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December 7, 2013

Big Ten title game looks like it may be classic matchup

INDIANAPOLIS — The Big Ten championship game already looks like a classic contest.

No. 2 Ohio State comes to Indianapolis with its trendy, up-tempo offense and a powerful old-style ground game that has been virtually unstoppable.

No. 10 Michigan State counters with its typically stout defense, which doesn’t allow many opposing offenses to get in sync.

Yes, it’s time to settle in for Saturday night.

“It’s miserable,” Buckeyes offensive coordinator Tom Herman said jokingly this week. “But this is why you coach. These are the games your competitive nature can come out a little bit and say, I’m going to have my offense, my checkers, my pieces are going to be more prepared and play harder and longer and with better technique and effort than yours.”

The stakes couldn’t be higher: To the winner goes an all-expenses paid bowl trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.

And if the Buckeyes (12-0) extend their school record winning streak, the nation’s longest, to 25, the reward may be even greater — what is likely to be their fourth appearance in the BCS title game, their first with two-time national champion coach Urban Meyer.

But few teams pose a bigger obstacle than the Spartans (11-1). A year ago, they fell just short of upsetting the Buckeyes, falling 17-16 in the conference opener.

This year, the Spartans have been even stingier. They lead the nation in total yards allowed (237.7 per game) and fewest yards rushing (64.8), and Michigan State also has the No. 1 passing efficiency defense (91.8). A win over the Buckeyes would give the Spartans their longest winning streak (nine straight) since 1966 and their first Rose Bowl bid since 1988, though coach Mark Dantonio has argued this week his team should also be considered for the BCS championship game.

The question, of course, is whether Michigan State can hold up against Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde?

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