The path to a victory is tougher than a Sunday morning after an evening at Rick’s, but we try to lay one out anyway. Some odd things need to happen, with a little bit of luck, but let’s try to find a way for MSU to win.
3 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE
Get C.J. Stroud Moving
Dropping seven or eight back into coverage doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for quite some time. Ohio State’s weapons at wide receiver are far superior to anyone Michigan State has faced this season and I imagine they’ll have no problem getting open this weekend. The only shot to make OSU’s passing game turbulent? Pressuring quarterback C.J. Stroud.
As we know, that’s way easier said than done. MSU has tried its hand at blitzing the last few weekends to no avail. And to make matters more unfortunate, Ohio State has allowed sacks on just 1.7 percent of drop-backs — eighth-best in the country. But getting Stroud off-schedule is the only shot you have to keep the Buckeyes within range by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. While Stroud has been good under pressure, he can’t just be allowed to stand in the pocket and pick the defense apart.
Offend Us With How Ugly This Game Is
Step two to creating the upset of the decade for Michigan State? Make this as repulsive of a game as possible. Think the OSU vs. MSU game back in 2018 and how the Buckeyes had the Spartans starting five drives in the second half from within its own 6-yard line. We need one of our best players — punter Bryce Baringer — to have a generational performance on Saturday. On top of that, MSU needs to find sustained drives in the running game to chew up time and put OSU in poor field position should you have to punt.
Do an onside kick, too, just for laughs. Throw a fake field goal in there. Maybe, like, eight fourth-down conversion attempts.
Make it weird enough for Michigan State to be in striking range in the second half of Ohio State’s first road game of the season.
Sustain Drives (With The Run, Ideally)
Step three to shocking the world? As briefly mentioned above, getting the run game going and holding onto the ball to chip away at time of possession. That has not been the case so far this season as Michigan State is the second-worst team in the nation at time of possession, but in order to achieve an insane upset you need to snap out of some ridiculous trends.
Would love to see Elijah Collins get more into the mix at running back. Maybe some more outside runs, a (gasp) jet sweep every once in a while. Really, in total, would love to see MSU sustain drives to give the defense a minute to chill and to limit the amount of plays Ohio State can even run.
2 KEY STATS
28 and 65
That 28 number is the amount of 10-plus yard passing plays Ohio State’s defense has given up, which is tied for seventh-best in the country. MSU has allowed 65 passing plays that have gone for 10 or more yards, which is fourth-worst in the country.
That says two things (and no, it’s not just simply “pain” and “despair”). 1.) OSU’s offense is playing against a defense that could be giving up chunk plays just like it did last year and 2.) even worse, playing from behind is still pretty difficult against the Buckeyes.
As good as Ohio State’s offense usually is, the Buckeye defense might just be as good this season. And, sadly, just like last year Michigan State’s secondary is primed to get torched again.
That’s the “stuff rate” Ohio State’s offense is running at right now. What’s “stuff rate,” you ask? It’s the percentage of runs that go zero or less yards. How good is 6.7 percent? It’s not just the nation’s best — it’s on track to be a historically great number.
Usually the best team in the nation at stuff rate is at 10ish percent. Ohio State’s run game is just overwhelmingly good, no matter who is running the ball (mostly Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson) it seems like.
On the other side, Michigan State’s defense has an opposing stuff rate of 18.8 percent — that’s in the middle of the pack in the nation at 61st.
So...yep...Ohio State is pretty good.
1 BEST BET
Michigan State +27, over/under 65
It’s Ohio State. That’s all the analysis I can even offer.
Pick: Ohio State -27