Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
The No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes travel to East Lansing, Mich., this weekend for its Big Ten Conference opener against No. 20 Michigan State. We check in with both coaches at the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference.
A shot at redemption
Last year’s 10-7 loss to the Spartans was historic in many ways for OSU. It marked the first time since 1999 that the Spartans beat the Buckeyes, and the first time an OSU team dropped its conference opener since 2004. It was also the first Big Ten start for quarterback Braxton Miller.
The then-freshman Miller struggled mightily in his conference debut, completing just five of 10 passes for 56 yards and an interception.
First-year OSU coach Urban Meyer said that his sophomore signal-caller has come a long way since then.
“It’s pretty dramatic,” said Meyer. “He’s a lot different now.”
Miller will have a shot at redemption against a staunch Spartan defense that has allowed 11.8 points per game this season, 11th best in the country.
Ready to ring the Bell?
Ohio State ranks last in the Big Ten conference in total defense, which Meyer said is “very alarming.”
They now face their toughest test yet this weekend, in MSU running back Le’Veon Bell.
The sophomore Bell ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game, highlighted by a 210-yard outburst in the team’s opener against then-No. 24 Boise State.
Meyer said that sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier is a big part of the defense’s game plan, with the task of plugging holes in the middle to contain Bell. When asked if the sophomore linebacker is up for the challenge, Meyer quipped, “he better be.”
“This will be a great test for him,” Meyer said. “I have a lot of confidence in him obviously.”
Dantonio Compares Quarterbacks
MSU coach Mark Dantonio called Miller a “dynamic player,” while praising the quarterback’s running abilities. But containing mobile quarterbacks is not a foreign challenge for the Spartans.
Miller has 441 rushing yards on 67 carries this season, leading all quarterbacks aside from Michigan’s Denard Robinson, who has rushed for the same amount of yards on one less carry.
Robinson has been one of college football’s most dangerous duel-threat quarterbacks the past two seasons, but consistently struggled against the Spartans. In the team’s two meetings with Robinson starting under center, MSU prevailed against their instate rival, while holding Robinson below his season average on the ground.
While comparing Miller and Robinson, Dantonio said, “there are certainly some similarities, but differences as well. Braxton has more tailback type features back there, he’s a spin runner on contact, but he runs the power at times. He can elude you as well.”
Dantonio was the defensive coordinator at OSU from 2001-2003. While at MSU, he has posted a 1-2 record against the Buckeyes, beating his former club for the first time last season.