Football Hayes & Cannon

Statistical Projection: Ohio State at Michigan State

Mike Weber Michigan State Football Ohio State Football Buckeyes

We did it, everyone! We beat Nebraska! <Anchorman jump dot gif>

I’m just going to convince myself that this is the mid-90s and that our local team pulled off a stunning 36-31 victory over the Cornhuskers! It sounds better than, “We did it! We beat a team that’s now 2-7 while continuing to make a lot of the same mistakes defensively that we’ve seen all season!”

Once again, it wasn’t pretty. Heck, it was a downright ugly game at times. In fact, it was apparently uglier to many than a 29-point loss at home to a rival. But, the Buckeyes came away with another victory, and that’s the name of the game.

Clad in their black unis, OSU did have some bright spots in their contest with Nebraska that should open some eyes and result in some more permanent changes. The run game, perhaps looking up Webster’s definition of “option” during the bye week, chose to go with more designed running back runs, often from a pistol formation.

Lo and behold, OSU’s talented running backs and big offensive line wore down the Husker front and ended up averaging almost eight yards per carry between Weber and Dobbins.

On the other side of the ball, injuries and ridiculous rule enforcements led to the Silver Bullets getting some fresh faces, namely Brendon White, onto the field. White, the local athlete, jumped into the safety role and only managed to tie for the team lead in tackles, matching Malik Harrison with a season-high 13 tackles. White was involved in seemingly every stop and must be heavily involved from this point on.

Here are a few areas that I did well in my week nine projections… and even more on which I was as close to nailing my prediction as Caleb Lightbourn was to nailing his surprise onside kick attempt.

The good stat projections:

  • I noted that Parris Campbell would get a receiving touchdown, and thanks to technicalities on a touch pass, I nailed it.
  • Tate Martell did not see any action. Many people thought that he was a shoe-in to get playing time, but I put all of my money on a stubborn Urban Meyer finding another way to run the ball.
  • Similarly, despite reports that Chris Olave would play, I kept him off of the stat sheet this week and he did not yet register a catch.
  • I predicted that Mike Weber would rush for 91 yards… and he hit the nail on the head.
    • Sure, he did it on half of the carries that I had assigned him, but still 91 is 91…
  • J.K. Dobbins got 22 yards receiving, just like I said that he would.
  • Malik Harrison led the team in tackles (tied with White), as projected.
  • I got TFLs for Harrison, Browning and Jones correct, including a Jones sack.
  • The defense put points on the board, just not from a scoop and score, but a blocked punt safety.
  • “It ain’t pretty, but it’s a win.” This was my closing line last week. Seems accurate.

The not as good stat projections:

  • I did not predict that Nebraska’s kicker would nearly swing and miss on what appeared to be a sneaky onside kick attempt in the first half.
  • Dwayne Haskins put up his lowest passing total on the year, well under what I had given him.
  • J.K. Dobbins was a rushing monster, thankfully blowing out of the water my stats for him.
  • For the most part, the deep ball was still nonexistent for the Bucks.
  • Pretty much anything else in the pass catching section.
    • Johnnie Dixon surprised me by being easily the most productive WR.
    • Luke Farrell had more receptions than K.J. Hill.
    • Demario McCall found his way into the receiving column.

    Despite getting a few TFLs correct, I overshot the Buckeye pass rush by four TFLs and two sacks.

November 10 – Ohio State at Michigan State

Game Summary

The Spartans of Michigan State are an odd team this year. Their rush defense is tops in the nation. Only two teams (Penn State and Michigan) have managed to rush for over 63 yards on them. Their pass defense is good, though it allows a fair amount of yards. On defense, they are a picture of consistency. They stuff the run, limit the pass, and give their offense a chance to win.

On the offensive side of the ball, they’re consistently mediocre. Sparty hasn’t scored more than 24 points since October. In that time, their pass completion percentage has also dipped from 65.8% in the first four games, to 50% in the last five. They are a dangerous 6-3 team for the Buckeyes, especially in East Lansing, but one that we still don’t have a firm grasp on.

Ohio State should be able to move the ball through the air on MSU, but a balanced attack would be an ideal way to crush the Spartan’s will. We all know that Dwayne Haskins can throw the ball, but reminding Michigan State of what the Buckeyes were able to do to them on the ground last year (335 yards rushing, 8 ypc, 4 TDs) would go a long way in opening up the entire field and giving OSU a tremendous advantage in the contest.

Quarterback Projections

Though we’d likely classify Haskins’ numbers this past week as an off game, I think posting similar numbers against a solid Spartan defense will be a success. Recent weeks have put the flow of the offense entirely on his shoulders, mostly the right one. The Buckeyes may finally get to use the passing attack in conjunction with the newly rediscovered run game, and not in spite of it.

The Michigan State secondary is fairly efficient, but still concedes more yardage than you’d expect from a Mark Dantonio defense. Scott and Layne, the Spartan cornerbacks, are both capable to lining up against and slowing down the OSU wide receivers. But, I think that the Buckeyes will use the middle of the field to their advantage in this one, picking on the linebackers and safeties with their experienced pass catching playmakers.

