Buckeyes: Know your enemy – Sparty

Location:
East Lansing, MI

Driving Distance from OSU Campus:
246 mi – 4 hours, 14 mins per Google Maps

Founded:
1855 – Michigan State was the first land-grant university and was created under land grants from the State of Michigan. MSU served as the model institution for future land-grant institutions that were spawned under the Morrill Act.

Number of students:
36,675 Undergrad
11,279 Post-grad
(Per Wikipedia)

Sparty

Nickname:
Spartans. Their mascot is Sparty.

Fun fact about nickname:
Sparta was a city-state in Ancient Greece. Male Spartans began military training at the ripe old age of 7. The Spartans’ tenacious defense in the Battle of Thermopylae has spawned several movies and short films, including the recent hit “300″.

Things to do in East Lansing:
Impression 5 Museum – An interactive science museum, which is always an awesome family activity.
Potter Park Zoo – A zoo and petting zoo situated on the city’s river trail.
W.J. Beal Botanical Garden – 40 species of plants. That’s a lot.

Notable MSU Alumni:
Chris Hansen – The guy who asks people to “take a seat over there.”
Ed Swiderski – Winner of season 5 of The Bachelorette.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson – NBA star with LA Lakers.

Conference:
B1G

Record Vs. OSU:
13-28

Current Line:
OSU -6

Returning Starters:
8 offensive, 7 defensive

Outlook:
First of all, throw the TTUN game out the window. I’m talking to you, national media. You too, non-OSU B1G fans.

By the way, non-OSU B1G fans, your attitudes have changed my attitude on “conference pride” since many of your views in the postseason speak to “conference pride for anyone BUT OSU.” Maybe that common mentality of wanting to see the premier teams everyone faces fail on the National stage is part of the problem with our conference. I’ve seen it lately with B1G fans and Wisky, too. Even you, TTUN, in spite of some struggles. I don’t care at all for either of those teams, but hey, if they win I know it is good for OSU. I wouldn’t say I root FOR them, but I don’t root AGAINST them either. Really, I’m rooting for OSU’s SOS.

The rest of the B1G fans want the #1 or #2 team in the conference to lose, even if those teams winning will help national and recruiting perceptions of all teams in the conference. Are you aware that SEC bottom dweller Kentucky has a better recruiting class than every B1G team outside of OSU and TTUN? Even MSU and Wisky are ranked below them. Why? It’s because of the success of the top level of the SEC and the chance to play with the best. They get it and embrace it.

The B1G fans don’t. B1G fans in the mid-low tier seem totally fine with being bashed unmercifully in the media. That loser mentality is why the conference is where it is in football. As annoying as it is to hear lower tier SEC teams ride the coattails of the top-tier teams, it’s equally as annoying to hear B1G fans wanting the top tier to suck at the same level they do.

Now, that’s not saying I think the B1G is as bad as ESecPN says, because I don’t think it is and I think bowl games very well might go better than expected. It’s simply saying that the odd desire to see the only chances to build the brand up fail is puzzling. I know the B1G doing well in bowls, out of conference, and having shots at NC games is good for all teams, even if that isn’t OSU. It’s puzzling to me that a large majority of B1G fans don’t get it. Before the SEC run the B1G won recruiting wars because they had that national allure. Not wanting that back is stupid. As a result, while I want to see a winning record for the B1G in Bowl Games to boost OSU’s perception, I am not putting much effort into it since no one else seems to want to move forward and is fine with being spoken of in the same breath as the MAC. So, no, not much B1G pride left. Why take pride in a conference no one else in the conference takes pride in?

But I digress…

Anyone who is an OSU fan, a TTUN fan, or a big enough fan of College Football knows that records and spreads normally mean nothing in that game. I don’t think any honest Buckeye fan that has been a fan since, say, before 2001 can say they would have been shocked if the Wolverines knocked off OSU. Some Buckeye fans still curl into a fetal position with the words “Cooper’s record against UM.” Who are you to judge?

We remember Bruce struggled at times. We also know Woody didn’t win them all, and he was the best thing since sliced bread. We do know that OSU holds a very slight edge in the “modern era”, but whatever. TTUN has beaten highly ranked OSU teams rather consistently and does well at home. Anyone who uses this game as a measuring stick to say MSU is definitely winning is a moron. A 100%, certified moron. I encourage you to ask Bama fans about rivalries. Go on. I’ll wait.

That brings us to this weekend.

Man, I don’t know. I feel like a hypocrite when I talk about this match-up. My gut says OSU is fine. It says they are fine much like my gut said the 2002 OSU Buckeyes were fine against Miami. I am a hypocrite because, well, 2013 OSU is playing 2002 OSU. I mean, almost literally. MSU has OC Jim “Walrusball” Bollman, who was the 2002 OC. The head coach is Mark Dantonio, who was the DC for the 2002 OSU Buckeyes. Cook is Krenzel, basically. Not great, but doesn’t make stupid errors. Not a difference maker, but not a killer either. 2002 OSU ended the season allowing 77.7 YPG. At this moment, MSU sits at 64.8.

