Ohio State started the season No.2, is back up to No.2 and needs a 25th straight victory for a shot to be No. 1. Probably.
In the BCS/polls
With Auburn’s upset of top-ranked Alabama, Florida State moved to No.?1 this week in the Bowl Championship Series standings and Ohio State moved up a spot to No.?2. The top two after this weekend’s games move on to the BCS title game on Jan.?6 in Pasadena, Calif. With one-loss Auburn leaping to No.?3 in the two major polls behind Ohio State, there is a slight possibility the Tigers could jump the Buckeyes next Sunday night. But history is against it.
The running game. Ohio State is up to No. 2 nationally in rushing, averaging 321.3 yards a game, behind triple-option mainstay Army (323.6). Carlos Hyde has rushed for 111 yards or more in seven straight games, including 226 on Saturday, the most by a Buckeye against Michigan. He debuted in the national rankings finally yesterday at No. 6 (143.3-yard average). Quarterback Braxton Miller (153 rushing yards at Michigan) had his third straight game of 144 yards or more.
What’s not hot?
The passing offense. But again, Miller and the Buckeyes made the most out of limited attempts, with Miller throwing for two touchdown passes, including a 53-yard rainbow to Devin Smith. Passing likely will need to be more a part of the game plan this week against a Michigan State defense that is No. 1 nationally against the run (64.8).
What went right?
The Buckeyes’ pass defense against that two-point attempt, the biggest play of the season. Tyvis Powell and the other defenders knew what was coming, and Powell stepped in to intercept Devin Gardner’s pass. It was the difference between victory and defeat.
Back to the drawing board
The rest of the pass defense. How could a defense so focused on that climactic play be so snookered by Michigan’s often misdirection passing attack the previous 59 minutes and 28 seconds? Michigan State no doubt noted how wide screens, throwback screens and backside passes often found not enough defenders to thwart them. This deep into the season, Urban Meyer thought the defense had those things figured out.
Middle linebacker Curtis Grant, coming off a high-ankle sprain, did play early, but was replaced by Camren Williams as the game progressed.
Freshman Dontre Wilson and right guard Marcus Hall, along with a Michigan player, were ejected early in the second quarter after a melee broke out following a kickoff return by Wilson. There also were other moments of chippiness. But in the fourth quarter, after knocking Gardner down on a pass attempt, OSU freshman defensive end Joey Bosa reached down and helped him up in a clear show of sportsmanship.
Michigan State (11-1, 8-0), the Big Ten Legends Division winner in the league championship game on Saturday night in Indianapolis. The Spartans, in the seventh year under coach Mark Dantonio, have quietly turned in an awesome season blemished only by an early loss to Notre Dame, and anchored by what might be the best defense in the nation. The offense, led by sophomore first-year starting quarterback Connor Cook, has steadily improved.
This week’s challenge
It will be in keeping all thoughts on the Spartans instead of daydreaming about a trip to the national title game. This matchup pits the two teams’ strengths (OSU offense vs. MSU defense) and their more pedestrian parts (MSU offense vs. OSU defense). In a season in which Ohio State’s schedule has been decried for its weakness, this will be a top-10 matchup, and definitely the best opponent the Buckeyes have faced this year.
By Tim May - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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