Michigan State football

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How can Michigan State football make things interesting vs. Ohio State?

Michigan State football is hosting No. 3 Ohio State this weekend and here’s how the Spartans can at least keep it close.

Folks, let’s all let out a collective sigh: Michigan State football hosts No. 3 Ohio State this weekend.

I don’t like this any more than you do. It’s the worst possible opponent to face in the middle of a losing streak but Mel Tucker and Co. don’t get to pick the conference schedule.

The Spartans have lost three straight games and sit at 2-3 on the season and 0-2 in conference play while the Buckeyes are 5-0 and 2-0 in league action. This is not an ideal matchup for a team that can’t seem to score or defend.

But miracles do happen just like the 1998 Spartans who upset No. 1 Ohio State on the road. Tucker was actually a grad assistant for that team so here’s to hoping he can conjure some of that magic.

It could happen, right?

Well, if you’re like me, you’re probably dreading this weekend and just hoping that the game is more competitive than last season.

So here’s how Michigan State can make things interesting against the Buckeyes.

  • Feed Elijah Collins the rock. He’s been the team’s most consistent runner this season and yet he has barely touched the ball. Collins getting just five touches last game was borderline criminal. He could help the Spartans establish the run.
  • ‘Strip the names off the jerseys.’ Tucker said it best in this week’s media session: Michigan State will have a shot at upsetting Ohio State if they strip the names off the jerseys and just play. The Spartans are playing with nothing to lose at this point and that’s a dangerous weapon to have. It’s also tough to play against as a contender. Heck, this is how the Spoilermakers got their name. If Michigan State can play freely and not tense up against the pressure, it’ll make things interesting.
  • Get pressure on CJ Stroud. If Michigan State wants any change on Saturday, it needs to get after Stroud. Will Khris Bogle, Jacob Slade, or Simeon Barrow be available? That’s not clear, but if any combination of those three returns, the Spartans should be able to do this. Make him uncomfortable, force him into some quick throws, and rattle him in his first road game of the year. Blitzing also helps here. Looking at you, Scottie.
  • Utilize the tight ends. When Payton Thorne has had the most success this season, the tight ends have been a focal point. I’m not saying that Daniel Barker and Maliq Carr need all the targets, but at least get them involved. Oftentimes, Thorne forgets he has that safety valve, and these guys are athletic and can cause problems. They’ll help the offense move the sticks.
  • Get creative. How do teams pull off shocking upsets? They catch the favorite off guard with creative play-calling. So far this season, we’ve seen none of that. Jay Johnson needs to channel his 2021 self and keep the Ohio State Buckeyes guessing all game long.
  • Win the turnover battle. The team that wins the turnover battle usually has the best chance to win games. And for Michigan State, winning the turnover battle is key because it has a tough time forcing teams to punt. Ohio State is going to get its yards, but if drives can end with a turnover on a few occasions, the Spartans have a real shot. That’s a big ‘if’ though.
  • Play disciplined football. Michigan State has 25 penalties this season (the NCAA leader has 33) and yet somehow they only average 44 penalty yards per game. This is still too much. Penalties can shift momentum or completely halt drives, even if they’re false starts or minor infractions. Tucker preaches discipline and we’ve yet to see it. Cut those penalties against the Buckeyes.
  • No negative special teams plays. Special teams are often forgotten in the grand scheme of a game. But Michigan State has struggled in its losses in this regard. Missed extra points, missed field goals, short kickoff and punt returns. Outside of Bryce Baringer, special teams have been weak this year. That must change against the Buckeyes. Win the field position battle, no more taking kicks out and getting tackled short of the 25, get strong punt return yardage, and make extra points and field goals. This is part of complementary football.
  • Be perfect. I kid, sort of. Michigan State needs to be darn near perfect in order to beat the Buckeyes. But hey, anything can happen.

Do you believe in miracles?

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