Gunning for a piece of Big Ten glory and a likely berth in the BCS national championship, the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes take on the seemingly immovable force that is the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
It’s the second appearance in three years for the 11-1 Spartans since the conference championship game began in 2011 and the inaugural trip for the 12-0 Buckeyes, who are also eyeing their first national title since 2002.
Michigan State boasts the third ranked defense in the country, and the best in the Big Ten, holding opponents to 11.8 points and 237.7 total yards per game. Opponents have only managed 16 total touchdowns against Mark Dantonio’s crew, and they’ve been especially effective against the run, surrendering a measly 2.2 yards per carry.
Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer has brought the storied program back to prosperity in less than years, with the nation’s second best rushing attack and 18th overall defense. The Buckeyes have demolished the competition since Meyer took over, winning a school-record 24 straight games.
That streak was thoroughly tested in last week’s 42-41 squeaker over rival Michigan. The streak and the national title were on the line until Tyvis Powell intercepted Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner in the end zone on a two-point conversion try.
It was the closest margin of victory of the season for Ohio State, previously blowing out opponents by an average of 30.3 points per game.
The Spartans will be Ohio State’s most formidable opponent this season, trotting out the Big Ten’s sixth leading rusher in junior Jeremy Langford. Compiling 1,210 yards and 16 touchdowns, Langford has scored in five straight contests, and all but three of the Spartans games this season.
Langford complements sophomore quarterback Connor Sheets, who’s completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 2,119 yards and 17 touchdowns to four interceptions.
Some big names on the Michigan State defense include senior corner Darqueze Dennard and junior safety Kurtis Drummond, a pair that’s recorded four interceptions each this year. And senior linebacker Deniocs Allen and sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun have accounted for 12.5 of the Spartans 29 sacks this season, the third best total in the conference.
It will take all solid all-around effort from the Spartans star defensive corps to contain Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and the Big Ten’s leading rusher Carlos Hyde. The tandem’s combined for 2,181 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, and Miller’s hit 65.7 percent of his targets for 1,759 yards and 21 touchdowns during his Heisman Trophy campaign.
The Buckeyes defense will also have its share of stars on the field. Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier leads the conference with 122 total tackles and has six sacks to boot. While sophomore defensive lineman Noah Spence leads Ohio State with eight sacks, and is second to Shazier with 13.5 tackles for a loss of 80 yards.
Betting Odds: Ohio State favored by 6 points
Over/Under: 52 points
Time: 8:17 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Prediction: Ohio State 24, Michigan 13