Spartans Face Buckeyes in Big Ten East Battle

The biggest Big Ten game of the year will be in played in East Lansing this Saturday.

September 6, 2014: The Death Of the Big Ten

Two months ago, the Big Ten’s two top dogs, Michigan State and Ohio State, both suffered losses in only their second game of the 2014 season. That was believed to be the death of the Big Ten.

Michigan State fell to a top 10 opponent in Oregon, while Ohio State was upset by an average Virginia Tech team in Columbus. There, all hopes of a Big Ten team having a chance of getting selected to the College Football Playoff seemed to slipping away.  But with the slew of unpredicted upsets across the nation, and the inevitable cannibalization of the SEC, Michigan State is a likely candidate to represent the Big Ten in the first ever College Football Playoff.

November 8, 2014: The Big Ten Resurrected

ESPN’s College Gameday will set up shop early in the morning and the game will kick off at 8 p.m. in primetime.  Members of the playoff selection committee are certain to be in attendance for the much-anticipated rematch of last year’s Big Ten Championship game.

Due to the realigning of the conference, the Spartans will not be playing against OSU in the Big Ten Championship anymore, but the Buckeyes will now emerge as Michigan State’s divisional rival.

With both Michigan State and Ohio State at a perfect 4-0 in Big Ten play, the outcome of their matchup will likely all but seal the deal for a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game.

Two and a half months ago, news broke in Columbus, Ohio about star quarterback and Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller’s injury.  With Miller being out for the season, all sorts of speculation came from fans and analysts alike.

Everything from “Michigan State is essentially the automatic Big Ten winner, because without Miller, Ohio State won’t be good,” to “Michigan State now has no chance at making the playoff because they needed to beat OSU with Miller for credibility,” has been said in regards to this matchup. Soon all the talk will be over, and the game will be played.

At first, Ohio State did seem to struggle without Braxton Miller. True freshman J.T. Barrett has started every game this season for Ohio State. After grinding through a win at Navy in his first game, Barrett threw three interceptions and Ohio State was upset in their home opener against Virginia Tech.

Barrett has bounced back since then, and Ohio State have won six straight games. On the season, Barrett has a 65 percent completion percentage, seven interceptions with 23 passing touchdowns and six rushing touchdowns.

For MSU, Connor Cook is proving to be the much more reliable, mature quarterback. He is certainly not a true freshman, and has recently been named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award. Cook has thrown for 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

Saturday will be a game where Michigan State and Ohio State look to find an identity. The Spartans, who have only won once this year against a ranked opponent, will face a talented Ohio State team, by far the most difficult game remaining on their schedule. Ohio State has not yet faced a ranked team.

Staff Predictions:

Bradley Allen:

After a convincing win against Michigan and a bye week to recuperate, this is the week I expect MSU to play to win rather than not to lose. I do not think OSU’s offense is mature enough to put up big points at Spartan Stadium against Michigan State. Even if MSU plays “not to lose” they still sneak away with a narrow win – but I have MSU 31, OSU 13

Dan Tyler:

The Buckeyes have scored over 50 points in five of their last six games, but the stats are deceiving for their offense and young quarterback J.T. Barrett. Penn State was the best defense they faced all year and they struggled, especially in protecting their quarterback.  Michigan State’s defense is far superior and will put pressure on Barrett like he’s never been pressured before. Connor Cook and the Spartan offense continue their balanced attack and methodically put the Buckeyes away by a score of MSU 27, OSU 17

Anthony Serafino:

Let’s be honest here, MSU will be prepared to dabble with a dominant OSU program. They’ll be ready, fired up. With everything to play for it is hard to pick against MSU in this one. Spartan Stadium will be rocking and that is an atmosphere no team wants to play in. A key to victory for MSU is giving Jeremy Langford the rock, anything short of 25 carries will be a mistake. Ground and pound, MSU carries away late. MSU 35, OSU 20.

Michael Higer:

The Big Ten Championship Game last November seems like a distant memory, with both Ohio State and Michigan State sporting teams with new leaders and new identities. Once again, the biggest game of the Big Ten season will come down to the Spartans and Buckeyes, with the winner keeping their College Football Playoff hopes alive. Michigan State has lost their last four matchups against the Buckeyes at Spartan Stadium, but not a single one of those matchups came with a Spartan team of this caliber. The matchup to watch will be J.T. Barrett against the Michigan State secondary. Ohio State will give the Spartans a scare, but eventually MSU will squeak out a closer win than people think. MSU 34, OSU 31.

Bradley Allen is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports