EAST LANSING, Mich. — No. 4 Ohio State looks unbeatable, and as the Spartans arrive in Columbus on Saturday to take on Goliath – while playing the role of David – you almost have to accept that if you are rooting for No. 25 Michigan State, there isn’t a chance they could pull it off.
Unless they manage to shock 90,000 plus screaming Buckeye fans, who are ready to shred MSU’s players at the drop of a pin with their taunts and O-H-I-O chants.
“We’ve got a lot of players from Ohio on our football team, and they’ll come ready to play as well,” head coachMark Dantonio said on Tuesday.
Nothing is guaranteed in sports, and certainly not when it comes to these two teams.
“Just going in there, you know, creating a play … just trying to shut the crowd down,” Mike Panusiuk said earlier in the week. “That’s our goal … being the road warrior, our defense, we love that stuff.”
Ohio State has looked unbeatable before, and if they had given Ezekiel Elliott more than 12 touches in 2015, I may not be talking about these two in this light.
But that is why they play the game isn’t it?
“From my perspective, our deal, as a coach, is to make sure we’re motivated, make sure we have a great plan, and from a players’ perspective, they’ve got to be motivated as well,” Dantonio said. “We’ve got to just take it one step at a time as we go down there, but we’re looking forward to the challenge, national TV game, and it should be a very exciting atmosphere.”
That 2015 Buckeye team, probably the most talented I have watched come out of Columbus – growing up with two parents from Central Ohio, I watched a lot of them – contained 44 rostered members who since 2015 have been listed on an NFL roster.
That same team also contained Joe Burrow, who is now a Heisman candidate with LSU.
That is an insanely high number, and the quarterback issues between J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones causing much of the strife on such a talented team could be looked at why it never won a second national championship.
There is a big difference between the 2015 Buckeyes and their 2019 selves, and there is an even bigger difference between the same Spartan teams.
If the Spartans want to pull it off, it will take everything this team has, along with some luck and toughness.
It’ll be a game won in the trenches.
Potential No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, defensive end Chase Young, awaits the MSU offensive line.
With that offensive line unit being a weakness thus far, you have to question how well it can keep Lewerke upright when one of the best in the country is bearing down on him.
“Chase Young is the top guy on the defensive line, although they play about eight guys. Linebackers are very solid. Secondary, three starters back,” Dantonio said. “I believe they have eight starters back on the defensive side of the ball as well, playing extremely well.”
Young is the primary concern of that offensive line. And he probably strikes fear into the heart of an injury-riddled position group.
Now flip the script.
Justin Fields, the boy-wonder who transferred from Georgia, surprisingly given a waiver to play right away. Now, he is looking like one of the best players in the country.
Fields brings a blend of athleticism and talent, being dual-threat. Not even Dwayne Haskins could bring some of Fields’ tools to the table, he already has 16 passing touchdowns and seven rushing scores in 2019.
That is saying something.
“Each year is a whole new team, a whole new atmosphere,” starting safety David Dowell said. “We just focus on our guys, on doing our job.”
Especially on the road, that may be all they can do.
An offense that hasn’t scored a touchdown against the Buckeyes the past two years is now faced with the monumental task of scoring as many points as it can.
Saturday’s game not only determines if this team can put it all together, but it will determine the rest of the Spartans’ season.
“You’ve just got to be physical. I know those guys are going to do the same thing. They don’t turn the ball over, they control the game,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said on Tuesday, when addressing the media. “And if we come in and do anything other than what we’ve done in the past, we’re going to be in it up to our eyeballs”
Contact Joe Dandron at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JosephDandronMI.