INDIANAPOLIS – The third installment of the Big Ten title game arrives Saturday night, and it’s finally a showcase with important national implications.
With a win, No. 2 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten) almost surely will secure a spot in the BCS Championship Game, but No. 10 Michigan State (11-1, 8-0) knows a win would mean its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1988.
The Spartans have the nation’s top defense, and the Buckeyes have one of the nation’s best offenses, but there is far more to this matchup than that. Here’s a tale of the tape:
Ohio State: After going 12-0 and missing the postseason last year because of violations under former coach Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes cruised through a soft nonconference schedule and seemingly sealed their Leaders Division title Sept. 28 with a 31-24 win over Wisconsin.
Michigan State: The Spartans lost the inaugural Big Ten title game 42-39 to Wisconsin in 2011 then stumbled to 7-6 last year. This year’s team rebounded and would be undefeated if not for a 17-13 loss to Notre Dame, which included three questionable pass interference calls against the Spartans.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer is 24-0 at Ohio State and 128-23 for his career. He won national championships at Florida in 2006 and 2008.
Michigan State: Mark Dantonio is 62-29 at Michigan State and 80-46 for his career. This season, he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Quarterback Braxton Miller is a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Carlos Hyde was named the league’s Running Back of the Year. Linebacker Ryan Shazier led the Big Ten with 122 tackles, 21 for a loss.
Darqueze Dennard, left, was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year, Shilique Calhoun was named the league’s Defensive Lineman of the Year, and middle linebacker Max Bullough also was a first-team All-Big Ten selection.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes’ 24-game winning streak is the longest for a Big Ten team since Michigan won 25 in a row from 1946 to 1949.
Michigan State: The Spartans are the first team to go undefeated in Big Ten play – with every win coming by at least 10 points – since Michigan did it in 1943 with a 6-0 record.
Ohio State: Third in points per game (48.2), 18th in points allowed per game (20.3), 6th in total offense (530.5 yards per game), 30th in total defense (355.8 yards per game)
Michigan State: 63rd in points per game (29.4), fourth in points allowed (11.8 points per game), 84th in total offense (380.2), first in total defense (237.7 yards per game)
They'll win if ...
The defense bounces back from its poor showing in last week’s 42-41 victory over Michigan, and if Miller handles his first test on this level of a stage.
The defense keeps Miller from making game-breaking plays, and if quarterback Connor Cook and running back Jeremy Langford continue playing at a high level.