2013 Big Ten Championship Game Odds and Predictions – Michigan State vs Ohio State Free College Football Picks: When the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) meet the 10th-ranked Michigan State Spartans (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten) in the Big Ten title game Saturday night, there is a lot more at stake than a conference title. Both sides are likely headed to a BCS bowl regardless of the outcome, but with a win, the Buckeyes are almost certainly going to be playing in the BCS title game. The Spartans on the other hand are probably heading to the Rose Bowl either way, but upsetting Ohio State in the process would make the trip to Pasadena all the sweeter. Last year, the Buckeyes won a hard-hitting 17-16 game against Michigan State, and this time around, Ohio State is a six-point favorite in a battle between teams that have yet to lose in Big Ten play.
For the Spartans, an excellent defense has been more than enough to support a somewhat inconsistent offense. Michigan State is allowing the fourth-fewest points per game this season, surrendering just 11.8 points per game. The unit is also allowing the fewest rushing yards in the nation. Offensively, running back Jeremy Langford has been the Spartans’ main weapon, and entering Saturday’s game, he has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 16 scores. Meanwhile, quarterback Connor Cook has been solid since taking over as the starter, throwing 17 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions. However, Michigan State ranks 95th in the country in passing yards and 64th in points per game.
Ohio State rolls into Saturday’s conference title game with the second-best rushing offense and third-best scoring offense in the country. With dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller providing big plays with his arm and his legs and running back Carlos Hyde punishing opponents between the tackles, the Buckeyes are averaging 321.3 rushing yards per game and 48.2 points per game. Meanwhile, the defense ranks in the top 20 nationally in fewest points allowed and actually leads the country in sacks. On the flip side, the unit was just shredded for 41 points by a mediocre Michigan offense last weekend.
The Spartans Win If:
If the Spartans are going to pull off the upset, they have to be able to slow down Ohio State’s rushing attack. Winning on early downs will go a long way to achieving this goal, and Michigan State needs to force Miller into becoming a pocket passer as much as possible. Offensively, Langford has to have a strong showing in order to help the Spartans control the clock a bit and limit the possessions the Ohio State offense has to work with. For his part, Cook needs to be able to connect on a few big plays against a shaky Ohio State secondary while limiting his mistakes. At the end of the day, Michigan State needs to turn this game into a slow-paced, hard-hitting, low-scoring affair.
The Buckeyes Win If:
For the Buckeyes to remain undefeated, they need to establish their ground attack and get their offense rolling early. For one, the combination of Hyde’s power and Miller’s speed only becomes more effective when Ohio State is able to run a lot of plays and wear down opponents. More importantly, a few early scores for the Buckeyes will put a ton of pressure on a suspect Michigan State offense. Defensively, the Buckeyes have to take away Langford and force the Spartans’ fist-year starting QB to try to beat them. If Ohio State is able to move the ball consistently up and down the field and turn this game into a high-scoring shootout, the Spartans are going to have a very tough time keeping pace.
As powerful as the Ohio State offense has been, the Buckeyes’ passing attack has been modest at best against decent competition. Urban Meyer’s team has made a living off of being able to run the ball down the throats of opponents, but Michigan State’s top-rated run will make that strategy a little more difficult. Of course, the Spartans’ offense could also have some issues moving the ball, but Ohio State’s secondary has been consistently giving up at least a couple of big plays a game. Perhaps more importantly, the Buckeyes as a team have had a knack for taking their foot off the gas at times and letting teams back in games. Just last weekend, Ohio State went from leading the Wolverines 35-21 to surviving 42-41 in a matter of minutes. Much like last season, look for the Spartans’ defense to turn Miller into mainly a passer, and look for this game to become a hard-hitting defensive battle. Win or lose, Michigan State will grind things out on both sides of the ball and make this a tight one.
Prediction: Michigan State Spartans (+6) Cover the Spread
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