For the majority of the Ohio State offensive line, facing the Michigan State Spartans will be a whole new experience.
Three of the Buckeyes’ five starting offensive lineman were not starters against the Spartans last season, and none were starters two years ago, the last time OSU played in East Lansing, Mich.
Despite the inexperience, junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker said he is looking forward to Saturday.
“I think it will be a really good test of where we are because I definitely think we have improved throughout the season but the few tests we have had, we haven’t played well as a unit,” Decker said Monday, referencing the Virginia Tech and Penn State games. “While I do think we have improved a lot, and we have grown a lot as a unit and as individual players, I think this game will be very telling of where we are at as an offensive line.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer said he believes the key to a successful program is the ability of a team’s line play, something he believes both the Buckeyes and Spartans have.
“I think the programs are somewhat similar,” Meyer said Wednesday. “Not just our two programs, but any really good team, if you watch them play, they are driven by very good line of scrimmage players.”
OSU senior tight end Jeff Heuerman agreed with his coach, adding that Michigan State is very talented up front.
“They have a good front, four (or) five guys and they blitz a lot. They are very sound on defense,” he said Wednesday.
One of those players for the Spartans is redshirt-junior defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun, who was named a Chuck Bednarik and Lombardi award semifinalist this week.
Calhoun is tied for fourth in the Big Ten in sacks with six and is tied for 13th in the conference in tackles for loss with 8.5.
Against the Buckeyes last season, Calhoun accumulated just four total tackles, including half a sack.
Decker said he is relishing the idea of going up against Calhoun for the second straight season.
“I’ve been looking forward to playing against him all year. I know for me personally, its going to be a good challenge and a good gauge of where I am as a player,” Decker said. “I remember playing against him last year and … I’m sure he has only gotten better.”
Meyer echoed Decker’s comments but added he has confidence in his linemen, both offensively and defensively.
“They are very good on defense, (but) I like to think our defensive front is very good against their offensive line,” Meyer said. “These kind of games, which I have been a part of games like this for a long time, it’s a line of scrimmage game.”
A member of the Buckeye defensive front, sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa, was also named a semifinalist alongside Calhoun for the Bednarik and Lombardi awards.
Bosa has dominated the Big Ten this season, leading the conference in sacks with 10 and tackles for loss with 14.5.
Bosa started the 2013 Big Ten championship game against the Spartans last season and recorded OSU’s lone sack and led the team in tackles for loss with two.
MSU redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman Jack Conklin said in a Tuesday press conference that he is excited to not only take on Bosa, but the Buckeye defensive line as a whole.
“Obviously he’s a great player, see him this season and last season, he bounces around a lot so the whole line is going to have to be ready to play against him. Obviously I’m excited to play such a great player,” Conklin said. “I mean, you come to Michigan State to play the best teams, and obviously I’m excited to play against Bosa and the whole offensive line is excited to play one of the best D-lines in the nation.”
The battle in the trenches is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. from East Lansing, Mich.