Haskins gets back up over 60% in his completion percantage and climbs just over the 300-yard mark in passing yards, putting him past Joe Germaine’s 3,330 and into the top spot in Buckeye history. In addition, he tosses another two touchdowns, inching him toward an inevitable school TD pass record against Maryland.

Running Back Projections

The big question mark in this game, and possibly THE deciding factor: can Ohio State run the ball against the Spartans?

Seems like a funny question, given the smacking that J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber delivered to them last year. Now, we get to find out if that rushing performance was based on the fact that they also had to prepare for Barrett to keep the ball, or if the Buckeyes perhaps found something in the MSU scheme that they can again use to move the ball on the ground.

My bet, is that we find an answer somewhere in the middle. Be prepared for a somewhat slow and conservative start on Saturday. The Buckeyes will feel out the Spartan D, attempting to run on them and keeping the offense vanilla for the first quarter. After that, I expect Day, Wilson and Urban to begin exploiting mismatches in coverage, and for that to bring the linebackers back, thus opening up the run game. Ohio State will be the third team to rush for over 100 yards on Michigan State, with Dobbins and Weber both earning double-digit carries, and the younger being the more successful.

Pass Catcher Projections

Johnnie Dixon, against Nebraska, threw a wrench into my little “K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell will top the receivers” trend. However, it was perfect timing for him to do so. A breakout game by a third receiving option just before the Buckeyes head to East Lansing to face a great defense is ideal.

The Buckeyes have now established that anyone lining up as a receiver is an immediate threat to take it for six. In order to spread the field and tire the MSU defense, that threat is a must. And, OSU must exploit it. They will use crossing routes, quick outs, and screens to never let the MSU secondary get comfortable.

Look for K.J. Hill to break free on one such crossing route, finding a gap in the coverage on a long catch and run into the endzone. Similarly, I think Terry McLaurin will get back into the scoring mix, finding himself the owner of a touchdown reception on a red zone slant from Haskins.

Defense/Kicking Projections

Lots of ifs in this week’s version of the defensive projections, but, hey, what’s new?

Brendon White was a very positive wrinkle in the Nebraska game plan, proving himself more than capable in both pass coverage and coming up in run support. I’ve made an assumption that he’ll get significant playing time in this one as well, marking him as the Buckeyes’ second leading tackler behind Malik Harrison on Saturday. I’m not sure exactly how the OSU coaches will choose to utilize White, but I’m basing my stats off of he and Fuller both being on the field for a majority of the game, with Shaun Wade seeing time at Nickel and rotating in at safety on occasion.

With MSU’s playcalling, it’s tough to tell exactly what we’ll see from them. I believe that the weather and recent issues in the passing game will have them running the ball a lot. This will boost tackling numbers for players like Pete Werner and Tuf Borland. However, if their run game stalls, and I believe it will, Lewerke will open it up and try to capitalize on a young Buckeye secondary.

Tuf, and not just because his last name is perfect (first isn’t bad either), forces a fumble. And, the local hero from last week, Brendon White, snags an INT.

Haskins throws two touchdowns. The Buckeye backs each get into the endzone once. Blake Haubeil punches in a short FG after a red zone stop by MSU.

Michigan State hasn’t won when held to less than 21 points. Ohio State hasn’t lost when scoring 27 or more. That’s exactly where I have this game landing.

In the end, Ohio State does enough to shut down Michigan State’s offensive attack which eventually wears them down on defense too.

Final Score Prediction

Ohio State 31 – Michigan State 20

4 Responses

  1. Interesting. I will preach my same sermon; the question is can OSU cash in on limited red zone trips? Our pass will need to open the run, MSU will focus on the run first and will succeed! MSU’s power run game does scare me some as well. Bet that MSU will be sure to get our LB’s to trip over their own feet with some of their schemes. Believe that MSU will stuff the box and play tight man on deep passes. Can OSU exploit that with slants and bubble screens and allow our speedy WR’s to win the day? Can OSU cross up MSU with Tate Martell? Maybe that’s why we didn’t see him against NE. Not so sure of a final score yet. Not really sure how we score 31 on them on the road as we only dumped 20 on Purdue and 36 on NE at home.

  2. Right! And then reality set in. Sparty 26 OSU 23. look at the bright side – we beat Michigan and win a bowl game (hopefully in Florida) and don’t get pasted by Clemson or Alabama 50-0.

  3. One thing to now about MSU’s pass defense: Freshman AA CB from last year Josiah Scott had been out all year until their last game against Maryland. He’s back so he will start and be a tough test at CB.

    I also think predicting 5 yards per rush against the best rush D in the country at MSU, after one good game against an awful rush D, is incredibly optimistic and fairly unrealistic. That number was inflated at the end of the game when OSU wore down Nebraska’s D, which I’m skeptical can be done against MSU’s stout front 7.

    1. Agree 100% on the potentially unrealistic optimism, Jay. (And thanks for the assist on the CB situation)

      I think my optimism stems from watching last year’s absolute dismantling of the MSU rush defense live in The Shoe. I don’t expect nearly that type of success, but will be interested to see what success OSU is able to find in the run game.

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