Buckeyes still haven't forgotten loss to Spartans
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker first started thinking about the rematch with Michigan State about 60 seconds after the Spartans had upset his Buckeyes a year ago.
The moment is finally at hand.
Despite the passage of 11 months, several Buckeyes say they've never really gotten over that 34-24 defeat in the Big Ten title game, which ended Ohio State's school-record 24-game winning streak and its national championship hopes.
''I guess it kind of made you realize that you weren't world-beaters,'' Decker said. ''We hadn't lost in a long, long time. You can kind of get comfortable winning week to week.''
The 13th-ranked Buckeyes (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten, No. 16 CFP) travel to eighth-ranked Michigan State (7-1, 4-0, No. 8 CFP) for a Saturday night showdown at Spartan Stadium.
It'll mark the first time Ohio State has played a nationally ranked team this season - and may just be a last shot for a while for the Buckeyes to prove that they can win a big game against a quality opponent.
''People for the past three years have said we've just beaten up on teams that aren't good, and that when it comes down to it we can't win a big game,'' defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. ''That's the hype around Ohio State - that we don't win big games. But it's important to win this game because they're a great opponent. If you want postseason dreams, you've got to keep winning.''
Standing in the way of those dreams are the Spartans, who rode some timely defense and Connor Cook's 304 yards and three touchdowns passing to the victory last Dec. 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The decisive moment of the game might have been when Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller was stopped on a fourth-and-2 keeper at the Michigan State 39 by Spartans linebacker Denicos Allen with just under 6 minutes left. The Spartans then tacked on another score to book a spot in the Rose Bowl.
After the game, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the loss would ''haunt all of us.'' The Buckeyes lost their next game, also, a 40-35 setback to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
No sooner had the Buckeyes left the field after stomping Illinois 55-14 on Saturday than Meyer harkened back to the Michigan State defeat saying, ''The dream was ripped away from us.''
He concedes that, until proven otherwise, the Spartans are the best in the Big Ten.
''They're the king of the hill right now because they won the championship and you have to dethrone them,'' Meyer said on Monday.
Miller isn't playing for the Buckeyes, replaced by J.T. Barrett in the preseason after Miller had season-ending shoulder surgery. Allen moved on to the pros and is trying to stick in the NFL.
There are plenty of other new faces on both sides. There are also a lot of similarities between the teams, which have identical records, share the top spot in the Big Ten's East Division and have each won their last six games.
Ohio State's lone loss was 35-21 at home to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 while the Spartans lost the same day at then-No. 3 Oregon, 46-27.
The winner has the inside track to a return to the Big Ten title game. The loser is eliminated from the national championship conversation.
''I've got a bitter feeling toward (the Spartans),'' Decker said. ''Because they beat us. I feel like they took something from us. That's driving me and a lot of other guys.''
Ohio State fans grouse that no one respects the Big Ten or the Buckeyes and that media is biased in favor of the Southeastern Conference. But Meyer said there's a simple way for Ohio State to again be a national contender.
''(Our players) know this is a game to get the respect that Ohio State deserves and has had in the past,'' he said. ''You have to go compete and win this game. It's going to be a task.''
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