Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 6, 2014

With a tip of the hat to hype king Don King, let?s go ahead and call Ohio State?s trip to Michigan State the ?game of the year? in the Big Ten.

The two schools met in the Big Ten title game last season, with the Spartans dumping the Buckeyes to earn their first trip to the Rose Bowl since the 1987 season and end OSU?s 24-game winning streak and national championship hopes. High stakes loom in this prime-time meeting in East Lansing.


Check out my Best of Week 11 below.

BEST GAME: Ohio State?s visit to Michigan State could be a de facto Big Ten East title tilt. The Buckeyes won 17-16 the last time they visited Spartan Stadium in 2012. But Michigan State took the last meeting, dumping Ohio State 34-24 in the 2013 Big Ten championship game to end the Buckeyes? 24-game winning streak and national title hopes. The Spartans have won two of the last three meetings after losing seven in a row to the Buckeyes. The battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball should be top-notch.

BEST MATCHUP: Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford vs. Ohio State defensive line. This should be primo. Langford is gaining steam, rushing for over 100 yards in five straight games and each of his last 12 games vs. Big Ten teams, including the 2013 Big Ten title game. He?s coming off a season-high 177 yards on the ground the last time out vs. Michigan. The Buckeyes have the top defensive line in the Big Ten led by stud end Joey Bosa, as OSU is No. 5 vs. the run in the conference (118.6 ypg). If Langford gets on track, the Spartans should cruise to victory in this big, big game.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT: You could pick a number of players in the Ohio State at Michigan State game. But let?s go with Minnesota RB David Cobb. He needs to carry a big load if the Golden Gophers want to win vs. Iowa in a clash between teams with one Big Ten loss each that remain in the thick of the West race. Cobb is the Big Ten?s ultimate workhorse, carrying a league-high 211 times and ranking No. 3 in the league in rushing (141.4 ypg). The fact Minnesota has the Big Ten?s worst passing game (140.5 ypg) puts even more pressure on Cobb and the ground game to get the Gophers back on track after that loss at Illinois the last time out. In that defeat, Cobb fumbled late and saw the Illini return it for the game-winning points.

KEEP AN EYE ON: The offenses in the Michigan at Northwestern games. The loser of this game will see its fading bowl dreams take a big hit. How much are these attacks struggling? Each is tied for last in the Big Ten in total offense (330.0 ypg). Want more? The Wolverines are 12th in scoring (21.9 ppg); the Wildcats are last (19.1 ppg). Which attack can gain some traction?

BEST COACHING MATCHUP: Ohio State?s Urban Meyer and Michigan State?s Mark Dantonio are at the top of their games. Without a doubt, they are the premier coaches in the Big Ten. Dantonio hasn?t lost a Big Ten game since Nov. 17, 2012, ripping off 14 triumphs in succession. Meyer hasn?t lost a Big Ten regular-season game since taking over in Columbus in 2012, winning 20 in a row. These tough-minded, no-nonsense coaches set the tone with physical teams that execute well.

BEST QUARTERBACK MATCHUP: It has to be Michigan State?s Connor Cook vs. Ohio State?s J.T. Barrett. Cook hit 24-40 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in a 34-24 win vs. OSU in the Big Ten title game. He cemented his big-game ability by earning MVP honors in the Rose Bowl. Barrett has been a revelation since taking over for injured Braxton Miller but never has faced the glare of the spotlight. The redshirt freshman tweaked a knee the last time out. Is he OK? Barrett is No. 1 in the Big Ten in passing efficiency but hasn?t faced a defense like this.

BEST COORDINATOR BATTLE: It will be a blast to watch Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi engage in battle. In fact, there may be no hotter coordinators in the nation than these two, as each looks destined to be a head coach soon. Herman?s Buckeye attack is No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring (45.6 ppg); Narduzzi?s defense is No. 6 in scoring (20.2 ppg).

UPSET ALERT: Minnesota could bring home Floyd of Rosedale when Iowa visits the Twin Cities. No doubt, a win vs. the Hawkeyes would give Minnesota needed mojo as it embarks on a monster November. Minnesota had a bye last week, allowing for extra prep time. Can the Gophers? match the physicality of the Hawkeyes? More vital: Can Minnesota generate some semblance of passing game to keep an Iowa team that?s coming off a resounding 48-7 win vs. Northwestern off balance?

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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