Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 9:21 PM
A couple of days ago, we talked about how bleak things had gotten in the Big Ten conference. The possibility of something like Purdue-Northwestern looms as a possible title tilt given how poorly so many teams have been playing. It’s a telling indictment of how boring college football has been in September that something like Ohio State-Michigan State is one of just two games this week where ranked teams are going head-to-head!
We suggested in our Wednesday Notebook that both of these teams may be over ranked by a several rungs on the ladder. Because of that, this is the showcase game of Saturday’s mid-afternoon TV window and conceivably the Game of the Year in the Big Ten because nobody else may be ranked this high again!
You’re probably going to watch given the TV schedule…at least to see if the train wrecks continue. Let’s look at the possibilities for how things might play out based on our key indicator data.
OHIO STATE at MICHIGAN STATE (3:30 p.m. on ABC)
Las Vegas Spread: Michigan State by 3, total of 43.5
Vegas is saying this is a neutral site toss-up with that line. You could even make the case that Ohio State would get the neutral field nod because Michigan State often gets respect on this home field under their current head coach. The low total suggests another defensive battle. Michigan State’s offense has been shaky so far…typically moving the ball on the ground but screwing things up when they try to pass. Ohio State’s offense has underachieved the last two weeks considering the defenses they were facing. Oddsmakers expect a defensive struggle.
CURRENT AP POLL RANKINGS
Ohio State: #14
Michigan State: #20
Ohio State is undefeated, so you have to give pollsters credit that they’re only willing to put them at #14 with that 4-0 start. In other seasons, Ohio State would be top five with that record, and everyone would be talking about the BCS. No way to do that with a near-miss vs. Cal and a very poor effort vs. a bad UAB team last week. Had Ohio State played a real schedule, with at least one road game vs. quality…they’d likely be 3-1 and ranked in this range…and could conceivably be 2-2 and unranked. We’ll learn here where the team really stands because it’s a road game vs. somebody who can match up with them physically. Note that Michigan State couldn’t win a home game against quality when Notre Dame came to visit.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer
Michigan State: Mark Dantonio
We know that ESPN thinks Meyer is the next pope of college football. Joe Paterno isn’t around any more. ESPN and the Big Ten want you to forget about him as quickly as possible. What YOU need to realize is that Florida dropped way back during Meyer’s tenure there after Tim Tebow went to the NFL…and after assistant coach Dan Mullen moved to Mississippi State. The sluggishness of the past two weeks for Ohio State is consistent with what we saw during the downward phase in Florida. It’s been awhile since Meyer lived up to his hype. Dantonio seems to be good enough to always have Michigan State in the mix…but shaky enough to mess something up in crunch time of a big game. If he fixes the latter, the Spartans can become a consistent national power. If not, what you’ve seen in recent years represents the peak. The last two weeks sure look like a valley.
Ohio State: Braxton Miller
Michigan State: Andrew Maxwell
Miller looked like he was ready to take 2012 by storm in the Central Florida and Miami of Ohio games. That certainly wasn’t the case vs. Cal and UAB. This week represents a HUGE test for him in terms of this year’s real outlook. He has his moments. We’ve just seen too many quarterbacks who are running threats go backwards in this sport lately rather than forward (see Denard Robinson). Maxwell looks like a QB, and throws a strong ball. That ball has been erratic though, and prone to bounce off receivers’ hands on close throws. We see the potential. He’s clearly been a disappointment, particularly last week vs. a manageable foe. Speaking of that, get ready to shield your eyes.
LAST WEEK’S BOXES
OHIO STATE 29, ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM 15
Total Yardage: UAB 403, Ohio State 347
Rushing Yards: UAB 144, Ohio State 244
Passing Stats: UAB 28-46-1-259, Ohio State 12-20-0-143
Turnovers: UAB 2, Ohio State 1
Third Downs: UAB 41%, Ohio State 30%
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 35, total of 60
Ohio State got outgained at home as a 35-point favorite! Let that sink in for awhile! The good news is that they owed the point of attack…and the yardage loss was partly due to UAB playing desperation ball from behind. But, 30% on third downs, 347 total yards, and posting only 29 points when favored by 35 are all red flags waving in a very strong wind. Embarrassing is the best way to describe it. Maybe Ohio State was looking ahead to Michigan State. Maybe they’re just the 40th best team in the country who went 4-0 early by facing teams in the bottom half of the national Power Ratings.
MICHIGAN STATE 23, EASTERN MICHIGAN 7
Total Yardage: E. Michigan 183, Michigan State 428
Rushing Yards: E. Michigan 46, Michigan State 269
Passing Stats: E. Michigan 13-26-0-137, Michigan State 16-29-0-159
Turnovers: E. Michigan 1, Michigan State 1
Third Downs: E. Michigan 14%, Michigan State 29%
Vegas Line: Michigan State by 31, total of 47
Eastern Michigan is often outmatched by MAC teams…so this final score is ridiculous. Like Ohio State, Michigan State still had a game on its hands in the second half vs. a cupcake. At least here the total yardage was impressive. It’s easy to complete passes against somebody like Eastern though, so that passing line for Maxwell is sad. And, 29% on third downs is humiliating. Basically, Michigan State had one guy who could do anything (their stud running back), and they just let him grind out a win because nothing else was working. No way that should happen for a Big Ten power against a MAC patsy.
We can’t disagree with the Vegas assessment that a defensive struggle is at hand. Maybe the playmakers will strike with long scores. Maybe these teams were BOTH looking ahead and saved some trick-eration for their conference opener. The Big Ten certainly hopes this turns out to be a great game because they’ve got a whole lot of inventory that looks like stale cornflakes at the moment.
We always preview the top TV games for you here in the NOTEBOOK. But, that doesn’t mean JIM HURLEY is going to be playing the games for his clients. You only get the best plays on the board when you sign up with NETWORK. Maybe this is a big one…maybe it’s part of a TV Triple Crown…maybe it’s not even on the radar because the biggest edges are elsewhere. If YOU’RE picking the game…be sure you’re thinking through the strengths and weaknesses of these teams. And, do your best to study today’s telecast for clues about how to play the rest of the season with these teams.
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Back with you tomorrow for a stat preview of Texas-Oklahoma state…a prime time TV tussle that could be one of the most entertaining games of the first half of the 2012 season. That one is NOT likely to be a defensive struggle! For fun and fireworks on the field and at Vegas sportsbooks, get in touch with legendary handicapper JIM HURLEY!