Spartans Gear Up For Buckeyes

By: AP
By: AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Terrelle Pryor and Brian Hoyer have one thing in common.
It doesn't matter that Pryor, a freshman with tremendous hype and ability, left Pennsylvania to become a starter at Ohio State or that Hoyer, a fifth-year senior who waited his turn, left Ohio to come to Michigan State.
Each will have to deliver on the field for his first-place team (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) to prevail when the 12th-ranked Buckeyes visit the No. 20 Spartans on Saturday.
"I think the key to the game will be execution and attention to detail," Spartan coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "We need to play mistake-free. And it's very important that we play with excitement. If you're coming to this game, you need to bring that with you."
Both teams will be bringing one of the nation's best running backs -- Chris "Beanie" Wells for Ohio State and Javon Ringer for Michigan State. Wells, the No. 3 rusher in conference play, is averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Ringer leads the nation with 14 rushing touchdowns and ranks second with 158.9 rushing yards per game.
With both teams determined to stop the run, look for Pryor and Hoyer to have a say in the outcome with passing games that haven't been dominant. The Spartans are No. 8 in the league with 192.3 air yards per game and will face the Big Ten's best pass defense. The Buckeyes are 11th in passing with a 143.6-yard average and will see the No. 1 red-zone defense.
"There are a lot of things that Pryor can do that present problems for a defense," Dantonio said. "We're fortunate to have a guy like (Oklahoma transfer) Keith Nichol who can simulate that type of ability on our scout team."
Seeing arguably the nation's top scout-team quarterback run plays with backups is much different than trying to stop Pryor from turning upfield, as Wisconsin discovered on a game-winning drive in Madison.
"He played very well there and won it for them," Dantonio said. "He took them down the field in the last six minutes. So I think he's ready to play on the road. It takes a special kind of guy to play as a freshman at any position. They have a true freshman center and a true freshman quarterback. So that's a tremendous statement about those two young men."
Michigan State has been playing for lost respect, not for national titles in 2007-08. With a six-game winning streak, second only to league co-leader Penn State's eight in a row, the Spartans know this is a rare opportunity, especially for a program that sees Ohio as a second home.
With 24 Ohio natives on the roster, far more than any Big Ten team but Ohio State, and with a head coach who has a national championship ring from his stint as Jim Tressel's defensive coordinator, Michigan State has plenty of added motivation.
Toss in two coordinators, a secondary coach and a strength coach from Ohio State and the Spartans won't have to manufacture emotion or passion. But no player can create a legacy this week faster than Hoyer, a North Olmsted native who still defends his area's pro teams in spirited conversations with teammates.
"I think he's very ready for the challenge," Dantonio said of a much-maligned passer who ranks third in efficiency in conference play. "Is Brian Hoyer ready? Brian Hoyer has been ready every single game this season. There's no doubt that he'll be very excited and ready to play."
With five touchdowns and one interception in league games, Hoyer has played well enough to win. That is all Dantonio and Michigan State's fans want this week.


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