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Ohio State football: Three keys for Michigan State

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The first four games showed Buckeye Nation this team has a long way to go, but it also reminded us of what this team could do. Even with the sluggish performances, Ohio State was able to rise to the occasion to win each of its four games. Now, with conference play kicking off this weekend, the scarlet and gray turn their attention toward winning a division title.

The first opponent standing in their way is Michigan State. The Spartans have one of the more stout defenses in the country, which should pose a formidable challenge for a Buckeye offense that stalls often. Meanwhile, the Silver Bullets will receive a healthy dose of tests from the Spartans’ Le’Veon Bell, whose potent combination of athleticism and power has made him one of the better backs in the country.

For the Buckeyes to win their first road test in the Urban Meyer era, they have to do the following:

1. Force Michigan State to throw often, by limiting Bell’s effectiveness
Stopping Bell is paramount to the Buckeyes walking out of East Lansing with a victory. By limiting him, it forces the Spartans to deviate from their game plan, which could create opportunities for Ohio State’s back seven to make interceptions.

2. Don’t play stupid
One area where the Buckeyes have hurt themselves the most is in penalties. If they continue this trend on Saturday, it’s likely it could cost them a drive and in a game of this magnitude, it could be the difference.

3. Someone aside from Braxton Miller needs to step up now
Braxton has done everything he can to boost the offense; however, it’s time for someone else to help him out. With Carlos Hyde returning, and Jordan Hall hitting his stride, this could provide a dynamic duo in the backfield. The combination of Hyde’s power with Hall’s elusiveness might be just enough to open up plays against a very good Spartans’ defense.

100 is the magic number for the Spartans: Since the beginning of the 2011 season, the Silver Bullets have allowed opposing rushers to gain 100 or more yards in four games, and they have won only one of them. This makes shutting down Bell imperative for the Buckeyes.

Prediction: The Buckeyes must start this game quickly. If they fall behind, it’s going to be tough to rebound against a tough Spartans squad. With that said, Ohio State has enough explosiveness on offense to walk out of East Lansing with the win.

Ohio State 20 Michigan State 17