Gameday+ | Keys to the Ohio State-Michigan State game

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra

Punch it in from the red zone

After failing to score touchdowns in eight trips inside opponents’ 20-yard line the previous two games, Ohio State punched it in three times in four attempts last week against Nebraska. That kind of success has to continue against the Spartans, who have allowed only 10 touchdowns in 22 red-zone situations. Is this the week the Buckeyes use Tate Martell in the red zone to give a different look? Or will they again use a power formation with multiple tight ends and Wyatt Davis as an extra blocker at the goal line?

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Exploit Spartans pass defense

Michigan State’s run defense has been close to a wall, but the Spartans have been vulnerable against the pass. Their aggressive, man-to-man coverage philosophy is what inspired Ohio State to do the same several years ago. It’s high-risk, high-reward, and Dwayne Haskins Jr. and the Buckeyes’ talented receivers should have opportunities for big plays. Ohio State’s passing game wasn’t sharp last week. That was somewhat a result of the emphasis on fixing other aspects of their game during the off week. It will need to be on-point against the Spartans.

Tackle and improve angles

It was the same old story last week for Ohio State’s defense against Nebraska. At times, the Buckeyes played like they believe they can. They forced five three-and-outs. But too often, the Cornhuskers were able to gash the Buckeyes because of missed tackles or defenders who took poor angles. The Spartans aren’t as dynamic as Nebraska offensively, but anyone can look good if you don’t tackle. The insertion of Brendon White at safety made a difference, and he and Jordan Fuller could finally shore up that vulnerable part of Ohio State’s defense.

Force turnovers

Ohio State hasn’t really done a great job creating turnovers. The Buckeyes have forced only 10, third fewest in the Big Ten. Last week’s only turnover came when Nebraska gifted one on a foolish backward pass. Often, turnovers are created by gang-tackles and the Buckeyes haven’t swarmed to the ball as consistently as in recent years.

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