Michigan State linebacker Joe Bachie is from Brook Park, Ohio, and he admits there’s still some old Ohio State gear from his childhood packed away somewhere in his parents’ house. He grew up an Ohio State fan, so Saturday’s game with the Buckeyes in East Lansing means a little bit extra.
Well, let’s be honest. A lot extra.
It’s the Buckeyes, for one, plain and simple. And there’s that little thing of getting smashed 48-3 by Ohio State last year. That still stings.
“I think about it a little bit because I’m from Ohio,” said Bachie, one of 28 Ohio natives on the Michigan State roster. “I’ve got buddies of mine who will rag on me a little bit because of that, but we just know we’ve got to play better, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
“It means a little something extra. Just like the Michigan game to a lot of the Michigan guys, this Ohio State game is a big game for me. I grew up an Ohio State fan most of my whole life basically, until high school, and all my buddies back home, my family, friends — they’re Ohio State people. So it’s going to be a good one to hopefully get this year.”
Bachie is the star among stars on Michigan State’s top-ranked defense. He is the team’s leading tackler and an unquestioned leader. His work ethic and level of preparation are off the chart. Last week’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week leads by example and by words. Michigan State co-captain Khari Willis says Bachie “walks the talk.”
“People can sense when someone’s real, and someone’s genuine. As a co-leader with him, that’s something that I admire about him,” Willis said. “Joe gets out there, he speaks his mind, and he goes and performs. The way he is, the things he does on the field, it’s very, very rare that you have a personality to match that.”
Spartans coach Mark Dantonio, a former Ohio State assistant way back in the day, said Bachie reminds him a lot of former Buckeyes All-American linebacker Chris Spielman, which is quite a compliment.
“I go back and I look at all the players that we’ve been around in the past years. And not to disrespect anybody that’s been here, but Chris Spielman to me is a guy that when I was at Ohio State as a graduate assistant, he was just coming in as a freshman,” Dantonio said.
“That guy was watching film every day. That guy was playing 100 miles an hour on field during practice. He had good motor, he had good skills, great skill set, as well. And I see that in Joe Bachie. … He’s an athlete in a variety of sports, I’ve said that many times, and also he prepares and he gets himself ready to go. And he’s a great leader, as well. People sort of follow him or he rubs off on people, however you take it.”
This is a big game for Ohio State, too. They haven’t played well in a month, losing at Purdue three weeks ago and then staggering through a 36-31 win against seven-loss Nebraska a week ago.
“Obviously, a big one this week against Michigan State,” Ohio State coach Meyer said. “Very strong rivalry that we have a lot of respect for that team and they’re playing as good a defense as there is in the country.
“Their defense hasn’t changed that much. They’re doing a little bit different things this year, but well-coached defense, tough guys, defensive front is outstanding and their backers are outstanding.”
Ohio State rushed for 335 yards last year, the most rushing yards allowed by Michigan State during Dantonio’s 11-plus years. Meyer would love to see that happen again, but that’s easier said than done. Michigan State has the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation, allowing just 71.7 yards per game, and has limited seven of its nine opponents this season to fewer than 100 yards rushing. That included last week’s 24-3 win against Maryland, where the Terps gained only 26 yards on 29 carries. That was 220 yards less than their season average.
“Obviously, you’re facing the No. 1 rush defense in the country coming up this next week,” Meyer said. “But our offensive line played very well and our backs — that was their best pad level game as far as dropping their pads and getting through those holes.”
It means a lot to Michigan State to erase last year’s disaster.
“Am I eager? That might be an overstatement,” Dantonio said with a smile. “I’m curious, but last year they had their way, so we’re going to have to play very, very well and we’re going to have to know what they do and be on top of our game.”