Meyer, Ohio State visit Michigan State Spartans

By: Michael Robinson | Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Ohio State Buckeyes get their first real test under new coach Urban Meyer when they travel to the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday afternoon. This is the Big Ten opener for both schools.

The Don Best college football odds screen opened Michigan State as 1-point favorites, but it has jumped to -3. The total is 43½ and ABC will have the 3:30 p.m. (ET) national coverage from Spartan Stadium.

Ohio State (4-0 straight up, 1-3 against the spread) hasn’t lost yet, but all have come from the comfy confines of Ohio Stadium and between 15½-35½-point favorites. The team failed to cover the last three and that’s one reason the spread has moved in Michigan State’s direction.

The AP Poll has the Buckeyes ranked No. 14 and they’re ineligible for the Coaches due to their NCAA postseason ban. The Don Best Linemakers Poll moved them down from No. 13 to tied-for-15th after last week’s 29-15 win over UAB as 35½-point chalk. That was a 6-point game midway through the fourth.

Quarterback Braxton Miller had just 143 passing yards (20 attempts) last week, but racked up 64 more on the ground. The dual-threat sophomore easily leads the team in rushing with 441 yards and Meyer recently said he has more talent than his former Florida signal caller Tim Tebow.

Miller is very dangerous in the spread offense, but more weapons are needed. Help is on the way with 232-pound running back Carlos Hyde (knee) probable after missing the last two weeks. Speedy Jordan Hall rushed for 192 yards (5.6 ypc) in his absence after missing the first two games (foot).

The defense ranks just 71st nationally at 394.8 YPG and needs to play with greater intensity this week.

The Spartans (3-1 SU, 1-3 ATS) are playing their fourth home game of the year, failing to cover the first three against No. 24 Boise State (17-13 win), No. 20 Notre Dame (20-3 loss) and Eastern Michigan (23-7 win) last week as 31½-point favorites. The ‘under’ easily went 3-0 at 14.3 PPG scoring.

The current rankings are No. 20 in the AP, No. 18 in the Coaches and No. 19 at Don Best.

Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell is a first-year starter replacing the esteemed Kirk Cousins. He threw for just 159 yards against Eastern Michigan and his 6.08 yards per attempt is far lower than the 7.91 for Cousins last year.

Maxwell does have the luxury of handing the ball to bruising running back Le’Veon Bell. He’s loving his role as the sole featured back at third in the nation in rushing (152.5 YPG). Notre Dame was able to hold him to 77 yards on 19 carries two weeks ago, a big reason for the upset as 4½-point ‘dogs.

Coach Mark Dantonio will certainly start this game by pounding Bell at an Ohio State defense ranked 33rd in the country (117.5 YPG) against questionable competition.

The Spartans rank top-10 nationally in rushing defense (69.3 YPG) and sixth in total defense (233.5 YPG). The unit already faced a very mobile quarterback in Notre Dame’s Everett Golson (14-of-32, 178 yards) and will use that knowledge this week.

The road team is 4-0 ATS (3-1 SU) in the last four meetings between the teams with Michigan State winning 10-7 as 3-point road underdogs last year. Miller (5-of-10, 56 yards) split time with now departed senior Joe Bauserman.

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