EAST LANSING — The Spartans are bringing a two-game winning streak home with them to face the Buckeyes in another Big Ten East division battle. Michigan State blew out Maryland last Saturday, 24-3, while Ohio State struggled to put away the Cornhuskers in their own backyard, 36-31.
With the win over the Terrapins, MSU is now bowl eligible for the 11th time in Mark Dantonio’s career as head coach.
This will be the 47th meeting between these two universities — both teams are entering this game ranked in the AP Top 25. OSU leads the all-time series 31-15, which includes a 16-5 record when playing in East Lansing. Although, Mark Dantonio is the only Big Ten coach to defeat Urban Meyer twice during his time at Ohio State (spoiling their season in 2013 and 2015).
“When we play them, there’s always a lot on the line,” said Dantonio when asked about Ohio State.
In 2015, Michael Geiger hit a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give the Spartans a 17-14 victory over the Buckeyes on route to the Big Ten Championship and the College Football Playoff. Additionally, Michigan State beat Ohio State in the 2013 B1G Championship Game, snapping a 24-game winning streak for OSU with a 34-24 win as MSU clinched a Rose Bowl berth for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Come Saturday, the Spartans will once again, be fighting to keep their season alive — along with hopes of another Rose Bowl appearance.
Offensively, the Buckeyes have scored 20 or more points in 21 consecutive games. This year they are averaging 42.2 points per game and are ranked No. 10 nationally.
Last week, Ohio State ran for 229 yards against Nebraska, its second highest output of the season. J.K. Dobbins had a season high 163 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. It was their best performance since the first game of 2018. OSU hasn't ran the ball well, which is something the Spartans have caught on too. They’re more worried about Dwayne Haskins than anything else.
“He's not a big runner though — we’re not too worried about that,” said Joe Bachie. “We’re mostly worried about his arm and how well he’s thrown this year so far.”
Haskins continues to be one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in all of college football. He’s thrown over 3,000 yards, 32 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. He’s 278 yards away from the single-season yardage record, held by Joe Germaine.
The Michigan State secondary will need to come ready to play because the Buckeyes average 369.1 passing yards per game, with 547.2 yards of total offense.
Luckily, the Spartans got to see Josiah Scott take a large amount of snaps against Maryland, while making a few key plays on defense. His presence will certainly be felt.
“I think he hasn’t lost a step, like I said he’s been practicing for a couple of weeks prior too (this game), getting his game legs on. Obviously you see he made a play while defending a deep ball, which is something we need,” said Khari Willis on his teams chemistry now that Scott is back.
The Spartans are still concerned for a hurt Brian Lewerke who said after Saturday’s victory over Maryland that he is still experiencing some pain in his shoulder, especially when he throws the ball. Unfortunately, for fans sake, he wasn't willing to comment on his injury during this mornings presser.
However, according to Mark Dantonio, Lewerke is still his starting quarterback.
“I think you can go with that. That’s the foundation that he’s built here,” said Dantonio. “I didn’t see any velocity according relative to his arm strength.....if he was hurt, he would not be playing.”
Lewerke is the more experienced quarterback but has clearly been riddled with injuries for the past few weeks. In his last two starts he is 16-45 with 153 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He hasn’t looked like the same guy for much of this year, yet they keep electing to go with him over Rocky Lombardi.
“As I said after the football game, though, not afraid to use Rocky,” said Dantonio. “I think he made a big statement against Purdue in that football game, and I look at him as an ace reliever.”
It’s clear the Spartan offense needs a spark of some kind (something we saw in the Purdue game). They are only averaging 234.8 passing yards per game (65th nationally) and 125.6 yards on the ground (112th nationally). For the most part they’ve been unable to run the ball with any kind of consistency. Juggling two quarterbacks and trying to figure out productive ways to move the ball against Ohio State isn't a problem MSU can afford right now.