Baver’s Buckeye Bag 11/5/14
A few thoughts before diving into Sparty week:
--Nice to see Devin Smith reappear this past weekend. Smith has had some shining moments as a Buckeye, but has also had multiple game spans where he has contributed little. An energized Devin Smith could pay huge dividends for the Bucks this Saturday night.
--Another nice thing to see this past weekend was JT Barrett looking smooth running the football. But I would have much rather seen Barrett not run the ball at all. At least Meyer did get him out of the game at halftime. I probably would have had a heart attack had Barrett re-injured his sprained knee.
--Huge get this week, with the verbal commitment from QB/ATH Torrance Gibson from Ft. Lauderdale. The Bucks will first give Gibson a look at QB, but in the end, I tend to think Gibson ends up at WR or another position. His athletic skills are up there with just about any Buckeye recruit in recent memory.
--The Buckeyes thrash inferior football teams - period. Just not sure that tells you much in terms of how this team is going to play against a legitimate opponent. The battle in East Lansing Saturday night is certainly going to be interesting.
--What was up at tailback against the Illini? Did Meyer really start Curtis Samuel ahead of Ezekiel Elliott because of Samuel’s strong week of practice? Don't know; it just seemed a little odd. The good news is Samuel and Zeke both look good right now, and the future looks bright at tailback for Ohio State.
--The Bucks are getting solid play out of the OLB spots right now, but the play at the Mike still should be better than it has been. Fans continue to drool over Raekwon McMillilan, but he just isn’t there yet. Meyer praised Curtis Grant’s play against Illinois, but overall, Grant is nowhere near as improved as the coaches told us he was in August. This is bit concerning heading into the biggest game of the season.
Sparty Week – This is it
This is it; make no mistake where you are
This is it; your back's to the corner
This is it; don't be a fool anymore
This is it; the waiting is over
How big is the game, Saturday? Doesn’t get much bigger. If the Bucks win at Sparty, they probably jump five or more spots in the playoff committee poll and give Urban Meyer his first career win over a big time opponent as Buckeye head coach. And the Buckeyes will likely control their own destiny in terms of the playoff picture. But lose to Michigan State, and I think even the biggest Buckeye homers will be forced to call a spade a spade….in that Meyer will still not have a so-called signature win over a top notch opponent since he took over in 2012.
Sparty compared to OSU’s first 8 opponents? Little comparison. MSU is 5th nationally in scoring offense, while their defense is very strong against the run (6th nationally) and against the pass (8th nationally in pass D efficiency). Sparty QB Connor Cook is 2nd in the Big Ten in passing efficiency, behind only JT Barrett. WR Tony Lippett has been lighting it up, with just shy of 900 yards receiving and 10 total TD’s. The Spartan defense is tops in the B10 in team sacks, while their offense has given up the fewest sacks in the league. To say this is an upgrade in competition for the Bucks is the understatement of the year.
It’s rare that you see this from one of OSU’s Big Ten opponents any more, but on paper, this Spartan team is simply looks better than Ohio State. The last time a good coaching staff had an extra week to prepare for Ohio State, James Franklin and his Penn State defense derailed the Buckeye offense. And this MSU defense is worlds better than PSU’s.
The bright side? You know Meyer is playing the “no respect” card all week with his players, while ESPN, and most of the other talking heads outside of Ohio, are giving Ohio State little shot in this one. On the opposing side, I am guessing just about every player on the Spartan roster thinks MSU takes Ohio State to the wood shed. Not the mindset I would really want right now from my players if I am Mark Dantonio; Ohio State simply has too much talent to underestimate. And underestimating Urban Meyer usually isn't a bright move either.
Neither the O-line, nor Barrett have performed well against either of the two solid defenses (Va Tech & Penn State) that Ohio State has faced. If they get similar performances out of the OL & Barrett, Michigan State will beat Ohio State by double digits. On the other side of the ball, the Buckeye defense is much improved from early September. The Buckeye D will have to bring it Saturday night, and may need a defensive score, or the Bucks will likely have a tough time winning this game. Certainly hope I am wrong here, but…. The call: Michigan State 31 Ohio State 24.