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No Need to Panic, Michigan State's Goals Are All Ahead of Them

The Spartans head for Columbus for a showdown with Ohio State this weekend knowing that a win puts their goals squarely in front of them. Michigan State is searching for consistency upfront on the offensive having had a number of injuries to overcome.

Travis Jackson will start at center replacing Blake Treadwell. Fou Fonoti will continue his quest to keep the right side locked up at offensive tackle while Dan France learns the left tackle position with on the job training. Micajah Reynolds will certainly see reps again having had a solid debut at left tackle last week against the CMU.

Mark Dantonio knows this game is about focus, preparation and managing the week leading up to what is arguably the most important game of his coaching career. With a win, MSU heads into a bye week before facing archrival Michigan with some swagger and some confidence. A loss would make the bye week seem like an eternity.  He is not making players available to the media to maintain focus and keep a steady hand on the rudder of the Spartan ship.

We’ll find out just how good Michigan State is this weekend. How will MSU’s defense handle a hostile OSU crowd? How will Kirk Cousins respond having pressed throughout the first four games this season? We’ll know the answers when MSU takes the field this weekend.

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Michigan State can still win a Big Ten Championship. They are still in a position to get a BCS bowl bid. They just need to take care of business and shore up the details in a number of areas. The first one falls squarely on the offensive line. The center and guards are solid. They still need to get better and they will. The tackles are a work in progress. Fonoti is getting better with each rep. He is learning how to play the position solidly. Now, he must learn to be physically dominant particularly in the run game. France shows flashes of greatness and then has a misfire. The OSU defense is going to go after France and make him play through the pressure. If the offensive line plays well, Cousins will play better at the same time.

Cousins needs to make the big throws, but must also remember that a punt is better than a turnover and a sack is better than an interception. Cousins’ year will turn around when he decides that 7 or 8 yards to Nichol is better than throwing the ball to BJ in double coverage. Nichol is open all the time. In fact, a number of our opponents, including Notre Dame, didn’t respect Nichol as a threat underneath. Kirk didn’t make them respect him. When Kirk starts taking what the defense gives him, the world of Spartan football will largely be right with the universe. He doesn’t look confident. He doesn’t inspire fear in the eyes of his opponents. In fact, he does just the opposite by forcing the big throw rather than take the eight yards Nichol has underneath a good portion of the time.

This game will come down to early execution. If MSU comes out and establishes the run by opening up the game with short and safe passes, they win. If they get behind the chains and the scoreboard, OSU is going to open up the throttle and turn those big defensive horses loose. This game is personal for a number of Spartans. We have Ohio natives all over the field. Guys like Cunningham, Worthy, Adams, Allen, France, Rush and Jackson would like nothing more than to leave Ohio Stadium with a “W.” The Spartans have to start fast if this is going to become a reality on Saturday.

Bell is the hot back right now. He is running with authority and seems to be the right back for this young offensive line.  The Reynoldsburg, Ohio native is nearly 240 pounds and isn’t afraid to lower the boom on defenders. He will only be effective if the OSU defense is thinking pass first and run second.

Ohio State has the clear advantage in this game playing at home. MSU’s senior QB needs to relax and make the easy throw. MSU can exploit the Buckeye defense with quick passes to Nichol and Sims while running the ball on 2nd and 3rd down when short yardage is needed to move the chains. I expect this game to be the offensive line’s coming out party. The defensive front needs to remain assignment sound against Braxton Miller and respect his feet. The game will be decided by MSU’s offensive and defensive lines. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.