain times? Absolutely. Can I see OSU building on their resumé as the best team in the nation and steamrolling MSU by 40-plus in front of a blackout crowd? Absolutely.
So I’ll go ahead and shoot for the over/under. I’m going to lock it in on the under, because to be quite frank, I’m going to trust both these defenses. That sounds better than leaning on MSU’s offense — albeit an improved one — to holding up their end of the bargain. And I also don’t want to even think of OSU eclipsing 49 by themselves.
Pick: Under 49
What’s your best bet for MSU vs. OSU?
This poll is closed