EAST LANSING — There are few games on Michigan State’s schedule with such pinpointed critical pregame matchups as today’s against Ohio State.
There are two, as I see it, they are very clear:
One is Keith Appling’s ability to initiate offense, for himself and others, against the defense of Aaron Craft.
The other, as colleague Joe Rexrode wrote about today, is the defense of Branden Dawson (and maybe Adreian Payne) on the Buckeyes’ Deshaun Thomas.
Draymond Green got the better of Thomas last season, seemingly getting in his head.
One of the reasons I like MSU to win today is that I think Dawson is about as strong a matchup for Thomas as he’ll see in the Big Ten. And, without a player on the wing like former Buckeye William Buford, Dawson’s focus can be on Thomas.
Payne is also expected to guard the Big Ten’s leading scorer. I’m not as sold on that idea for MSU.
This is a Spartan team that hasn’t always been dialed in through the first 18 games. As I wrote in today’s column, their history with Ohio State will help with that issue.
This could be a low scoring struggle. But if MSU guards Thomas reasonably well, keeps Craft from being disruptive and doesn’t let another Buckeye have an unexpected huge game (in other words, defends better than against Nebraska and Penn State), I think MSU wins this one before the final minute.
More at halftime.