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Game Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan State Spartans

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Michigan State v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Ohio State Buckeyes travel up to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday afternoon, and let’s just hope this meeting goes nothing like the 2017 version.

It’s an interesting matchup. The Buckeyes are seemingly struggling defensively, while the offense — although still potent — hasn’t been putting up its normal abundance of points. Michigan State, on the other hand, is currently playing out its mind defensively, but there are still many question marks on offense — namely with an injured Brian Lewerke under center for the Spartans.

Let’s jump right into the preview.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2018 Record — 6-3 (4-2 Big Ten)

Offense (per game basis)— 360.3 total yards, 234.7 passing yards, 125.6 rushing yards,

Defense (per game basis)— 325.1 yards allowed, 253.4 passing yards allowed, 71.7 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative Points Scored (per game basis): 23.44
Cumulative Points Allowed (per game basis): 19.00

Current S&P+ Ranking: 30th

Ohio State:
2018 Record — 8-1 (5-1 Big Ten)

Offense (per game basis) — 547.2 total yards, 369.1 passing yards, 178.1 rushing yards

Defense (per game basis)— 397.3 yards allowed, 243.9 passing yards allowed, 153.4 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative Points Scored (per game basis): 42.2
Cumulative Points Allowed (per game basis): 23.8

Current S&P+ Ranking: 9th


Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: Ohio State leads 31-15
Last Michigan State Win: Nov. 21 2015 (17-14)
Last Ohio State Win: Nov. 11 2017 (48-3)
Michigan State all-time record: 700-456-44 Ohio State all-time record: 906-325-53


Previous Game Results (Quick Hits Recap)

Michigan State 24, Maryland 3
Michigan State’s defense completely suffocated the Maryland offense, holding the Terps to just to just 74 passing yards, 26 rushing yards and 100 total yards. Offensively, the passing game was weak, mustering only 87 yards behind the injured shoulder of Brian Lewerke, but the ground game finally got going with a season-high 269 rushing yards. Connor Heyward had a career day with 157 yards on just 15 carries (10.5 yards per carry) and two touchdowns — including an 80-yard scamper to seal the deal for the Spartans. The bounces went MSU’s way, as a Heyward’s fumble in the end zone was recovered by the Spartans for a touchdown, and later an interception was forced out of the hands of the Maryland defender and recovered by MSU in the end zone for a touchback. Oh, and the Michigan State rush defense is unbelievable (No. 1 in the nation):

Ohio State 36, Nebraska 31

The Buckeyes have been riding the struggle bus the past couple of weeks, and Scott Frost and the Cornhusker boys gave Urban Meyer and Ohio State quite the scare, but OSU held on. This performance was followed by Purdue’s thrashing of Ohio State. Nebraska was up 21-16 at halftime, but the Buckeyes opened up the second half with two straight scores. Ohio State was then up 36-24 before Nebraska closed the gap at 36-31 with under three minutes to play, but it was too little too late. The Cornhuskers took the ball away from the Buckeyes three times, and played their hearts out, but in the end the talent gap was too much for them to overcome. Let’s just hope we’re not getting a pissed off Ohio State team like in 2017, as the program looks to keep its playoff hopes alive.


Key Matchups

Dwayne Haskins vs. Michigan State secondary: This is the key matchup. Haskins is the best pure passer that Ohio State has had in several years, maybe ever. The Buckeyes ranks third in the nation in passing offense, while Michigan State ranks a putrid 98th in passing defense. With that said, the unit has improved mightily against the pass as the season has progressed. MSU hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer since the Northwestern game, and has allowed 212 yards or less passing in three of the past four games, including against highly-touted quarterbacks Trace McSorley and Shea Patterson. MSU must limit the damage in the passing game to have a chance.

Brian Lewerke vs. Ohio State pass defense: On the flip side, how can a maimed Brian Lewerke take advantage of an Ohio State team that ranks just 84th nationally at defending the pass? Ohio State has given up an average of 29.2 points per game in its last five outings — the Spartans have to capitalize on that to have any shot of keeping pace in the game. The problem is, if last week is any indication, Lewerke still can’t put any kind of zip on the ball, while accuracy has never been his strong suit. Let’s hope another week has let that shoulder heal, and he’s ready to sling it on Saturday.

Battle of the trenches: From the opening snap last of last year’s game, J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber completely gashed the Spartans on the ground. MSU generated no push in the trenches on either side of the ball, generating just 64 rushing yards on offense and zero sacks on defense. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s defense recorded six sacks, while rushing for 335 yards on the other side of the ball. Simply put, this cannot happen. You will not win any football games with that kind of effort, let alone against an Ohio State. Luckily, there is less of a threat of the quarterback running this season. The running game is finally starting to gel for the Spartans, so let’s hope that continues.


Game Info

Time: Noon EST
TV Channel: Fox
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
Weather expectations: Mostly cloudy, snow showers leading up to the game with a few snow showers possible during the game, winds west-northwest at 15-20 MPH
Line: Ohio State -3.5


Overview:

This one is hard to predict. Mark Dantonio has historically played well against Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes, but in 2017, Ohio State embarrassed the Spartans in every sense of the word. The trenches were completely controlled by the team from Columbus, and OSU decimated MSU on the ground for more than 300 rushing yards in a 48-3 shellacking. Ohio State has played poorly the past couple of weeks and has something to prove — I fear it may make an example out of Michigan State again. MSU has beaten OSU three times in the past seven seasons, which is better than most (or maybe every?) team in the country can say, but oddly, Michigan State has not beaten the Buckeyes in East Lansing since 1999, despite some of the games being close.

My worry is that Michigan State doesn’t have the horses on offense to compete with Ohio State’s high-powered unit. Yes, the MSU defense is playing as well as any unit in the country, and yes Ohio State’s defense has given up a ton of points lately and has seemed to struggled without Nick Bosa causing havoc, but Brian Lewerke is still dealing with an ailing shoulder. Even if Dantonio has a change of heart and decides to start Rocky Lombardi, I am not sure an inexperienced quarterback is the right move against a team of OSU’s caliber. The team in green and white is still dealing with plenty of injuries as well, though are a lot healthier now than it has been throughout the season.

It would not be surprising to see a close, hard-fought contest. With that said, I also believe that MSU is going to need to get a defensive or (gasp) special teams score in order to keep pace with Ohio State’s offense. I predict a close game going into the fourth quarter, but the Buckeyes break it open with a 10-14 point final quarter and win.

While I am being a bit pessimistic, I would love nothing more than to see a Michael Geiger re-enactment as time expires by Matt Coghlin.

What do you think?

Poll

Who wins the Big Ten East showdown?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    Michigan State
    (54 votes)
  • 50%
    Ohio State
    (55 votes)
109 votes total Vote Now