The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan State University Spartans have been at opposite ends of the spectrum this season. While the Buckeyes have had great success this season, earning a 9-1 record, coach Mark Dantonio’s team just got its third win this past Saturday. The records in games like these rarely matter, and OSU knows it.
For players like redshirt senior center Pat Elflein, this Saturday will mark the final time they square off against Michigan State. Although Elflein redshirted his first season with the Scarlet and Gray in 2012, he has been around since that year to face the Spartans four times. In those four, OSU has went 2-2.
Although he’s had more than 30 games under his belt in his collegiate career, he knows Michigan State in East Lansing is a whole different demon.
“This will be my fourth time starting against these guys,” Elflein said. “And it doesn’t matter what the record is. These guys, they’re going to play hard, they’re going to have something dialed up for us because they always have a chip on their shoulder when the Buckeyes are in town.”
Although The Game, the yearly showdown between OSU and Michigan, might be the biggest game of the year for the Scarlet and Gray, Michigan State is not far behind. The sting of losing in Ohio Stadium last year on a game-winning field goal has still not subsided for most on the roster, and Saturday could be a chance for redemption with the Spartans in a relatively down season.
At 3-7, Michigan State is well below the level fans usually expect from the team. However, OSU co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano knows this contest will not be easy for his unit and the entire team.
“Offensively, I see a team that has really quality skill players,” Schiano said. “They’ve been beat up a little on the offensive line, but they’re (a) dangerous offensive football team. Even with all the injuries they’ve had, they’re in the middle of the pack in every offensive category.”
Redshirt junior Billy Price, who has never been afraid to voice his opinions to the media, said on Monday that Michigan State’s record might not necessarily reflect how the team will play against OSU.
“That’s why college athletics is such a dynamic, awesome thing,” Price said “Any team can play and get beat. They might not be winning, they might not be dominating like they used to, but they’re always going to play us tough.”
On the defensive side of the ball, there is one senior who gets most of his time on special teams, but has appeared on defense a few times this year. Senior linebacker Craig Fada, a former walk-on with the team that earned a scholarship, has been with the team for four years now. Although not listed as a starter with the Silver Bullets, his contributions cannot be over exaggerated.
With Fada’s final time against the Spartans right around the corner, he said the chance to earn one last win against Michigan State makes this time all the more special.
“Oh, it does for sure,” he said. “They have given us problems in the past, and we’ll just try to everything we can to not repeat that.”
When asked about Michigan week, Fada was quick to deflect the question, saying all eyes are on this coming week. Regardless, a somber expression could not be hidden, as his collegiate career comes to a close.
With just two weeks left in the regular season, OSU coach Urban Meyer knows how important this week is to his team and to the players who get their final shot. But, as usual, Meyer is looking to this Saturday, and this Saturday only. For him, there is no looking past Dantonio and Michigan State
“Extremely dangerous,” he said. “I know their personnel. We recruited a lot of those guys. I think they’re as well coached as any team in the country.”
OSU will be looking to keep its momentum going against Michigan State this Saturday at noon in Spartan Stadium.