Ohio State had one major obstacle toward its quest for a national title removed last week when Alabama lost to Auburn. The second-ranked Buckeyes can increase their odds of a berth in the BCS Championship Game dramatically Saturday when they meet No. 9 Michigan State in the Big Ten title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Ohio State has won a school-record 24 straight games but needed a failed two-point try in the final seconds last week to escape Michigan with a one-point victory.
Despite the Buckeyes’ long winning streak, perhaps no team in the conference is playing as well as the Spartans, who have won eight in a row. Michigan State became the first Big Ten team to win all of its league games by at least 10 points since the conference went to an eight-game schedule in 1971. Although the Spartans could end up in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988 regardless of Saturday’s outcome, they could assure themselves a school-record 12th win with a victory.
TV: 8:17 p.m. ET, Fox. LINE: Ohio State -5.5
ABOUT OHIO STATE (12-0): Carlos Hyde is the first running back under coach Urban Meyer to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season and needs 33 more to become the seventh player in school history to run for 3,000 in a career. Quarterback Braxton Miller trails Hyde by 90 rushing yards and is also 166 total yards shy of joining Art Schlichter as the only Buckeyes to reach 8,000 in their career. Miller and Hyde have combined to rush for 1,070 yards and 13 touchdowns over the past three games against Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (11-1): The Spartans boast the nation’s top rushing, total and pass efficiency defense and complement it with the fifth-best turnover margin (plus-15) in FBS. They are also second nationally in third-down defense (28.7 percent) and fourth in scoring defense (11.8 points per game)."It's by far the best defense I've ever been a part of. It's got to rival the best defenses ever at Michigan State – forget the last seven years," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said.
1. Both teams went 8-0 in conference play, marking just the second time since 1943 that two Big Ten teams finished with perfect league marks.
2. Michigan State has kept five out of last six opponents out of the end zone.
3. Meyer notched his first conference win as Ohio State coach when these teams last met in September 2012.
PREDICTION: Michigan State 30, Ohio State 27