Friday, September 28, 2012

Keys to victory for MSU against Ohio State

The Big Ten season kicks off in a big way on Saturday with Michigan State hosting Ohio State. Here is a look at the keys to the game for the Spartans.
Defense lives up to the hype – The Michigan State defense has been very good, but not quite as good as many expected. The Spartans are still leading the Big Ten in points allowed (11.8) and yards allowed (237.3) per game. Ohio State has impressive offensive numbers, with a lot of that due to Braxton Miller. Last year, the Spartans held Miller in check in just his second start for the Buckeyes. MSU will see a better Miller, but I don’t think he has the weapons to put up a lot of impressive stats. Ohio State will get the occasional chunk of yards, but the Spartan defense needs to contain Miller. So far, of the four games Ohio State has played, they have went against defenses that rank 93rd or worse in points allowed in three of those contests. When you combine that with this being the first road game for the Buckeyes, it should shape up well for the MSU defense.
Make the most of the opportunities on offense – I could have just titled this one “CATCH THE BALL.” The Ohio State defense is giving up just 17.3 points per game, but it is allowing close to 400 yards per contest. That means the plays are there for the taking against the Buckeyes, but the Spartan receivers and quarterback Andrew Maxwell will have to step up. MSU can’t afford early drops, because they seem to get in Maxwell’s head and cause him to become inaccurate. The Buckeyes will probably look to stack the box and challenge Maxwell to beat them, as they hope to contain Le’Veon Bell. When the opportunity comes for 1-on-1 coverage down field, Maxwell and his receivers need to make plays.
Win the line of scrimmage – Despite the struggles in giving up yards, Ohio State has been able to get after the quarterback. The Buckeyes have 10 sacks this year, and that could pose a problem for a banged-up MSU offensive line that has underperformed at times this year. While Andrew Maxwell needs to step up, so does the offensive line. The Spartans have to still be able to establish a steady running game with Bell to keep the offense balanced and they have to give Maxwell time to throw. If Maxwell faces a lot of pressure, like he did against Notre Dame, it will be another long day for the offense.

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