OSU, MSU battle for Big Ten dominance

The Spartans and Buckeyes have established their standing in the conference -- and the nation -- early on.

| 2 years ago
Joey Bosa

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

OSU, MSU battle for Big Ten dominance

As the college football season rolls into its fifth week, we’re starting to see contenders emerge across the different conferences. Some teams are really beginning to make their mark as early favorites to compete in conference championship games. Two such teams are the Michigan State Spartans and Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten. Both are in the Big Ten East, but which of the two are more likely to be in the conference championship game?

Let’s start with what makes the Spartans so good. Offensively it starts up front, where left tackle Jack Conklin (+11.7) is one of the best offensive linemen in football. Already impressing this season, the lowest grade we’ve seen from Conklin since the beginning of last season was the game against Oregon earlier this year (-0.9) where he struggled as a run blocker. Where he really stands out is as a pass protector though, and with three of his games graded so far this year, we have yet to charge him with a single pressure after allowing just 12 total pressures in 2014.

That gives more time for quarterback Connor Cook (+5.5), who has formed a nice partnership with wide receiver Aaron Burbridge (+9.0) so far this year. Cook looks to have taken a step forward from last season (-0.6),where he was our 43rd-ranked quarterback, and that makes the Spartans offense all the more dangerous.

On defense we’ve not seen the best out of Shilique Calhoun (+0.4) this year so far, but let’s not forget how dominant he was last year, with the defensive end racking up a grade of +43.0 and registering eight sacks, 20 hits and 38 hurries.

If there’s an area on defense where they are struggling somewhat, it’s in the defensive backfield, where just three players have a positive grade. All that said though, there is plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball, particularly is Calhoun can get back to his best.

The defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes haven’t been the most convincing team in the country this year, but they have continued to keep on winning. The biggest concern for them right now is at quarterback, where both Cardale Jones (-7.3) and J.T. Barrett (-3.5) have really struggled as passers this year. That has the potential to derail their lofty expectations this season, but so far they have managed to keep winning despite that.

Defensively they have no such concerns, with outstanding talent at all three levels. Up front defensive end Joey Bosa (+11.7) was oustanding against Northern Illinois, with a sack, two hits and four hurries. Inside, Adolphus Washington (+15.5) has had a fantastic start to the year both as a pass rusher and against the run, including nine defensive stops against Hawaii and Northern Illinois. At linebacker Darron Lee (+8.5) and Joshua Perry (+8.0) have stood out, along with cornerback Gareon Conley (+7.2) and safety Vonn Bell (+6.6) in the defensive backfield.

Both of these teams are up there with the very best in the country and will expect to be involved in the College Football Playoff. Both can’t be in the Big Ten Championship game though — and the game between them two on November 21st looms large to see who will come out on top.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • crosseyedlemon

    I’m hoping the Buckeyes are undefeated when the show up in Ann Harbor in November. The upset win by the Wolverines is going to be much sweeter under those circumstances.