BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME NOTES
December 3, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Title Game Matchup: Michigan State and Ohio State will meet in the 2013 Big Ten Football Championship Game on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Spartans are making their second appearance in the conference championship game, having last appeared in the inaugural contest in 2011. Michigan State eyes its second Big Ten Championship in the last four seasons, having previously earned a share of the conference title in 2010. Ohio State makes its first appearance in the Big Ten Football Championship Game and is seeking its first official conference crown since 2009. Michigan State has won seven Big Ten titles in program history, while Ohio State has officially claimed 34 championships. The teams will compete for the Amos Alonzo Stagg Championship Trophy and a chance to play in one of two historic games in Pasadena, Calif. – the 100th Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1 or the Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game on Jan. 6.
History between Michigan State and Ohio State:
In the all-time series, the Buckeyes hold a 28-13 advantage, but the teams have split the last two meetings, with each squad winning on the road. Michigan State claimed a 10-7 victory in Columbus in 2011, while Ohio State earned a 17-16 victory in East Lansing a season ago. Last year’s contest was a back-and-forth game, highlighted by Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller’s 63-yard scoring strike to Devin Smith in the third quarter, giving Ohio State a 17-13 lead. The Spartans added a fourth quarter field goal, but Ohio State held on for the one-point victory in Urban Meyer’s first Big Ten game as a head coach.
How They Got Here: Both Michigan State and Ohio State finished the conference season with matching 8-0 records to win their respective divisions. The Spartans picked up a road victory at Iowa before knocking off Indiana the following week to start Big Ten play 2-0. In its next three games, Michigan State outscored its opponents 85-9 in triumphs over Purdue, Illinois and Michigan before earning at least a share of the Legends Division crown with a win at Nebraska. The Spartans clinched their spot in Indianapolis with a triumph over Northwestern before concluding the year with a victory against Minnesota. After opening Big Ten play with victories over ranked foes Wisconsin and Northwestern, Ohio State finished the first half of the Big Ten season with wins against Iowa and Penn State. Three of the Buckeyes last four games came on the road, posting wins at Purdue and Illinois before securing their spot in Indianapolis in their home finale against Indiana. Ohio State ended the season with a one point win at Michigan.
A Look at the Spartans: A dominant defense has been one of Michigan State’s hallmarks this season. Ranking among the national leaders in numerous defensive categories, the Spartans enter the Big Ten Football Championship Game having held five of their conference opponents to six points or less, all of which have come in their last six games. Linebacker Max Bullough, defensive end Shilique Calhoun and defensive back Darqueze Dennard anchor a defense that ranks first nationally in rushing and total defense. While the Michigan State defense has been a mainstay all season, the Michigan State offense improved throughout the season and is averaging nearly 30 points per contest. Running back Jeremy Langford has rushed for more than 100 yards in seven straight games. Three receivers have caught more than 30 passes each for first-year starter Connor Cook.
A Look at the Buckeyes: The Buckeyes are one of the nation’s most balanced teams, ranking among the national top 20 in numerous offensive and defensive categories. On the offensive end, Ohio State has scored 40 or more points in 10 games this season and 50 or more in five of those contests. The Buckeyes are averaging 48.2 points per game and average better than 530 yards per game, both among the top six in thenation. Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde are among the Big Ten’s leaders in rushing, with Hyde averaging a conference-best 143 yards per contest. The Buckeye defense has been equal to the effort of their offense, appearing among the national leaders in scoring, rushing and total defense. Ryan Shazier is the conference leader in tackles and tackles for loss per game, while Noah Spence and Michael Bennett are ranked among the top three in the conference in sacks per game. A talented secondary is led by Bradley Roby, who is among the conference leaders in passes defended this season.
Eight-for-Eight: Michigan State and Ohio State each posted victories in their regular-season finales to finish their Big Ten slates with perfect 8-0 records. It marks the first time two teams finished the Big Ten schedule with perfect conference slates since Iowa and Ohio State did so in 2002, when the Hawkeyes appeared in the Orange Bowl and the Buckeyes earned a berth in the BCS National Championship Game. Prior to 2002, the last time the Big Ten had two teams finish the yearwith perfect conference records was in 1943 when Michigan and Purdue were each 6-0.