Scouting Report and Prediction: #18 Michigan State 6-3 vs. #10 OSU 8-1
A look at this week’s opponent…
The Spartan season is not going to end in a Big Ten title or a trip to the College Football Playoff as they had hoped and expected. But it isn’t over. MSU has a terrific chance to salvage the season on Saturday.
With all due respect, this game is more about the Spartans than the Buckeyes. Dantonio said of them, “Big game this weekend against Ohio State. A game that sort of always point to a little bit, being from that state, the State of Ohio and then we've got many players from there, as well. Always have recruited down there and recruited well.”
Dantonio has a chance this weekend to add another magical win to his Michigan State legacy. This game is going to be enormous for a number of reasons.
When MSU has the ball…
Mark Dantonio had is a good an honorable man. That doesn’t mean he is immune from criticism. He started an injured QB that was closer to 50% throwing then 100% when he had a young QB that had just had a terrific day for the win vs. Purdue. If Lewerke is your long-term man, all you have to say is that you are NOT playing him until he is 100% and upon his return, he is 100% the starter. You give Lombardi all of the reps again against a terrible Terrapin team and SHOULD you need him against OSU, he has another game of experience under his belt. Lewerke was 11/20 for 87 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. The young man playing in pain was gutsy. I felt bad for him and it shouldn’t have been. Dantonio swam upstream when he didn’t need to.
I talked to three people from inside practice this week who all said Lewerke was better this week than last, but still not near 100%. Dantonio said before the season that his offense needed more points. They have struggled this season.
MSU must come out and attack on offense. OSU is ripe for the loss and the Spartans attack can do it, if they operate at 100%. But they can’t be anemic as they were vs. Michigan and let the MSU defense get worn down from playing so much. If Brian Lewerke is not 100%, Dantonio is taking a major risk in a game he can win.
I like Brian Lewerke. A super kid, from a super family. If he is 100% there is no debate that he is the QB. But if not 100%, I don’t think there is any doubt who should be starting either.
Dantonio took a lot of heat, not the least of which from Spartan Nation, for playing a less than 100% Brian Lewerke vs. Michigan and again last week at Maryland.
He said of his QB situation, “We're going to look at our quarterback throughout the week as we always do and see how everybody is working, playing, etc. Brian is our starting quarterback, I think you can go with that. That's the foundation that he's built here. I didn't see any velocity according relative to his arm strength. I think you guys push and point towards trying to get answers and push people towards those things. If he was hurt, he would not be playing.”
He added, “Is he 100 percent? Nobody is ever 100 percent ten games into the season, but if he could not play, he would not play. You know, that 30-mile-an-hour wind down there at Maryland, the other guy wasn't throwing very well there, either; I'm talking about the opposing team. I think a lot of things go into that. But I think has a foundation. As I said after the football game, though, not afraid to use Rocky. I think he made a big statement against Purdue in that football game, and I look at him as an ace reliever; and if we need to go to him, if we're not having success, then we will go to him.”
Dantonio says of the Buckeye defense, “When you look at them offensively, it's a daunting task, I would say: You've got a quarterback that's thrown 32 touchdowns I think, and very few interceptions; 3,000-plus yards in nine games; two 600-yard rushers; a couple wide receivers that have caught over 50 passes; outstanding group of wide receivers. Their offensive line is pretty much back with the exception of one guy intact, sort of, and so they have got a lot of returning starters on offense.”
When MSU is on defense…
The Spartan defense is elite. They are the best D the Buckeyes have faced all year. If the Spartan offense can attack and give them a rest so they don’t have to do it all, MSU will win. This is a College Football Playoff capable defense.
Last year the Spartans were demoralized by the Buckeyes offense. Dantonio said of looking back at that game and scouting the Buckeyes that, “You look at everything. You look at the six-game study. We've got a six-game study, looking back to 2012, different things and I'm sure that they do the same. We also look at what Indiana did against us because of Kevin Wilson being there.”
He went on to add, “You know, you try to look at every imaginable thing. They do the same. I think they do a good job of coaching. They did some things last year that put us in conflict I think, some run/pass conflicts and things of that nature and then they broke tackles. Two good running backs, as I said earlier, and you know, they had their way last year.
So we need to play one play at a time and get ourselves focused and prepared but not too over energetic and play this game accordingly.”
Dantonio said of the Buckeye offense that, “On the defensive side of the ball, they are rebuilding a little bit with the loss of Bosa. That's obviously a big loss for them. But athletic, active, outstanding secondary, running tackle. I'm very, very impressed always with their special teams, and should be a great football game.”
Remember the rule of five. If MSU wins that, this game is over. For those who don’t remember it, it has to do with sacks and turnovers. If the Spartans have three sacks and give up two that means they are plus one. If they then get four turnovers and give up only one that means they are plus three. That would give them a plus four for the day. They want to get to a plus-five ratio at least every game. Teams that win the rule of five wins 91% of ball games.
With so many players from the state of Ohio, this game is as big as Michigan in many (not all) perspectives. Dantonio addressed it saying, “It's not just that. That is a part of it, but it not just that. In the past number of years, we've played basically for the championship in that game. I would say in 2015 we did and certainly in 2013 that we did and it had a major impact on, you know, in 2014, that team that one was probably going to go to the playoffs and that's what happened, they won the National Championship.”
He added, “The other thing is if you're going to be the best, you've got to beat the best and at this point in time, you know, Ohio State is still the defending Big Ten Champion, I believe, so you've got to beat the best. That's always been the target area I think throughout the years -- I'm talking about throughout the years, but every game has its own meaning. There's other games that have a big meaning for this program. You guys know that. But that's how we've sort of always sort of taken it as we've moved forward. It just a big games and it's always been.”
He continued “Even when I was here before, it was a big game. It was a big game. Back in the late 90s, it's always been a big game for Michigan State, and if there's some natural rivalries in there maybe because we have some people from there, myself included. I think the biggest point of emphasis is that it has meant so much to each program or to this program when we've played them there, there's been a lot on the line in those games.”
There is blood in the water, Ohio State blood. They are struggling since the loss of Nick Bosa and MSU must capitalize by going on the attack offensively. Dantonio said, “With him out (Bosa), they are replacing three defensive linemen that are playing in the NFL. That's tough duty. Their linebacker, Borland, is coming off an Achilles' injury. So playing in and out -- a little bit younger secondary; talented, but a little bit younger secondary. They had I think three guys left from their secondary last year which was extremely talented.”
He added, “Everybody's got a plan. In this day and age, everybody has a plan, so everybody's going to try and make plays. I think much like I just talked about, I think everybody gets ready to play, whether it's Ohio State or anybody else, they get ready to play. We've got to look at it and say, this is what other people are doing, and they have had some success. The games have been closer. They are still 8-1. Everybody is acting like poor Ohio State; they are still 8-1 and ranked in the Top-10. They are pretty good and they have got some playmakers up front.”
If Rocky Lombardi starts, and MSU goes on the attack I predict MSU wins 27-17. It will fire up his team and he will lead them to victory. Since I do not believe Lewerke is at or near 100% throwing the ball, if he starts, I expect a 27-14 Ohio State win. If Lewerke can perform at a high level, then I expect him to lead MSU to victory, this isn't about notbelievingg in him.
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