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Big Ten Championship Game Preview: Ohio State vs. Michigan State

I am not surprised by the fact that Michigan State was installed as a 6-point underdog in the Big Ten Championship game as public perception continues to be infatuated by the undefeated (12-0) Buckeyes.  However, my math model only favors Ohio State by 2.5-points and the Spartans apply to a very good 32-5-1 ATS momentum situation that invests on certain teams off four or more wins by ten or more points.  Let’s take a closer look at both of these teams matchup from a fundamental standpoint:

Michigan State’s Elite Stop Unit:

The Spartans are allowing a mere 11.7 points per game this season at 2.2 yards per rush play, 5.1 yards per pass attempt, 3.8 yards per play and 20.2 yards per point.  Overall, Michigan State is an incredible 1.8 yards per rush play, 1.7 yards per pass attempt, 1.5 yards per play and 6.1 yards per point better than average defensively.  Meanwhile, Ohio State arrives in Indianapolis with an explosive offense that is 2.2 yards per rush play, 0.6 yards per pass attempt and 1.4 yards per play better than average.

Michigan State Defense vs. Ohio State Offense:

  • -0.4 yards per rush play disadvantage
  • +1.1 yards per pass attempt advantage
  • +0.1 yards per play advantage overall

The numbers above substantiate what I have known all season, that is, the Spartans’ defense is superior to Ohio State’s offense.  While Ohio State may have limited success running the ball based upon its 0.4 yards per carry advantage, the Buckeye’s passing attack stands no chance against Michigan State’s elite secondary.  The other factor supporting Michigan State is the fact that it does not give up big plays.  Specifically, the Spartans are limiting conference opponents to just 23.8 yards per point this season and 25.9 yards per point over the last three games.

And, while it is true that Ohio State’s defense maintains an advantage over the Spartans’ attack, Michigan State’s offense enters the Big Ten Championship game in excellent form.  Indeed, the Spartans are averaging 28.3 points over their last three games, including averaging 8.3 yards per pass attempt and 5.9 yards per play.  In contrast, Ohio State is yielding 30.0 points over its last three games on 488 total yards.  Even more concerning for head coach Urban Meyer is the fact that the Buckeyes are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 64.7% of their pass attempts.

From a technical standpoint, Michigan State is 11-2 ATS on the road versus conference opponents, 10-2 ATS following a double-digit win over a conference foe, 6-0 ATS on the road versus teams with a winning record and 7-0 ATS on the road in the second half of the season.  Meanwhile, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is 21-7 ATS versus conference opponents, 6-0 ATS on the road off consecutive double-digit wins, 13-5 ATS on the road off back-to-back wins and 15-4 ATS away from home following a home win.

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