Michigan State 10 … at Ohio State 7
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
Posted Oct 1, 2011

Week 5 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Michigan State at Ohio State

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 5 - Michigan St at Ohio State

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Oct. 1 Michigan State 10 … at Ohio State 7
CFN Analysis: There's the Spartan defensive line that was supposed to beat up Notre Dame a few weeks ago. MSU destroyed the Ohio State offensive line with nine sacks and a breakthrough game from William Gholston, who came up with five tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss, while Max Bullough was excellent with nine tackles and a sack. The running game still isn't working, and Kirk Cousins was a bit shaky completing 20-of-32 passes for 250 yards and a score with two picks, but this was a better win than the 10-7 final score might indicate, and this was the official announcement that MSU deserves to be talked about along with Wisconsin among Big Ten favorites.

It all starts with the offensive line. MSU didn't think for a single second that Braxton Miller or Joe Bauserman could push the ball deep, so the defensive front sold out to get into the backfield and the Buckeye front five didn't have a chance. The ground game only netted 35 yards with Jordan Hall getting stuffed time and again, and Miller never got a chance to breathe. The defense wasn't bad, with Travis Howard and Andrew Sweat keeping the Spartan ground game under wraps, but it needed to score; that's how bad things are for the Buckeye offense. Will everything change when DeVier Posey, Dan Herron, and Mike Adams come back? Absolutely. The O needs playmakers and offensive stars, and they're on the way just in time.

(AP) COLUMBUS, Ohio -- All of Ohio State's NCAA investigations and sanctions might not have been as painful for Buckeyes fans as this.

Kirk Cousins threw a 33-yard scoring pass to B.J. Cunningham and Michigan State's No. 1-ranked defense overwhelmed the bumbling Buckeyes 10-7 Saturday, shutting them out until the final seconds.

Interim coach Luke Fickell, who took over when Jim Tressel was pushed out for breaking NCAA rules, could only allude to the ugly defeat as "what happened today."

Michigan State (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) came in as the national leader in total defense (172 yards per game) and passing defense (101 ypg) -- and backed up that lofty ranking. The Spartans allowed just 178 total yards and 143 yards through the air while posting nine sacks and snuffing the Buckeyes' ground attack, permitting just 35 yards on 39 attempts.

So disappointed was a partisan crowd of 105,306 that from time to time boos cascaded down on the punchless offense.

"Am I surprised (by the boos)?" repeated Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator from 2001-3. "I used to work here. I'm just saying ..."

When the Spartans defense wasn't making plays, Ohio State was doing what it could to help them. The Buckeyes (3-2, 0-1), behind true freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, stumbled all day on offense. Joe Bauserman led Ohio State to its only score, a 34-yard pass to Evan Spencer with 10 seconds left. The Spartans then recovered the onside kick.

Fickell said after the game that he might just open up the quarterback job to the four contenders -- also including Kenny Guiton and Taylor Graham -- who had fought for it during spring and preseason practices. At another point he said Miller would remain his starter.

One thing he was not confused about was went wrong for Miller.

"Things were happening fast for him," Fickell said. "He just maybe didn't see the field real well. We thought we were going to have to throw the football, as many people as they were putting in there (on the line to stop the run) and as much heat as they were bringing. We thought our best option was to go with a guy that probably could see the field a little bit better and throw the football a little bit better."

Bauserman came on to hit half of his 14 passes for 87 yards, while Miller was 5 of 10 for 56 yards with an interception.

Dan Conroy added a 50-yard field goal for the Spartans, far from flawless but thoroughly in command.

It was a glorious homecoming for 24 Michigan State players and several coaches born in Ohio. Dantonio, an Ohio native, was in charge of the defense when Ohio State won the 2002 national championship.

Now his name will certainly pop up on the list of candidates when Ohio State looks for a new permanent coach after the season. Fickell, who worked on the defensive staff with Dantonio at Ohio State, took over in May when Tressel was forced out for not telling his superiors that he knew about players accepting cash and tattoos in violation of NCAA bylaws.

"Every year going way back, the Michigan State and Ohio State rivalry has been special," said Dantonio. The teams shared the Big Ten title a year ago with Wisconsin.

The Spartans ended a seven-game losing skid to the Buckeyes.

"This was a big program win," said Dantonio, in his fifth year at MSU. "Ohio State was the only team we hadn't beaten in the conference."

Ohio State's erratic and ineffective offense almost made history. The Buckeyes had not been shut out in 183 home games, dating to a 6-0 loss to Wisconsin on Oct. 9, 1982, and hadn't been shut out anywhere since a 28-0 loss at Michigan on Nov. 20, 1993.

Cousins completed 20 of 32 passes for 250 yards with two interceptions. Cunningham, the Big Ten's leading receiver, had nine catches for 154 yards.

Cousins acknowledged that the outcome could have been more lopsided.

"We didn't finish our drives. We could have had 20 to 25-plus points," he said.

He threw an interception in the end zone to take a certain field goal off the board and then threw another pick late in the game. But he also lofted a high spiral over the middle that Cunningham pulled away from a defender on Michigan State's second possession of the game for a quick 7-0 lead.

"When you really look at it, their wideout made a big play on a ball thrown up in the air," Fickell said.

From then on, Ohio State couldn't do anything against a ferocious Spartans defense that shut down the Buckeyes' running attack and continually harassed the quarterbacks.

Linebacker Max Bullough had nine tackles, including a sack, while Denicos Allen and Chris Norman each had two sacks.

