Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Is the OSU coaching staff going to open up the playbook and let freshman quarterback Braxton Miller throw the ball more?
After last Saturday’s 37-17 win against Colorado, first-year head coach Luke Fickell said he didn’t expect Miller to scramble and run as much as he did.
The offensive coordinator and offensive line coach made it clear that they too want to see Miller drop back in the pocket and throw the ball like he should.
This weekend’s game against Michigan State might not be ideal for testing Miller’s arm.
The Spartans lead the nation in total defense, as well as pass defense. Michigan State’s six interceptions also lead the Big Ten.
As OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said after the Colorado game, it is Miller’s ability to present the “threat of a balanced offense” that will keep opposing defenses off-balance.
Miller was 5 of 13 passing against the Buffaloes last weekend, and the Buckeyes will need to throw more than that, but given the Spartans’ ability to defend the pass, don’t expect too much more. This weekend’s game is another opportunity for OSU’s stable of able running backs, especially junior Jordan Hall and sophomore Carlos Hyde, to take the reigns on OSU’s offense.
Who is Michigan State?
OSU previously held a share of the 2010 Big Ten title with Michigan State, along with Wisconsin.
The shared title was later vacated by OSU as part of its self-imposed punishment for NCAA violations.
But though they shared the Big Ten title last year, the Spartans and Buckeyes didn’t play each other. So, while Michigan State beat Wisconsin during conference play last year and while the teams’ records dictated that they had to share the conference title, there was doubt about whether the Spartans were truly the same caliber of team as the Buckeyes and Badgers.
This year, the Spartans have beaten Youngstown State, an FCS team, as well as Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan. The one blemish on their record is a 31-13 loss to Notre Dame (2-2).
Which players on Michigan State could hurt the Buckeyes?
Unlike OSU, Michigan State came into 2011 knowing which players would impact the team on the offensive side of the ball, and those players have done the job.
Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins is third in the Big Ten in passing yards per game with 236.8. Cousins has completed 81 of his 117 passing attempts this season and has also thrown five touchdowns against two interceptions.
The matchup between Cousins and OSU’s passing defense, ranked fourth in the conference, will be a crucial one.
The Spartans also boast a formidable one-two punch at running back. Sophomore running back Le’Veon Bell has rushed for 217 yards and six touchdowns. Junior running back Edwin Baker has carried for 216 yards and one touchdown.
Lastly, there’s senior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham, who leads the Big Ten with 29 catches and is averaging 107 yards per game.
OSU’s cornerbacks will have to stick to Cunningham throughout the game. Missed tackles have also been an issue for the Buckeyes’ defense, and if it can’t hold Bell and Baker down, MSU may leave Columbus with a win.
Are there any possible “X” factors that could help push OSU to a win?
Home-field advantage could impact the outcome of this game.
The Ohio Stadium crowd, especially OSU students, has a chance to play a meaningful role in the game against Michigan State.
Since the win against Colorado, Fickell has twice voiced his appreciation to the OSU students that were in attendance.
At a Tuesday press conference, Fickell said he hopes that students who attend games at the ‘Shoe “get better each and every week.”
Sounds like an open invitation to make some noise, and possibly disrupt Cousins and the Spartans’ offense in the presence.
Saturday’s game will be the 40th meeting between Michigan State and OSU in football. The Buckeyes lead the all-time series 27-12. Will OSU get win No. 28 against the Spartans?
OSU will improve to 4-1 with a win against Michigan State this weekend.
Both teams are nearly two weeks removed from bad losses — OSU’s 24-6 loss to Miami (Fla.) and Michigan State’s 31-13 loss to Notre Dame. The Buckeyes also narrowly defeated Toledo on Sept. 10, 27-22.
Weighing the highs and lows that both teams have experienced throughout the young season, you’d have to say OSU has had more close calls and setbacks than MSU. The Buckeyes have had more of their weaknesses exposed and more time to correct them.
If the Buckeyes sprinkle a few more passing plays into their game plan, Miller could prove to be too unpredictable for the Spartans.
It could be a tight one at the ‘Shoe on Saturday but look for the Buckeyes to take the game.
Final score prediction: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 23