Michigan State knows a thing or two about great defensive line play, all it needs to do is put on film of its own defensive lines from the last few years. However, the Spartans offense won’t be facing that talented defensive line in practice come this Saturday
When its Michigan State vs. Ohio State in Columbus this weekend, Conor Cook and Co. will find themselves staring not only the best defensive line in the Big Ten, but also the country, square in the face and they won’t be wearing green and white.
Leading the group is sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa, who just got done being named the Big Ten defensive player of the week along with Athlon’s national defensive player of the week. He not only had six tackles, but he had a season high 2.5 sacks as well. Bosa capped off his night and the victory over Penn State with one of the most dominant sacks we’ve seen in college football this season.
It wasn’t just a one-game wonder for Bosa either, as he leads the Big Ten with 11.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Nationally, Bosa is tied for 10th in tackles for loss and fifth in sacks this season.
According to head coach Urban Meyer, Bosa’s work off the field has been the most impressive part of his season.
“He’s a practice player,” said Meyer at his weekly press conference following the PSU game. “He goes out and practices and does a good job, and it’s effort, and that’s why you continue to see a guy like that improve. And he is getting better. He’s better than he was at the beginning of the season right now.”
Bosa has recently been named a semifinalist for both the Butkus Award (best defensive player in the country) and the Rotary Lombardi Award. Both are testaments to his prowess as not only the Big Ten’s best, but one of the best in the country at what he does.
However, you don’t become the best defensive line in the conference or country by having just one dominant player in the starting lineup. The beauty of OSU’s double-overtime win over Penn State was that Bosa doesn’t get to make that play without the help of the rest of his defensive linemen.
Against Penn State, we saw the Buckeyes put up 11 tackles for loss and eight sacks — most of which came from the defensive line.
Bosa’s defensive line mates aren’t too shabby either. Defensive tackle Adolphus Washington has 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, fellow DT Michael Bennett has three tackles for loss and one sack and Bosa’s opposite number, Steve Miller has 5.5 tackles for loss and one sack.
It isn’t just that performance that matters either, as the Buckeyes have 24 sacks and lead the Big Ten in tackles for loss per game this season.
On Saturday, that defensive line goes up against a Michigan State offensive line that statistically could be the Big Ten’s best. They’ve given up just five sacks on the season, and along with Wisconsin are the only two teams to give up fewer than 10 sacks so far this year.
That stat may be a bit hard to really quantify because of the number of variables involved, but what is telling to me is MSU has faced two very good defensive front sevens in Nebraska and Michigan. The Huskers failed to record a sack, while Michigan had just one.
As for tackles for loss, the two best defenses to date recorded 10 of them in those two games.
Clearly there will be a challenge from the Spartans offensive line, but Ohio State has done some serious damage up front against any and all comers this season.
If it wants to win on Saturday against the Spartans, it will start with Joey Bosa and the rest of the defensive line.