Spartan Red Zone: X-Factors for Ohio State

Michigan State won their first Big Ten game on Saturday against Rutgers, 49-0. MSU snapped a seven game losing streak, which is by far the longest streak in coach Dantonio’s tenure. Now the Spartans will host No. 2 Ohio State this Saturday. The last time these two teams played in Spartan Stadium, MSU fans watched the Buckeyes put up 49 points to win a high scoring affair.

In the matchup this weekend, the Spartans will have to stop a strong, fast offense attack from the Buckeyes. The key for a victory from the Spartans will be to stop the running attack from both JT Barrett and Mike Weber, who have eight and seven rushing touchdowns on the season, respectively.

The Spartan defense will have their hands full with those two. Barrett has been successful this season because he has not turned the ball over. So far, he has a TD-INT ratio of 23-4. Barrett is an experienced quarterback that knows to not to force the ball to his receivers and instead throw it away.

As for the Spartan defense, there are question marks all over the place. Injuries and inconsistent play has led to poor defensive play this season. The Spartans have yet to play the same starting line-up on defense in any game in 2016, which affects their chemistry from one player to another.

One other factor for the defense playing so poorly has been the inexperience of the true freshmen. Because of injuries, players such as Joe Bachie, Josh King and Justin Layne have all had playing time so far this season. It’s good for these players to get repetitions, as they can grow and learn from these games, but they still are making freshman mistakes that are inevitable.

The defensive line will play a very important role in stopping the offense for the Buckeyes. OSU likes to run the ball, and they’re very good at it. So in order for MSU to stop it, it starts with the D-line.

The line will feature four underclassmen in King, Mike Panasuik, Raequan Williams and Robert Bowers. There isn’t a lot of experience there, but those guys are playing for their spots next year. Look for them to come out with heart and play like it means something.

There is one guy missing from that list of names, and that is Malik McDowell. The junior isn’t on the depth chart and his status remains unclear for Saturday. This is a huge loss for MSU, but it could be a good thing in that he will be able to get healthy and give other guys chances to play and learn.

MSU will have their hands full on defense because of how great that OSU offense, and they will have to stop the run if they want a shot at winning the game. Also, if the defense can force a few turnovers and change momentum, it will be a huge confidence boost. The matchup of OSU’s running game against a young D-line makes for an interesting battle on Saturday.