Big Ten Football 2012
Big Ten Football Preview - Week 5
Big Ten Week 5 Football Schedule
Penn State at Illinois
Wisconsin at Nebraska
Ohio State at Michigan State
Marshall at Purdue
Minnesota at Iowa
Indiana at Northwestern
Week five of the Big Ten season – located in late September on the calendar – brings the arrival of conference games after four weeks of non-conference competition. Those four weeks sullied the Big Ten's on-field reputation. Now that the league's 12 schools will knock heads against each other, football observers will be interested to see if the quality of play in the conference can improve.
The big tilt in the Big Ten this week is Ohio State's visit to East Lansing, Mich., to tackle Michigan State. The best reason to favor Ohio State in this game is that the Buckeyes will be facing a relatively limited and impotent offense. Michigan State's offense can legitimately be viewed as a one-trick pony. MSU quarterback Andrew Maxwell is in the midst of his first season as a starting college quarterback, and his lack of experience is showing. Maxwell did not play well in a recent 20-3 loss to Notre Dame. He clearly lacked confidence as a downfield passer: He could be seen dumping the ball short throughout the game and failing to test the Notre Dame secondary on vertical routes. Michigan State's passing attack did not place any fear in the minds of the Fighting Irish, and that's why Notre Dame was able to put nine players in the tackle box to stop Michigan State's only elite offensive player, running back Le'Veon Bell, who rushed for over 200 yards on 44 carries in the Spartans' season opener against Boise State.
Running games are only as successful as the amount of bodies an offensive line can match against a front seven. With Notre Dame's nine defenders outnumbering Michigan State at the point of attack, Bell was trapped. When Bell is snuffed out, the Spartans are impotent, and that’s why MSU collected a mere field goal against the Irish. Notre Dame's defense did not get tested in the passing game, and that's why they beat Michigan State handily despite gaining only 300 total yards of their own. Michigan State avoided a shutout only because of a 50-yard field goal. This is the offense Ohio State is facing, and as a result, the Buckeyes have to think that if they can score anything beyond 20 points, they'll have not just a good chance to win, but a great chance.
The only question is: Will Ohio State be resolute enough on defense and physical enough on the offensive line to withstand Michigan State's power? The Spartans do not have a lot of talent on the edges, but in terms of both run blocking and pass rushing, Michigan State might have the sledgehammers needed to power the Buckeyes off the ball and dominate the line of scrimmage. If that happens, Ohio State's superior skill-position talent won't matter all that much.
Elsewhere in the league, Minnesota goes to Iowa after having hosted – and beaten – the Hawkeyes two straight seasons. Penn State and Illinois play in a Leaders Division toss-up game. Wisconsin goes to Nebraska for a night game that will either unmask the Badgers' weaknesses or reveal newfound strengths.
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