Throughout the season during game week, we will be taking a look at what Michigan's opponent that Saturday has done so far and what the team looks like. With the game against Ohio State being a week thirteen opponent, we automatically go to the Buckeyes' loss to Michigan State last weekend and their outspoken running back.
Ohio State Overview: What The Hell Happened?
Zach: Before we get into this sought after rivalry, I want to focus on Ezekiel Elliott, the Ohio State running back who was in the news more for his postgame comments than his performance on the field last weekend against Michigan State. Does his remarks concerning the Buckeye’s offensive game plan and him going on Twitter to announce his decision to leave early for the NFL merit a one game suspension? Or does he deserve to play in the regular season finale at the Big House?
Ricky: If I was Meyer, Elliott wouldn’t see the field Saturday. No way, no how. While I appreciate his honestly being in the media, I think his comments were totally unwarranted. You’re upset because you didn’t get enough carries? Do something on the field to change it. Earn those carries. I know where Meyer is coming from with letting Elliott play because obviously he has to win this game, and he probably wouldn’t be able to with Mike Weber or another player slotted at running back. Elliott wasn’t the only one to sound off. A few other Buckeyes did so on Twitter. Zach, is that a cause for concern heading into The Game? Are they imploding?
Zach: You would like to think that it doesn’t lead to an unfortunate implosion, because it’s just another factor that helps knock the train (Ohio State) off its tracks. It’s rather funny to think how the build up and implications for this game have drastically changed from earlier this past week to today, and part of that includes the fall from grace by Ohio State. From probable College Football Playoff finalists to Citrus Bowl candidates. Fans want to see a competitive game, but imploding what result in the second coming of the "Ten Year War" starting off on the wrong foot. With that being said, if Elliott continues his slump, who should Michigan’s defense focus on containing?
Ricky: I think the obvious answer would be to key in on whomever is at quarterback, likely JT Barrett. But he hasn’t been the same quarterback we saw last year before he broke his ankle in The Game. Through nine games, he’s averaging 74.2 passing yards per game and 49.67 rushing yards per game. Those numbers are nothing like last year’s: 236.2 passing yards per game, 78.17 rushing yards per game.Maybe it’s the quarterback circus Meyer has been the ringleader of since Jones announced his return. Maybe it’s the absence of Tom Herman. With the weight this game still carries, do we see Jones if Barrett struggles, or has that ship sailed?
Zach: Nah...for the reason being that Barrett’s struggles against the Spartans can be blamed on Ohio State’s putrid play calling. In Jones’ case, when he was the team’s starting quarterback, his struggles were because of him, not because of offensive coordinator Ed Warriner’s decision making. There’s no chance that Jones sees action on the field in Ann Arbor this weekend. And unlike Elliott, the quarterback’s cryptic tweeting may have cost him playing time as the season comes to a close. But this is a Michigan blog and we have yet to talk about Jake Rudock. How will he do against Ohio State’s pass defense?
Ricky: Ohio State, by the numbers, has the fifth-best pass defense in FBS. It has allowed 164.3 yards per game, and opposing quarterbacks are completing 49.1 percent of their passes. But, consider where those statistics come from: Hawaii passed for 85 yards, Northern Illinois for 80, Maryland for 133, Penn State for 120 and Michigan State for 91. Do any of those teams, besides the Nittany Lions, have a good quarterback? No. Ohio State faced Michigan State’s backups, for crying out loud. If Mitch Leidner can pass for 281 yards and Wes Lunt for 241 yards against the Buckeyes, then Rudock can, too. I think Rudock will have to carry Michigan’s offense in The Game, and 350 passing yards shouldn’t be an unreasonable number to shoot for.
Recap: Michigan State 17, Ohio State 14
The game before The Game sure was ugly. Michigan State entered its game against Ohio State as a 13-point underdog with Connor Cook. But the fifth-year senior quarterback wasn’t able to play against the Buckeyes, making an upset seem near impossible.
Mark Dantonio used a two quarterback system and let his running attack do what Ohio State’s usually does as Michigan State pulled off a stunning 17-14 win. The Spartans totaled 203 rushing yards to the Buckeyes’ 86.
Ezekiel Elliott was virtually a non-factor, rushing for 33 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. JT Barrett tossed 16 passes for 46 yards and rushed for 44 yards on 15 carries in a letdown performance.
Tyler O’Connor played well in Cook’s place, completing 7-of-12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Gerald Holmes and LJ Scott were a two-headed monster in Michigan State’s backfield. Holmes rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries; Scott totaled 58 yards on 13 carries.
Michael Geiger drilled a 41-yard field goal for the win as time expired.
Elliott made headlines following the loss when he expressed his disappointment about the play calling, in which he only received 12 carries for 33 yards (2.8 avg.). He’s already stated that this will be last season at Ohio State, so we’ll see if he caves in or full throttles the offense to the Buckeyes’ advantage.