Wednesday, December 4, 2013

FORGET BCS TITLE SPOT, SPARTANS ARE ALL THAT'S ON BUCKEYES' MIND

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INDIANAPOLIS — While most across the country are debating whether an unbeaten Ohio State squad should get an invitation to the BCS Championship over a one-loss team from the Southeastern Conference, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer certainly isn't one of them.

Why? Because Meyer — who has won two national titles in his career — understands that his team still has some important business to take care of before partaking in those conversations, as the second-ranked Buckeyes (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) square off with No. 10 Michigan State (11-1, 8-0) Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship game (8:17 p.m., FOX).

"We play a game (Saturday against Michigan State)," Meyer pointed out to the media, during his weekly luncheon in Columbus. "For someone to ask about something after this game, I mean, that's cheating my football team, and there will be no conversation about what happens after this game until after the game.

"We've got to go watch Michigan State's defense."

A Michigan State defense which ranks as the best in the nation, surrendering only 237.7 yards per game this season, including just 64.8 on the ground — also tops in the country. They have allowed just 11.8 points per contest, as well.

Meyer said the Spartans' defense is fundamentally sound, suffocating opposing offenses with might and supreme consistency.

"As fine a defense as there is in America," Meyer said of Michigan State. "Very good players, excellent scheme, well coached ... You know, it's not real overcomplicated. That's where I think they do an excellent job. They make everything look alike, and they are very well coached as far as gap control and you don't see many big plays against them. Very minimal amount of explosive plays against them.

"It's not so much the scheme. It's the toughness and the fundamentals that the kids play in that scheme."

Saturday night's showdown will be a battle of strengths, as the Buckeyes come into the game ranked sixth in the nation in total offense (530.5) and third overall in points scored (48.2). They also possess the second-ranked rushing attack in the FBS, compiling 321.3 per game.

Something's got to give.

If the Buckeyes are to show their offense is the mightier of the mighty, junior quarterback Braxton Miller must be the catalyst.

Miller, who missed three full games this season with a knee injury, has been stellar in his return, racking up 2,360 total yards and 27 touchdowns in the past eight games. 

Miller began the season as a Heisman Trophy frontrunner, and Meyer believes he has a chance on Saturday night to catapult his name back into the discussion.

"I think he's got to prove it and this is a great opportunity for him," Meyer said of Miller. "I know he missed some games, seems like six years ago they hurt his knee, but I think he's Heisman worthy. 

"I've been around a Heisman Trophy quarterback (Tim Tebow) and certainly Braxton is in that conversation."

Bottom Line

At this juncture of the season, it's all about rhythm and hot play, and no duo in the nation is better right now than the Buckeyes' signal caller and his backfield mate, tailback Carlos Hyde.

The two have combined for more than 4,000 total yards and 45 touchdowns this season, including 1,070 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground in the past three games.

As I had written previously, "something's got to give."

I believe Miller and Hyde will give it to them.

Lee's Prediction: OSU 34-20