"We really wanted a goose-egg. We thought about that at halftime," Bullough said.

But the result more than made up for the late touchdown.

"It's a big win for us to come out and beat a team like Ohio State, let alone at the Horseshoe," he added. "It's another stepping point to the Big Ten championship."

Michigan State (3-1) at Ohio State (3-1) Oct. 1, 3:30, ABC/ESPN/ESPN3

Here's The Deal … Will the real Michigan State please show up? Can the real Ohio State play like the real Ohio State?

This was the one missing piece of the 2010 Big Ten title puzzle, with Wisconsin beating OSU and MSU beating Wisconsin, and while this might be an interdivisional showdown this year, it'll go a long way to shaping the course of the conference season.

Michigan State has been fantastic in three out of the first four games, but while it destroyed Youngstown State, Florida Atlantic, and Central Michigan by a combined score of 121 to 13, and none of the three games were even that close, the lone road game against a real team – Notre Dame – was a total clunker. The Spartans looked night-and-day different against the Irish, so either they gagged on the big stage and didn't play up to their potential, or they're just not that good and the nation's No. 1 defense is a fraud because of the competition. Either way, they might still be good enough to beat Ohio State.

OSU's loss to Miami looks even more miserable in hindsight after the Hurricanes lost to Kansas State at home, but a 37-17 win over Colorado last week might have turned the Buckeye season around. This is the final game before getting all the suspended players from the Tattoo Five incident back, and if the record is 4-1 without the top running back (Dan Herron), top receiver (DeVier Posey), and top blocker (Mike Adams), then the problems over the first month of the season might be over.

The two teams haven't played since 2008 – a 45-7 OSU win – and that's a good thing for MSU. The Buckeyes have won the last seven meetings going back to 1999 and 12 of the last 14 going back to 1988. With Michigan, Wisconsin, and at Nebraska up next, MSU can't afford to make it eight in a row to OSU.

Why Michigan State Might Win: Even against Notre Dame the MSU run defense was fantastic. It gave up just 22 yards in the destruction of Florida Atlantic and allowed a mere 21 to Central Michigan last week, and while the Irish came up with a few good runs on the way to 114 yards and two scores, it took 32 carries to do it. MSU came up with too many mistakes, too many penalties, and two bad turnovers in the loss to the Irish, but the defensive front did its job. It'll handle itself well against the Buckeyes, too.

Ohio State can't throw the ball at the moment, and it's more than just the debacle at Miami. Braxton Miller might have tremendous talent, but he's still a true freshman and as he showed against Colorado, he's getting by on his raw skills at the moment. Joe Bauserman doesn't throw a scare into any defense with a pulse, and if he's in, it's tee off time for the MSU front four.

Ohio State has to pound away with the running game to have any chance, but the Buckeye front five hasn't played up to its normally high standards, and without Herron there isn't too much pop. It'll take at least 200 yards on the ground for the Buckeyes to pull off the win, and that'll be tough without the passing game clicking at least a little bit. MSU is No. 1 in the nation in pass defense allowing 101 yards per game.

Why Ohio State Might Win: MSU just might find a way to screw this up on its own. The Buckeyes have to be nearly flawless, they have to win the turnover battle, and they have to keep the penalties to a bare minimum. MSU committed 12 penalties in the loss to Notre Dame and misfired on way too many key third down opportunities. Throw in a huge special teams breakdown, and everything went wrong in a winnable game. For all of OSU's issues, turnovers haven't been a concern with four in the four games, while the penalties have been kept to a minimum. The return game has been terrific and there's a chance OSU could break a big play to turn the tide of the game against one of the nation's worst kickoff coverage units. The Spartan punting game has been awful; the Buckeyes should get at least one big return.

Ohio State's defense has been fine. It hasn't been the brick wall of the last decade, but considering the offense isn't providing much help, the D has been strong against the run and it's not giving up many big plays through the air. Michigan State's running game has been puzzlingly mediocre against some awful run defenses, and it's not going to start cranking out yards in chunks this week. Ripping off big yards against Central Michigan was easy, but the Irish held MSU to 29 yards on 23 carries. The OSU defensive front is better than Notre Dame's.

What To Watch Out For: Braxton Miller has to be terrific. He only completed 5-of-13 passes against Colorado, but he did a nice job out of the pocket, tossed two touchdown passes, and he ran 17 times for an effective 83 yards. Most importantly against an inferior team, he didn't turn the ball over. He's not going to throw for 300 yards against the Spartan defense, but he should be able to keep the chains moving with his legs as well as his arm. Joe Bauserman might have been beaten up by the media after the Miami game, but he completed both of his passes against the Buffs.

Ohio State will still be without top defensive end Nathan Williams, who continues to recover from minor knee surgery, and Michigan State has been without one of its top ends, Tyler Hoover, with a back problem. True freshman Marcus Rush has been good in place of Hoover, but he needs to be even more disruptive this week and he has to keep Miller from taking off on the outside. Rush came up with a strong day against Notre Dame with seven tackles, two tackles for loss and two good pressures, but he doesn't have a sack yet. That should change this week.

What Will Happen: If Michigan State wins the battle of turnovers and penalties, it'll win in a walk. Veteran Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins will be cool calm, and collected as he doesn't buckle under the pressure from the OSU defensive front, while the MSU defense will make it a long day for the two Buckeye quarterbacks. After flopping in the spotlight against Notre Dame, MSU is going to make amends.

CFN Prediction: Michigan State 23 … Ohio State 16
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