Before #13 Ohio State plays Penn State in Beaver Stadium this Saturday, the #8 Michigan State Spartans will take on That Team Up North. Insert sneers, jeers and leers here. There was a time I felt bad for the Blue, but that time passed a while ago. Now I’m just happy to see Karma really does get her job done and comeuppance is a thing.
But more on that later.
The Ohio State Buckeyes brought it for Homecoming last weekend with their 4th consecutive blowout victory, trouncing Rutgers 56-17. (Interestingly, also Michigan State’s final score vs Indy.) After week 8 they are ranked 2nd to Oregon in NCAA team passing efficiency and 4th in scoring offense. Quarterback J.T. Barrett is ranked 3rd in pass efficiency. Usually understated in his pressers, Coach Urban Meyer admitted “I think we’re playing at a pretty high level right now.”
Barrett has been a big part of that achievement. Even the SEC’s biggest bootlicker, ESPN, stated early this week that “Few quarterbacks nationally are playing better than Barrett.” He now holds a longest active streak in the FBS in the country – accounting for at least four touchdowns in four straight games. He is the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week.
In the last four games he’s racked up 1,170 pass yards, 17 touchdowns and a 68.3% completion rate. He is the most talked about newcomer to the early Heisman hype. And despite all the praise and attention, his consistent response to it is “My focus is definitely on the team and team wins.”
Meyer said this week, “I love coaching this team.” And we love watching this team, sir.
Side note: mad love for you, Braxton Miller, but right now I am hesitant to want to see you come back next year and for Barrett to have to step aside. J.T. looks like a complete quarterback – poised in the pocket, accurate, he hits numerous receivers in each game. He produces Urban’s goal of 250 yards in the air and 250 on the ground in every game. It’s not a two-man show and we’re not relying on one man’s feet to save us.
And he’s only going to improve. But, his performance against Michigan State will most likely make up everyone’s minds. Mixed emotions. Talk amongst yourselves.
Man, Ohio State football has been fun to watch. And next they’ll play in a primetime game, in a hostile environment, against the struggling Penn State Nittany Lions.
OSU is coming off a four-game win streak. PSU off back-to-back losses against Northwestern and ahem, Michigan, and a bye last weekend.
PSU scored a total of 19 points in their last two games. OSU averaged 52.6 points per game in their last three.
It’s no secret that Penn State hasn’t been a powerhouse this year. Five-star quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg was widely anticipated to be stellar this season, but seems to be suffering a Sophomore Slump. He has accounted for 1,637 passing yards, but only five touchdowns and….seven interceptions. Against a weak Michigan he threw for only 160 yards and the Lions lost 18-13.
They have a lack of depth on offense, ranking overall at #90. They’re also weak at special teams.
Penn State does boast the nation’s top run defense and ranks #6 in total defense. The Lions have yet to be tested by an offense as talented as OSU’s though, so we’re going to see how relevant those rankings are. They do have a star middle linebacker in Mike Hull, who leads the team with 64 tackles so keep your eye on him.
Penn State is going to need its defense to operate at its highest possible level, and needs better play from QB Hackenberg. Ohio State’s defense is currently #16 in pass yards allowed so it won’t be a cakewalk for him. The Buckeyes, well, they need to do more of the same and maybe even do it better.
Advantage, Penn State? Their hostile environment. As someone who had to pay some dues living in Philadelphia and attended a few games in Happy Valley, I can attest it’s no joke. For you NFL fans, these are baby Eagles fans in training. ‘Nuff said. But I can also say that the last “White Out” I sat through? It just lit up the path to their end zone allllll night. And that usually shuts them up. (I’m told white hides the tear stains well, too.)
#8 Michigan State is 6-1, and can boast that that one loss was to the #3 team in the country – Oregon.
Michigan is 2-4. They are unranked, embarrassed and embroiled in ridonkulousness week after week. The only two teams they have beaten are Appy State and Penn State. (I die.)
MSU put a brutal beating on Michigan the last two times they traveled to East Lansing, and this year should be no exception when the meeting takes place at home for the Spartans the second year in a row.
Not only is this game a bitter, emotional rivalry for the two schools, it holds a lot of weight for both teams this year. MSU is on a quest to land in the inaugural four team playoffs while ultimately gunning for a National Championship and plan to make a statement to the country and the committee with this game. U of M coach Brady Hoke is completely desperate for a signature win, and just to hang on to his job for the rest of the season.
Hoke’s seriously got his work cut out for him. Two little words that will cause him big problems – Spartans Defense. With a questionable offensive line and RB Derrick Green out, it’s going to all be up to U of M quarterback Devin Gardner. He’s thrown eight interceptions. The MSU defense is going to hammer him on every play. And there will be sacks.
The Wolverines need to bring it but, there’s not much to bring. They are 110th in passing yards per game and 108th in total offense. And 17 point underdogs in this match-up.
MSU quarterback Connor Cook and the Michigan State offense is ranked #12 in the nation. So far Cook has accounted for 1,641 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Spartans have long been synonymous with a scary defense, but the offense is strong too.
There are a lot of Michigan State players to watch, but wide receiver Tony Lippett is a standout – Cook has found him 39 times for 786 yards and 8 touchdowns – and again, expect big plays from defensive end Shilique Calhoun.
This game is probably going to be ugly for the Wolverines and possibly over by halftime. So if you love bloodbaths and you hate Michigan, we know where to find you at 3:30 on Saturday.
The “little brother” becomes the big brother……..