Photo courtesy of Greg Bartram – USA Today Sports
What a season this has been for the Buckeyes. After last season, the players, fans, and coaches alike were all looking to avenge the controversial loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl with a 2020 National Championship. Unfortunately, the odds have seemed to stack themselves against Ohio State thus-far, from the Big Ten’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to the continued issues with getting on the field.
For the first time in the College Football Playoff era, it is being widely argued that an undefeated Buckeye team be left out of the playoff. Now, my thoughts on that as well as the committee’s ultimate decision on the matter will be left for another day, but what I will say is that Ohio State is not as much of a lock as Buckeye Nation would like to think.
This all being sparked by last week’s cancellation of the Illinois matchup, this game is CRUCIAL for an Ohio State team that is being looked upon to prove something. The lack of games played compared to other contenders makes this not only a must-win, but a must-dominate game for the number four team in the country.
I’ve said it before every game thus-far, and unfortunately it has yet to reign true, but I expect Ohio State to come out absolutely furious. A seventeen point win doesn’t accomplish the task at hand; show that you are the same team that you were expected to be. The defense has been supremely underwhelming to this point and I trust the coaching staff took advantage of the impromptu bye-week and will have things looking much more reminiscent of the past Buckeye teams that we all love so much.
Another thing that the Kerry Coombs led defense has going for them is that the opponent is in fact a Michigan State team that, outside of two shocking upsets, has been putrid. As cool as his name is, Rocky Lombardi is not a good passer of the football, and there is little to no dual-threat capabilities in the redshirt-junior. There have been many reports that we will see some shuffling among the single high safety position, so be ready to see more playing time for guys like Josh Proctor and true-freshman Lathan Ransom.
On the other side of the ball, Justin Fields hasn’t played since the game against Indiana where he threw a career high three interceptions. One would have to think that Fields is looking to insert himself back into the conversation for best player in college football. What better way than to do that than against a defense that is allowing 31 points-per-game. Not only will we see a big passing day, but the running back room made a huge stride forward against the Hoosiers, and that momentum will likely carry over to the matchup against the Spartans.
On the flip side of things, I do believe that first-year head coach Mel Tucker has outperformed his expectations with two huge upset victories over the Wolverines and the Wildcats. True-freshman wideout Ricky White is a STUD and made Dax Hill look like a toddler when Sparty matched up with their cross-town rivals.
The team has a somewhat surprisingly bright future given the circumstances that Mark Dantonio left the program with, and after a string of off years, there are definitely some positives for Spartan fans to take away.
Unfortunately for Michigan State fans, Ohio State is no Northwestern and they are sure as the sky is blue no Michigan. The spread is set at 24 for a reason, and so long as this game is played Ohio State should cover. Larry Johnson will guide the ship seamlessly while coach Day makes his way back from the reserves list. I think Fields has a huge day and could rack up a stat line somewhere along the lines of 400 yards and 5 total touchdowns, and the defense will showcase their best game of the season. I could realistically see 3 forced turnovers for the Buckeye defense and I think this one gets ugly fast, it will be a matter of keeping the foot on the gas pedal for 60 minutes.
Ohio State 52, Michigan State 13