Buckeyes preparing to face healthy Cook
Columbus, Ohio — Some might be wondering if Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook will be healthy enough to play Saturday against Ohio State.
None of those people play or coach for the Buckeyes, however.
"We're not wasting any time on it," Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash said. "He'll be there. We know that. It's not a concern. If not we'll move on and have a plan, but we're planning on him being there and not wasting a lot of time worrying if he's not."
Cook injured his right throwing shoulder in the victory over Maryland and sat out the second half. After the game he said he was fine and would play against Ohio State.
On Monday, Cook was clear about where he was physically.
"Shoulder is great," he said. "It feels good."
Cook was pressed on a teleconference Monday night, being asked if he had an X-rays on the shoulder, but he declined to talk about it at that point.
That shoulder holding up will be vital for No. 9 Michigan State entering its biggest game of the season.
Cook has been outstanding for the better part of the last month, having thrown for more than 300 yards in four straight games before getting hurt against Maryland. But if 100 percent, he'll present plenty of problems for Ohio State.
It's enough to impress Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
"One of the best quarterbacks in Big Ten history, and someone showed me his winning record," Meyer said. "And that's how you value a quarterback, is do you win games because that's his job? And he wins almost every game he plays."
He is the only Big Ten quarterback to beat Ohio State since Meyer has been the coach, throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns in the 2013 Big Ten Championship game. In last season's meeting, a 49-37 Ohio State win, Cook threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns.
At 31-4 as a starter, he is second in the nation in active wins, trailing Stanford's Kevin Hogan by one.
The Buckeyes are counting on Cook at his best on Saturday.
"He's one of the best we've faced," Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa said. "He's poised in the pocket and can stand back there. He's a big guy, hard to bring down. He's gonna make some plays against us we just have to limit what he does."
Cook enters Saturday's game second in the Big Ten in passing yards (2,482) and passing efficiency (143.0) and is tied for the lead with 21 touchdowns.
The Buckeyes believe the Spartans can be a balanced offense as the offensive line is now healthy, but the focus will remain on Cook.
"He's got very strong arm, can make all the throws," Ash said. "He's athletic enough to avoid the pressure. He understands the system, understands defenses and gets them in and out of plays, reads coverages well. You name it, what you want in quarterback you see in him."
Meyer was full of praise for the Spartans on Monday. In addition to Cook, the Ohio State coach thinks highly of Michigan State's defensive line.
"We're facing the best defensive line maybe in college football," Meyer said. "Theirs and ours are very comparable and just very good players."
The Spartans have been strong up front, the loss to Nebraska being the one exception. They have 29 sacks this season, good for fourth in the Big Ten. Ohio State has allowed just 15 sacks, but Meyer hasn't been happy with the way his offensive line has protected the quarterback.
"It's not just one thing because sometimes we get our tight ends involved in it, and they weren't great (last week)," Meyer said. "And then just a guy getting beat here and there in the lap of the quarterback, so we've just got to get a little firmer. … We're going to work at it really hard. This is a real week to work at it."
Fuel to the fire
Ohio State left tackle Taylor Decker has plenty of motivation heading into Saturday's game simply because of the implications of the matchup between the Spartans and Buckeyes.
But the 6-foot-8, 315- pound Decker thought back to his recruitment and realized, initially, Ohio State didn't want him. At that time, Jim Bollman — Michigan State's co-offensive coordinator — was coaching the offensive line and was the offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes. When Meyer took over, Decker backed out of a commitment to Notre Dame and ended up at Ohio State.
So now he has a little extra heading into Saturday.
"He didn't want me," Decker said of Bollman. "So I hope we win."