COLUMBUS – Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer remembers the last time Ohio State and Michigan State played, a 17-16 OSU win last season, as a turning point for the Buckeyes on the way to the first of two consecutive 12-0 seasons.
Judging by what Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Sunday on a teleconference as he talked about Saturday’s Big Ten championship game between the Spartans and Buckeyes, he remembers last season’s game as one that got away.
“I’d say missed opportunities,” he said, when asked what was most memorable about the 2012 game.
“We hit a trick play down to the 5-yard line but were misaligned, which resulted in a penalty. We came back the next play and hit a deep cross and dropped the ball. We got a fumble where we scooped it and scored but they blew the whistle or something and it didn’t count. We had the lead briefly in the fourth quarter, or third, quarter and they hit a deep one to Devin Smith.”
Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) will take on Michigan State (11-1, 8-0 Big Ten) at 8:17 p.m. this Saturday in Indianapolis in the Big Ten championship game.
A win could send Ohio State to the national championship or, at the least, to the Rose Bowl, and extend its winning streak to 25 games. If Michigan State wins, it will go to the Rose Bowl. And if OSU does get the national championship invitation, MSU could also end up in the Rose Bowl.
Dantonio dismissed that speculation, saying, “I’m not thinking about losing.”
So there is enough incentive for both teams without turning the clock back to 2012.
On paper, the game looks like a classic offense against defense battle. Ohio State ranks third in the country in scoring (48.2 points a game) and is No. 2 nationally in rushing yards per game (321.3). Michigan State is No. 1 nationally in total defense (237.7 yards a game) and rushing defense (64.8) and is No. 4 in scoring defense (11.8)
“They’re as good a defense as there is in America,” Meyer said on the teleconference.
OSU tailback Carlos Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller have each rushed for more than 100 yards in Ohio State’s last three games. Last year, Miller rushed for 136 yards against Michigan State and Hyde had 49 yards on 11 carries in his first game back from a knee injury.
Ohio State’s pass defense was “exposed again,” in Meyer’s words when it allowed 451 yards of the 603 yards total offense Michigan had in a 42-41 OSU win on Saturday.
“When that happens, you’ve just got to get it fixed and I’ve got a lot of confidence we will,” Meyer said.
Michigan had scoring drives of 99 yards, 84 yards, 83 yards and 78 yards and OSU had to stop a two-point conversion in the final minute to hang on for the win. Michigan State is coming off a 14-3 win over Minnesota.
Meyer said Ohio State’s team bus that he was riding on “was absolutely nuts for 15 minutes” when Auburn upset No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night to open the door for OSU to climb into the top two in the BCS standings.
But he says there will be no looking ahead this weekend. He said he planned to spend “6 to 8 seconds” on it in a team meeting on Sunday. “Our focus is on this game and that’s it,” he said. “We’ve got to move the ball against a great defense. That’s my concern.”
Meyer said he does not plan to suspend starting offensive guard Marcus Hall or freshman running back Dontre Wilson for their actions in a skirmish during the Michigan game. Both players were ejected from the game.
Meyer said he had already discussed the incident with those two and an unnamed player who left the bench to join the scuffle. He said he had a Sunday night meeting scheduled with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.
Hall, who gestured toward the crowd as he left the field, issued an apology on his Twitter account Sunday.