“At some point in an individual battle, the other guy says, ‘I don’t want to go anymore, I’ve had enough.’ The same thing with a team. At some point that team says, ‘No, wait a minute. That’s too much for us to handle.’ That’s called tapping out. We will never see this here. That’s a culture. That’s a mindset.” — Urban Meyer, 2012
Heading into his seventh season as Ohio State’s head coach, Urban Meyer has successfully implemented the desired culture and mindset in every aspect of the Ohio State football program.
Competition throughout every position group reigns supreme, and the bluest of blue-chip recruits are always on the way in the form of reinforcements.
Throughout the spring and summer, I want to review the upcoming 2018 Ohio State football opponents, using the theme of competition as the baseline. While Ohio State has had more challenging schedules in the past, there are several games on the schedule that could potentially trip the Buckeyes up and end their goal of repeating as B1G champions.
These articles will examine the 2018 opponents, from least concerning to most concerning, based on various factors that I will list in the respective articles.
As always, I encourage interaction, either through the comments section below, or directly @ChipMinnich. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I look forward to writing them.
4. at Michigan State (10-3 in 2017)
Heading into 2017, it was difficult to gauge the direction the Michigan State Spartans were heading. Coming off a 3-9 season, with off-the-field issues roiling the program, it would have been understandable if the Spartans went back to a ho-hum, 7-5ish type of season that defined the program for years before Mark Dantonio became the head coach in 2007.
But Dantonio had other ideas. Getting back to a no-nonsense approach that had served the Spartans well up until 2016, Michigan State began the season 6-1, losing their first conference game at Northwestern 39-31 in the third overtime period. Michigan State would finish the season on a 4-1 run, with its only loss at Ohio State. We’ll get to that here in a minute — just be patient.
Michigan State returns an abundance of talented, experienced players on both sides of the ball. Of the ten returning starters on offense, quarterback Brian Lewerke may enter the 2018 season as the B1G’s most underrated quarterback, despite throwing for 2,793 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions in 417 pass attempts.
On defense, Michigan State has nine returning starters, led by middle linebacker Joe Bachie, outside linebacker Andrew Dowell, and free safety David Dowell. All three of those players are from Ohio, and none were offered by Ohio State. We’ll get to that in a minute — just be patient.
The 2018 Michigan State schedule has a possibly challenging trip to Arizona State in week two, but the Spartans’ true tests come in back-to-back weeks in October, when they go to Penn State on October 13th, and return home for their battle against Michigan on October 20th. Both of those teams were defeated by Michigan State in 2017, and the outcomes of each of those games will figure heavily into The B1G East Division race.
Why am I ranking the game at Michigan State as a game of high concern?
History, plain and simple. Yes, I know Ohio State handled Michigan State easily in 2017, blasting the Spartans 48-3. Perhaps I am being overly concerned, but every coach throughout college football history has had an opposing coach who seems to give them fits. Woody had Bo. Tressel had Alvarez. It is my belief that within The B1G, Urban has Dantonio.
Until last season, the visiting team was always the winner. Until last season, the winning margin was usually within a touchdown, with Ohio State squeaking out a couple of wins by one point on two separate occasions (2012, 2016, both in East Lansing).
Part of my concern lies within the number of Ohioans who are on the Michigan State roster, and this goes back to the aforementioned Joe Bachie and Dowell twins.
Mark Dantonio has been quite successful identifying Ohio players who did not have scholarship offers from Ohio State and developing them into quality players. Blistering these players’ pride, Ohio players have often been the difference in the wins over Ohio State during Urban Meyer’s tenure (Connor Cook in 2013, Michael Geiger in 2015). LJ Scott had an Ohio State offer, but chose to go to Michigan State instead. Scott has traditionally had good games against the Buckeyes, with the 2017 loss the notable exception (8 carries for 30 yards).
As of this writing, no kickoff time has been established. Even with the game on November 10th, it will not surprise me if the networks try to push this to be a night game, especially if this looks like it could be a de facto B1G East Division elimination game.
No matter what time the game is played, count me in as being tremendously concerned about this game’s impact on the 2018 Ohio State season.