Michigan State Can’t Ignore Ohio State Receiver Devin Smith

Andrew Weber – USA Today Sports

The Michigan State Spartans‘ No. 1 defense already has enough to worry about on Saturday in the Big Ten championship game.

The explosive combination of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde in the backfield for the Ohio State Buckeyes is cause for concern for the Spartans’ defense, and rightfully so. No defense has been able to slow down the Miller-Hyde combination yet this season. The Ohio State offense will be the best offense by far that the Spartans have faced all season, but there’s more that the Spartans defense needs to worry about than just Miller and Hyde.

Miller’s improved passing ability makes the Ohio State receivers a threat as well, namely Devin Smith, who caught a 63-yard touchdown pass from Miller that ended up being the game-winner for the Buckeyes in their 17-16 win over the Spartans last season in East Lansing. If Michigan State’s impressive rush defense is able to slow down Miller and Hyde in the running game, then the Buckeyes can always turn to the passing game. They can try to exploit the biggest weakness of the Michigan State defense, which is leaving their cornerbacks out on an island to cover their opposition’s receivers one-on-one. The Spartans’ defense does this so they can crowd the line and try to stop the run.

Smith has already proven that he can beat this type of coverage, and seems to be Miller’s favorite target when it comes to long pass plays. He caught a 53-yard touchdown pass from Miller in the Buckeyes’ win over the Michigan Wolverines last week because he was left one-on-one and beat the defender. He has 18 career touchdown catches and is averaging 39.6 yards per reception. Leave Smith out on an island with one of your cornerbacks, and that cornerback is bound to get beat.

He has always been a great deep threat for the Buckeyes, but it is time for Smith to prove that he can be a consistent, dependable target for Miller, and there’s no better time to do it than against a defense that excels in rush defense but not so much in pass defense. Stopping Miller and Hyde in the running game may be a key to victory for the Spartans, but they can’t discount the fact that Ohio State has Smith, a deep threat who has already proven that he can beat the Spartans’ pass coverage.

The Ohio State offense seems like it could be too much for the Spartans’ top defense to handle.

Jenna Aquino is a Big Ten Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow her on Twitter, “Like” her on Facebook, add her to your network on Google, or reach her by e-mail at starz9815@hotmail.com.

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