|Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell is ranked third in the country with 152 rushing yards per game. (US Presswire)|
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Spread: Michigan State by 3
Watchability: This is the premier game of this weekend's Big Ten slate and features possibly the best two teams in the conference. Ohio State is postseason ineligible, but a Spartans loss could have major ramifications within the Legends Division. There will be tons of potential NFL talent on the field making it even more intriguing.
Shining Stars: Ohio State: RB Jordan Hall had his first 100-yard rushing game Saturday against UAB, but his performance this weekend in East Lansing will be even more vital to Ohio State's success. Braxton Miller is the Buckeyes' lead rusher but Urban Meyer has been limiting his carries from an average of 22 in the first two games to 11.5 in the past two. Hall will be a relief for Miller against Michigan State's defense, which Meyer called the best in the Big Ten. An option of pairing Hall and Miller is a scary thought for Mark Dantonio's defense. Michigan State: Without RB Le'Veon Bell, the Spartans could be 1-3 with potential losses to Boise State and Eastern Michigan. In those games, Bell rushed for 463 yards and three touchdowns on 80 attempts. The Buckeyes have allowed an average of 184 rushing yards in the past two games and Bell could further expose their poor tackling. Despite Bell's numbers, he's been relatively quiet due to Spartans' struggles. Saturday's game could put him back on the map.
Who could steal the show: Ohio State: LB Ryan Shazier leads the Buckeyes with 40 tackles, including 27 in his past two games. Ohio State has played teams that are more isolation-oriented in terms of their passing games and didn't feature big, dominant running backs. With Bell, Michigan State's offense is more typical of what the Big Ten is known for. The Spartans will have to finish their blocks and create seams against Ohio State's front seven, unlike what they did in the loss to Notre Dame two weeks ago. “This will be a different type of game,” Meyer said on Tuesday's teleconference. “Is he ready? This will be a great test for him.” Michigan State: Junior LB Max Bullough is literally and physically at the heart of Michigan State's defense. He leads a unit in tackling (26) that's ranked 10th in the country at pass defense (154 ypg) and rush defense (69 ypg). Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi's 4-3 defense is geared toward stopping the run and that puts the onus on LBs Bullough, Chris Norman and Denicos Allen to contain Braxton Miller and Jordan Hall should either scramble out of the pocket.
You going? Ranking the road trip: ESPN's College Gameday is headed to East Lansing so if you go, be sure to wake up at 6 a.m. with your sign in hand. The last time Gameday went to East Lansing was last year, when the Spartans won on a last-second Hail Mary over Wisconsin.
Magic number for Ohio State: 35. As in the number of points they've scored this year off opponents' turnovers. Ohio State is plus-5 in turnover margin and tied with Minnesota for the best in the conference. The Buckeyes have yielded no points off turnovers four games into the season and Michigan State has turned the ball over at least once every game.
Magic number for Michigan State: 17. The Spartans have won 17 of their past 18 games when they win time of possession. The Spartans are atop the Big Ten and sixth in the country, averaging 34:36 per game. Ohio State is averaging 28:54. If the Spartans can win the battle of possession, it will likely mean Bell is finding seams through Ohio State's defensive line, which has allowed 117 ypg.
The game comes down to: Defense. The team that can contain the other's prolific rushing game. Bell has the third-most yards of any back in the country (152 ypg) and Ohio State's rushing offense is second in the Big Ten with 229 combined rushing yards. The major discrepancy is on defense, where the Buckeyes rank last in the conference, allowing 394 total yards.
Eye on College Football's take: Michigan State is favored, but I'm not sure that it should be. Can QB Andrew Maxwell and the Michigan State passing attack finally find itself against an Ohio State secondary that can be beat? The answer to that question will likely decide this game. Or, failing that, just get to 10 points first. --Tom Fornelli
Prediction: Michigan State 20, Ohio State 14
For more Big Ten coverage, follow Mike Singer and Dave Carey @CBSSportsBigTen.