OK, OK….there is one big difference. There is no Clarett on Bollman’s offense. And MSU’s D, while good, doesn’t necessarily have the standouts of the 2002 OSU D. It is a rather balanced D as their leading tackler ranks a modest 17th in the B1G, which indicates they are spreading the love. Second on their list sits at #19 and is a safety, but having your #2 tackler in the secondary isn’t necessarily a good thing. It also seems to counter the norm of a #1 rushing D where LBers and DEs reign. I say this full knowing OSU is in basically the same position.

On the flip side, Urban Meyer is also facing the same Bollman offense he destroyed in the National Championship Game a few years ago. That offense was rather successful back in those days until that point. Cook is no Troy Smith. And, yeah, you could argue that neither is Braxton Miller when looking at passing stats. Thing is, Braxton is fine if he can’t pass most of the time, as was Troy. Cook, not so much. Regardless, that began a long history of whining about Bollman.

Much is being made of the #1 OSU offense vs the #1 Spartan defense. So, we’ll kind of skim over that for now.

The true unknown is the MSU offense and the OSU D.

For all of the well deserved gnashing of teeth over OSU’s defensive gaffes, most notably against TTUN, they are sitting at #4 in the B1G for total offense, #2 in rushing D, and #4 in scoring D allowing 20.2 PPG. When looking at common opponents, that means MSU has only faced one D ranked higher in the B1G, overall, in Iowa. Iowa is probably a good gauge of how this might go down, really. Both OSU and MSU beat Iowa, who has a relatively lackluster offense. OSU beat them 34-24, MSU 26-14. That’s basically a wash when just looking at score.

Iowa’s offense, while lackluster, ranks higher than MSU’s in every statistical category. They beat OSU’s total allowed scoring average by 4 and MSU’s by 4.5. If Iowa can beat MSU’s obviously awesome scoring D by .5 points MORE than they beat OSU’s scoring average, it doesn’t really speak to the “clear cut” difference being tossed about right now. Iowa did better than the averages against both Ds, and slightly better against MSU’s usual performance. The Iowa game probably speaks more to how Iowa is better than people think. Regardless, in addition to outpacing Iowa’s average points allowed, OSU outpaced the Hawkeye average allowed of 18.8 by 15.2 while MSU only mustered 7.2 points greater than what Iowa allowed over the season. Basically, the OSU that played Iowa beat the MSU that played Iowa by 8 points. With the Vegas line trending OSU as 6 point favorites, that is probably the truest measure against a common opponent I could find.

Other random common opponent stats – OSU scored 56 against Purdue, MSU only scored 14. OSU scored 60 against Illinois, MSU scored 42. OSU scored 42 against TTUN, MSU scored 29. MSU allowed fewer points…but…

Against common opponents: Ohio State has won by an average score of 45.7-24. Michigan State has won by an average score of 30.5-9.5. That equals to an average margin of victory of 21.7 for OSU and 21 for MSU. Completely taking the amount of points scored on either side out of the equation, those are the numbers. It matters not how much OSU allows or how much MSU allows, they are both, on average, beating their common opponents rather soundly.

Let me expand this with more ridiculous stat info on common opponents, since that’s all we have to go on. I hate math, so this is painful beyond words.

Iowa average points allowed = 18.8. MSU scored 26, OSU scored 34
Indiana average points allowed = 38.8. MSU scored 42, OSU scored 42
Purdue average points allowed = 38. MSU scored 14, OSU scored 56
Illinois average points allowed = 35.4 MSU scored 42, OSU scored 60
Northwestern average points allowed = 27.1. MSU scored 30, OSU scored 40
TTUN average points allowed = 26.5. MSU scored 29, OSU scored 42.

MSU beat the common opponent points against average by -1.6 PPG, thanks largely to the Purdue game. OSU is beating the points against average by 14.9, thanks largely to consistently exceeding expectations against the average.

MSU allows 11.8 points per game, OSU 20.2 points per game. That’s not common opponent, mind you. The averages are a little different if I were to do this. So, let’s just take the common opponent number and factor it to the OVERALL average (which includes some clunkers and whacked out stats) because I really don’t want to do any more math and figure out how they performed against the averages of other teams. First of all, I suck at math. Second of all, a couple of FCS opponents throw it off.

It’s gonna be a good game. It might be classic. In 2012 MSU was favored by 3 and OSU beat them, in East Lansing, by 1. This is a neutral site, but let’s be honest, it might not be all that neutral. Ticket sales data that has been released trends largely in favor of OSU. Random computer models about the internet have OSU winning anywhere from 55-70% of the time.

Since I don’t feel comfortable doing an actual prediction, and I don’t feel like creating a computer program on the fly, well…YAY, (rough) MATH MENTIONED ABOVE! I took that -1.6 and that 14.9 I’d mentioned above, applied to overall allowed averages, rounded up and….

Prediction:
OSU – 27, MSU – 19

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