Michigan State at Ohio State: Interview with Spartans expert


Michigan State at Ohio State will be a battle on Saturday; here’s a preview of the game with Spartan Avenue editor Connor Muldowney.

Austin Layton: The Michigan State/Ohio State game has been an annual battle for the past few years now with both teams consistently towards the top of national rankings. What differences do you see between this Spartan team and the team Ohio State fans saw last year?

Connor Muldowney: I think this year’s Michigan State team is far more unpredictable than last season’s, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Last year, you knew what you were going to get out of MSU: solid offense, lockdown defense and some trick special teams plays. This season it’s been inconsistent offense — outside of Connor Cook — spotty defense and an absolutely horrid special teams unit. Don’t get me wrong, this year’s team is still good, but it has yet to put together a complete performance.

Ohio State fans will see an improved Connor Cook from a year ago, a lesser run game and better wide receivers. The defense no longer has the ‘No Fly Zone’.

​AL: Connor Cook made the news when he left last weeks game against Maryland. I saw that he is expected to be fine for this weekend, but do you have any concerns about his health, and if he misses any time what do the Spartans have at backup?

CM: From everything I’ve heard about Cook, there’s no way he’d miss this one. This is arguably the biggest game of his career and he will do whatever it takes to be out on that field. It might affect his throwing motion, though, seeing as it was in his throwing shoulder, but he should be fine with the short passes. The deep ball is a different story.

If he does get knocked out of the game, there are two options: Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry. O’Connor might be listed as the backup on the depth chart, but the race for No. 2 — and next year’s starter — is about as wide open as any. The fan favorite definitely seems to be Terry who is a dual-threat and someone who could add another dimension to this offense. Neither is ready to start just yet, but next year, Dantonio will find the right guy as both have the talent.

AL: Outside of Connor Cook, what other offensive players will need to step up against the Buckeyes?

CM: The receivers have been great all year so I would have to say it would be a mixture of the running back corps, the offensive line and tight end Josiah Price. True freshman LJ Scott got off to a scorching start at running back, but has disappeared over the last four games. Gerald Holmes began the season as the No. 3 back, but has been the most consistent and Madre London, the starter, is finally back from his multiple-game injury. This rushing offense is a far cry from Jeremy Langford’s production.

The offensive line has been partially to blame for this lackluster run game and they haven’t done the greatest job of opening holes for the backs. They need to step up as does Josiah Price who was a preseason All-Big Ten player and has fallen short of basically all expectations.

AL: Who are your favorite big-time play makers on defense?

CM: A guy who has really grown on me over the past few games has been senior outside linebacker Darien Harris. He’s one of the most athletic linebackers Dantonio has ever coached and he has become the best of the bunch this season. In the secondary, Montae Nicholson has so much potential at safety, but he keeps underperforming. I think I, along with many other MSU followers, am waiting for him to truly break out.

Of course, there’s Shilique Calhoun at defensive end. Calhoun is to the Spartans what Joey Bosa is the the Buckeyes. However, sophomore defensive tackle Malik McDowell might end up being the best defensive lineman in recent MSU history before it’s all said and done. The guy is a tackle-for-loss machine.

AL: Who would you rather beat and why: a top ten Ohio State team or a top ten ranked Michigan team?

CM: Man, this is tough. Any win over Ohio State is special since the Buckeyes don’t lose very often, but I’m going to have to go with a win over a top-10 Michigan team strictly because any loss against the Wolverines and the bandwagon fans come out of hiding to rub it in Michigan State fans’ faces.

Heck, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Michigan beat Michigan State this year from how Wolverines faithful have been talking. I guess a fluke win just means MSU is spiraling downward, right? However, I do think the Michigan State vs. Ohio State games have been far more enjoyable and have been a much cleaner rivalry in recent years.

Next: Michigan State or Michigan could go to the Big Ten Championship

Big thanks to Connor for a great interview, and best of luck on Saturday.