Michigan State's defense, history present a new challenge for Ryan Day, Ohio State

Bill Rabinowitz

The Ohio State football team has easily passed every test so far this season, and the Buckeyes aren’t minimizing the magnitude of their next one.

Michigan State has played Ohio State as tough as anyone in this decade, killing their national title dreams in 2013 and 2015 with upsets.

“We’ve got another big challenge ahead of us,” OSU coach Ryan Day said at his weekly news conference on Tuesday.

Michigan State, he added, is “one of the most well-coached teams not only in the Big Ten but the country for a long time. I’ve got a lot of respect for coach (Mark Dantonio), his staff and his history. He’s one of the best coaches in the last couple decades in college football.

“Obviously, the history of what they’ve done against Ohio State is something that all of our guys are going to be aware of this week as we go to work today in practice.”

Michigan State is 4-1 and 2-0 in the Big Ten. The Spartans were ranked 25th in the Associated Press poll until dropping out despite edging Indiana 40-31 last Saturday.

MSU typically relies on its stingy defense, and that has been the case this season, though the Hoosiers had success against it.

“They have a defensive system that has been challenged for years and years, so they have answers,” Day said. “If you run a play against them, they have the answer right away. They’re really good at knowing what the defense is. They’re not super complicated, but they have answers to everything that you do.”

Michigan State’s offense was awful last year but has improved this season, helped by having a healthy quarterback in Brian Lewerke.

As for Ohio State, the Buckeyes haven’t won by fewer by fewer than 24 points, in the the opener against Florida Atlantic. They have won by at least 40 points in their past four games, a streak unmatched by the program since 1974.

But Day and OSU players say they still have much room to improve. Their self-confidence, though, is only growing.

“I think we can be one of the best teams that's ever played at Ohio State,” quarterback Justin Fields said.

Before coaches and players spoke on Tuesday, athletic director Gene Smith addressed the ramifications of the new California law that starting in 2023 will allow college athletes to be compensated for their name, image and likeness.

Smith is co-chair of an NCAA working group studying the issue.

“The NCAA has taken a long time to modernize,” he said, but expressed concern about how implementation would work.

He repeatedly spoke about “bad actors” and how difficult it would be to regulate against abuses if there aren’t strong guidelines.

Smith said it was vital that the issue not be dealt with on an individual school or state level and said it may need to be addressed on a federal level.

If not, he said, “There will be a whole new model.”


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