Final thoughts (and a prediction) for Michigan State-Ohio State
From a Michigan State perspective, it certainly feels like the timing could be better for leaking Mel Tucker’s reported massive contract extension.
Tucker is supposedly on the verge of a 10-year deal that would make him the second-highest paid coach in college football, trailing only personal mentor Nick Saban. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who has recruited one transfer-laden class at Michigan State and has yet to clinch anything greater than an Outback Bowl appearance.
Tucker isn’t shying away from the rumors the extension is imminent, reiterating his commitment to make Michigan State a destination job on Draymond Green’s podcast.
All of this is potentially terrific news for the Spartans. Michigan State may see Kenneth Walker III win the first Heisman in school history while simultaneously stiff-arming LSU from poaching its coach in a historic bit of Déjà vu.
But this also doesn’t feel like the type of thing you want breaking the week of your biggest game. You save these types of announcements for Rutgers Week.
Even though the details are obviously being hammered out by Tucker’s agent, the optics of “he was focused on money instead of the Buckeyes!” are not something you want to create. College football fans don’t tend to be level-headed about nuances if things go wrong that week.
And boy, could things go wrong at Ohio State.
This is being billed as the game of the week, and it looks it on paper. No. 7 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State. The penultimate game of the season. Ohio Stadium is the obvious site for College GameDay.
But according to oddsmakers, pretty much every game in the country will be more interesting than this one. Ohio State is a 19-point favorite.
To put that in perspective, Georgia Tech at Notre Dame has a closer point spread (17). The Yellow Jackets have 1 win since the start of October. Notre Dame is ranked 8th. Vegas expects that matchup to be a better game.
So who will be right? The TV programmers, or the wise guys?
How far will Kenneth Walker run?
Ohio State got run over in its only loss this season.
Oregon running back CJ Verdell became a name Gus Johnson blares through your TV speakers, finishing with 161 yards on 20 carries. As a team, the Ducks gashed the Bucks run defense for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns.
This continued a trend started by Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim, who ran for 163 yards in 3 quarters before leaving the season opener with a season-ending knee injury.
It hasn’t come close to happening since.
Verdell remains the last player to rush for 100 yards against Ohio State, which has tightened up considerably since that day.
But the Buckeyes also haven’t faced a running back of Walker’s caliber. Not even close, in fact.
Indiana’s Stephen Carr — ranked 10th in the Big Ten with 66.6 yards per game and 23rd with 3.9 yards per carry — is the top running back to face Ohio State since the Oregon game.
And even if any of Ohio State’s previous opponents were any good in the run game, which they aren’t, the game is usually lopsided too quickly for running the ball to be of any use. So the Buckeyes really haven’t been challenged against the run.
This might be the rare game where the visiting team chooses to receive if it wins the coin toss. It will behoove Michigan State to see if it can get Walker going and control the tempo early.
… Because MSU’s defense isn’t stopping anyone
This matchup is an absolute nightmare for Michigan State’s defense. There may not be a team in the entire country the Spartans secondary is more ill-suited to face than the Buckeyes.
Ohio State pass offense rankings, nationally
- 10 yards per attempt (3rd)
- 32 TDs (5th)
- 178.2 passer rating (3rd)
- 68.2% completions (12th)
- 353.6 yards per game (6th)
- 52 completions of 20+ yards (6th)
Michigan State pass defense rankings, nationally
- 6.9 yards per attempt (34th)
- 17 TDs (75th)
- 129.7 passer rating (56th)
- 63.7% completions (97th)
- 329 yards per game (130th)
- 39 completions of 20+ yards (107th)
The Spartans are at least OK when it comes to picking off opposing quarterbacks, rating 65th nationally with 8 interceptions. And CJ Stroud is capable of coughing it up, having tossed 5 interceptions. However, only 2 of them have come in Big Ten play — both against Nebraska.
We continue to sleep on Ryan Day
It seems incongruous, to say the least, that Mel Tucker is poised to make more money than Ryan Day.
All Day has done in his 3-plus seasons as Ohio State’s head coach is literally never lose to a Big Ten opponent. Ever. And his record is 32-3 overall.
Day does not seem to be held with nearly the same regard as Kirby Smart or Lincoln Riley, both of whom have also not won national championships. People just seem to have the attitude of “Oh, yeah, he took over for Urban Meyer. That’s easy.”
Ask Will Muschamp how easy replacing Urban Meyer is.
These next 3 weeks will be a good barometer of whether Day starts getting the widespread respect it feels like he should have earned by now.
A prediction: Ohio State 49, Michigan State 28
I’m with Vegas.
I think Michigan State can keep pace with the Buckeyes for most of the game. But between Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Garrett Wilson and TreVeyon Henderson, there’s just too many weapons on Ohio State’s roster for a defense with so many leaks to keep the dam from bursting.
To me, the only plausible path to victory for the Spartans would be a turnover differential of plus-3 or better. If Ohio State can force MSU to punt even 3 or 4 times in this game, it’s probably too much for the Spartans to overcome. Heck, that might even apply to field goals rather than punts.
Yes, Michigan State can win. But the margin for error is razor-thin. If both of these teams do what they’ve been doing all season, Ohio State should win by a comfortable margin. It’s just a very unfortunate stylistic matchup for the Spartans.