Big Ten Conference Championship
(10) Michigan State vs. (2) Ohio State
Dec. 7, 8 p.m. Lucas Oil Stadium
HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE:
Michigan State: If the 8-0 Spartans want to hold something over their opponents' heads, they can say that none of their conference wins had a margin of victory of less than two possessions. Ohio State had two. The recipe has simply been dominant defense with an offense that's methodical and gets the job done. That's not a slight; Connor Cook has thrown 17 touchdowns and four interceptions and Jeremy Langford has run for over 1,200 yards. It's just that defense has been Michigan State's calling card.
Ohio State: Bradley Roby and Ryan Shazier were preseason All-Americans on Ohio State's defense, but it's been the offense that's been the strength of the team as Ohio State has also gone 8-0. Specifically the rushing offense. The Buckeyes are second in the country with 321 rushing yards per game, and Carlos Hyde will eclipse the 1,300 yard mark Saturday night. Braxton Miller is at 891, and with a good game could crack 1,000.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State: We just mentioned Cook's 17-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and he's completing passes at a 58 percent clip. Michigan's Devin Gardner showed that Ohio State's pass defense can be broken open last week, and if Cook can hit some big plays on play-action, Michigan State's got more than a puncher's chance.
Philly Brown, WR, Ohio State: Brown's stats are basically identical to his junior season save for one key category: Touchdowns. He has nine this year after scoring three last year. But after no fewer than three catches in any of Ohio State's first six conference games, he's had just one in each of the Buckeyes last two games as he's been dealing with what Urban Meyer termed was a small stress fracture in his leg. He's supposed to be close to "100 percent." Will Brown be more than just a spare part Saturday night?
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: This game has a better chance of BCS implications than the ACC or Pac-12 title games does. Michigan State's only loss this season came to Notre Dame; the Spartans are a very undervalued 11-1. Ohio State feels that it's a very undervalued 12-0 (or 24-0 if you're advocating for the Buckeyes.) And it's strength versus strength. Michigan State has the best rush defense in the country. Will the read-option looks of Ohio State give them fits?
WHAT'S ON THE LINE: A BCS Championship appearance for Ohio State. For Michigan State, it's likely heading to the Rose Bowl with a win and with a loss. If Ohio State loses, the Buckeyes are suddenly staring at either the Sugar or Orange Bowls. Not a horrible consolation prize, and wouldn't you like to see Ohio State play Alabama?
PREDICTION: 23-21 Ohio State. These teams are very evenly matched, more so than the rankings indicate. And the game will be played that way. Ohio State kicks a late field goal for the lead and prevents Michigan State from getting in position for the winning score.
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