INDIANAPOLIS – The Big Ten championship game already looks like a classic contest.
No. 2 Ohio State comes to Indianapolis with its trendy, up-tempo offense and a powerful old-style ground game that has been virtually unstoppable.
No. 10 Michigan State counters with its typically stout defense, which doesnt allow many opposing offenses to get in sync.
Its miserable, Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman said jokingly this week. But this is why you coach. These are the games your competitive nature can come out a little bit and say, Im going to have my offense, my checkers, my pieces are going to be more prepared and play harder and longer and with better technique and effort than yours.
The stakes couldnt be higher: To the winner goes an all-expenses paid bowl trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
And if the Buckeyes (12-0) extend their school record winning streak, the nations longest, to 25, the reward may be even greater – what is likely to be their fourth appearance in the BCS title game, their first with two-time national champion coach Urban Meyer.
But few teams pose a bigger obstacle than the Spartans (11-1). A year ago, they fell just short of upsetting the Buckeyes, falling 17-16 in the conference opener.
This year, the Spartans have been even stingier. They lead the nation in total yards allowed (237.7 per game) and fewest yards rushing (64.8), and Michigan State also has the No. 1 passing efficiency defense (91.8). A win over the Buckeyes would give the Spartans their longest winning streak (nine straight) since 1966 and their first Rose Bowl bid since 1988, though coach Mark Dantonio has argued this week his team should also be considered for the BCS championship game.
Here are four things to watch today:
Silver Bullett Band
While the Spartans defense has generated great attention this week, the Buckeyes defense is no second-class citizen.
Nationally, Ohio State is No. 5 against the run (100.0 yards), No. 18 in points allowed (20.3) and No. 30 in yards per game (355.8).
Carlos Hyde and quarterback Braxton Miller have combined to run for 1,070 yards and 13 TDs in Ohio States last three games.
Michigan State hopes its previous experience in Indianapolis helps this weekend. The Spartans are back in the title game for the second time in three years. They lost the first league title game to Wisconsin. Ohio State, meanwhile, has 34 league titles, second to Michigan (42), but this is the Buckeyes first trip to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Take a seat
Meyer will not let right guard Marcus Hall start the game. Freshman Pat Elflein will replace Hall. Meyer did not say how long Hall would sit out. The move comes less than a week after Hall was involved in a scuffle at archrival Michigan.