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Michigan State poses stiff test in OSU’s Big Ten opener

Courtesy of MCT

Ohio State football will look to start the Big Ten portion of its schedule with a win on Saturday against Michigan State.

Junior defensive back Travis Howard said that the goal this year, and every year was to win the Big Ten. That starts with Michigan State.

“Any time you are Ohio State, the goal is to win the Big Ten,” Howard said. “Our minds are set right now, to win the Big Ten.”

MSU is 3-1 on the season with its lone loss in South Bend, Ind., against Chip Kelly’s Notre Dame squad.

MSU senior quarterback Kirk Cousins is arguably the most experienced quarterback in the Big Ten and, last season, led his team to a share of the Big Ten championship.

“I’ve watched a couple of their games,” said sophomore defensive back Christian Bryant. “They look to be a good group this year. They run the ball, they (have) that quarterback Kirk Cousins, he’s a pretty good quarterback.”

Cousins is already nearing 1,000 yards through the air this season with 947. Cousins has five touchdown passes and two interceptions on the year, as well.

Last season, Cousins completed nearly 67 percent of his passes and passed for 2825 yards. He had 20 touchdowns on the year and 10 interceptions.

Senior center Michael Brewster said there are two keys to beating the experienced MSU squad.

“We know, No. 1, we can’t have turnovers, that’s always going to be a big thing,” Brewster said. “We know, No. 2, we have to win the rushing battle.”

Brewster said that the offense cannot give the defense opportunities, because they will capitalize on any mistake.

True to pure Big Ten football form, MSU’s defense is one of the best in the nation in points allowed. In its first four games MSU is averaging 11.0 points allowed. The defense, led by middle linebacker Max Bullough, is ranked No. 8 in the nation in points allowed.

Bullough, a sophomore, is seeing a lot of playing time as the replacement for All-American Greg Jones. Bullough has started every game this season and is leading the team in tackles through the first four games with 24.

Bryant stressed the need to get off to a fast start against the Spartans.

“We’re going to have to go out there and make plays,” Bryant said. “We’ve got to start fast.”

Junior linebacker John Simon said the team is ready for the Big Ten portion of OSU’s schedule. He said MSU will take advantage of OSU mistakes on the field.

“I think we are ready for conference games,” Simon said. “There are a few things we have to correct, like the big plays at the end of the game. We know Michigan State will capitalize on those opportunities.”

Senior tight end Reid Fragel said the team is excited for MSU and the Big Ten. Fragel said he has a couple of good friends on MSU’s squad.

“I think everyone is extremely excited about the Big Ten,” Fragel said. “I’m looking forward to playing (MSU.)”

Mark Dantonio, head coach of MSU, is the former defensive coordinator at OSU. From 2001–2003 Dantonio coached under former head coach Jim Tressel, before departing for the head coaching job at Cincinnati in December of 2003.

In 2002, Dantonio and Tressel led the Buckeyes to win the National Championship. That 2002 squad was the last OSU team to win a national championship. In fact, that 2002 squad was the last Big Ten team to win the national championship.

Senior linebacker Tyler Moeller said the Big Ten is full of great teams this year, and that OSU has a difficult road to the Big Ten championship game.

“We have a tough schedule this year,” Moeller said. “Starting off with Michigan State, they are a great team… The Big Ten is very good this year.”

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