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September 30, 2011

Staff Predictions: Ohio State. vs. Michigan State

Follow Noon on Twitter | Rowland | Givler

The non-conference season is in the rear view mirror and now it is time to focus on the Big Ten schedule, the games that will decide everything when it comes to determining a league champion. The odds are stacked pretty high against the Buckeyes this year to claim another conference crown but a win against Michigan State would be a huge step in the right direction. How does our panel of experts see this game unfolding?

Kevin Noon - Managing Editor

The upcoming schedule does Ohio State very few favors moving forward during the next month with four straight games against ranked teams on the docket. The only break is that this first game is in Columbus and that will give Braxton Miller and his young (in spots) team one more crack in front of the home fans.

Michigan State has been hexed when it comes to playing against Ohio State in recent years. Mark Dantonio could not find a way to get past the Buckeyes, regardless of how talented his team was or is. The team he brings into Columbus this year is not one of his most talented teams and I think people are losing sight of that based upon who Sparty has played this year.

Ultimately Michigan State's offensive line is going to be his Achilles ' heel on Saturday. The Buckeyes have not been killing teams with a pass rush but Ohio State will be able to take away Michigan State's run and keep Kirk Cousins running just enough to keep him off balance. Offensively the Buckeyes will have to do more than just run the ball, but don't look for the offense to reinvent itself in just seven days from the formula we all saw against Colorado. Jordan Hall will break at least three huge plays in the game (one on special teams and two from the line of scrimmage) to give the Buckeyes just enough punch to win a low-scoring affair. Ohio State 24 Michigan State 21

Kyle Rowland - Staff Writer

Some aren't believers in the Michigan State defense, some are. Count me among the latter. The Spartans come to Columbus with the top defense in the country statistically. I don't think that helps a young quarterback like Braxton Miller. Ohio State's offense is already too one-dimensional. That being said, I think the OSU defense can shutdown Michigan State's run game. That puts all the pressure on Kirk Cousins, a guy who still hasn't played that great against the big boys or on the road.

At the end of the day, Cousins is obviously better than Miller at this point. I'm a huge believer in how important the head coach and starting quarterback are to a team. I don't think anyone will argue the fact that Michigan State has a distinct advantage in both categories. This game will be close throughout, but a late field goal puts Michigan State in front and gives the Mark Dantonio his first victory over Ohio State in five attempts. Michigan State 24 Ohio State 23

Marc Givler - Recruiting Analyst

The Buckeyes made major strides last week against Colorado and were able to move the ball much more effectively on offense than they had the previous week against Miami. Make no mistake about it though, Michigan State is a much better football team than Colorado and this will be a major test to see just how far the Buckeyes have really come since the Miami game.

Offensively, Michigan State presents far more challenges than Colorado did a week ago. The Spartans have a dynamic playmaker at wide receiver in B.J. Cunningham and a stable of backs that are capable of wearing a defense down. The Spartans also bring a seasoned veteran at the quarterback position. Accounting for all of the weapons will not be an easy task for the Ohio State defense and as usual, it will all start upfront with stopping the run and putting pressure on Cousins.

With all of that being said, the game is at home, the offensive line is clicking, and Braxton Miller made noticeable improvements last week. If Miller can protect the football and continue to keep the chains moving with his legs, the Buckeyes have a great chance to pull this one out. Ohio State 24 Michigan State 21

Andy McLachlan - Staff Writer

We're only in the first week of Big Ten play but it's already gut check time for both teams. For Ohio State, this will be their best opponent so far. The Spartans enter with statistically the best defense in the country so quarterback Braxton Miller will have to be efficient in all aspects of the game. I just don't see him having the same success on broken plays like he did last week against the Buffaloes. But I also feel that Michigan State may underestimate his ability to throw the ball. It will be up to his inexperienced receivers to haul them in.

Sparty was feeling confident pre-season that they had their best team in decades but after the Irish smacked them in the mouth two weeks ago, their outlook on the season modified a bit. Their Achilles heel right now is the offensive-line, which has been pieced together by former defensive tackles, water boys and male cheerleaders. If Kirk Cousins can find enough time in the pocket to make plays, they will still be able to move the ball down field.

I don't expect a high scoring game. In fact, I believe it will be more on the sloppy side. I'm going to give the edge to Cousins over Miller on big-play ability but nothing outranks home field advantage. Ohio State 20 Michigan State 17



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