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The 3-2-1 Preview: 3 Key Stats, 2 Things We Want To See and 1 Best Bet for MSU football vs. OSU

Is there a path to a big win here?

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Michigan State Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

So...I guess this thing is getting played?

Who knows exactly who will get off that bus from Columbus? Who even knows what version of Michigan State we will end up seeing on Saturday?

All I know is that Michigan State has another tough fight ahead of them, but let’s try to make sense of this and find a road path to another stunning Green and White win.

3 Key Stats


That would be the points per play for Ohio State, who is an absolute WAGON on offense (obviously). That stat is good for eighth-best in the nation and also leads the Big Ten.

How do they do it? Well, having Justin Fields throw at a 79.6 accuracy clip and just one game with interceptions (three against Indiana) certainly helps.

He has his favorite targets as Garrett Wilson (31 receptions) and Chris Olave (26 receptions) are the only two Buckeyes with double-digit receptions. He likes his tight end target in Jeremy Ruckert as three of his nine catches on the year have been touchdowns.

The run game is (again, obviously) equally as potent with Master Teague and Trey Sermon each averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

MSU’s defense has been good — sometimes great this season, but…HOO BOY, this will be a tough one.


That’s Ohio State’s opponent’s yards per pass attempt which, HEY, is good news for MSU! The Buckeyes secondary is maybe the only position group you could possibly call a “weakness” as that 7.8 yards per pass attempt ranks all the way down at 87th in the nation.

Side note: Michigan State’s defense has a very strong 6.2 yards per pass attempt – good for 18th best in the country.

All right, back to talking MSU passing offense vs. OSU passing defense. MSU’s offense picks up 7.0 yards per pass attempt, which is 78th in the country. That sounds about right.

So, what’s the secret? The old fashioned “bomb and gouge” routine, baby. Bring back that Michigan game plan and let’s get some bombs in the mix.

9.3% and 27.4%

The 9.3 percent number is Ohio State’s “stuff rate” on offense, which is the percentage of runs that get stopped at the line of scrimmage or behind. That’s, uhh, pretty remarkable that only about nine percent of the Buckeyes’ runs are “stuffed.” So remarkable that it’s the second best rate in the country.

You know who else has the No. 2 ranking in a key stat? THAT’S RIGHT, your Spartans defense! They generate a stuff rate of 27.4 percent, which is the second best amongst defenses in the country.

Long story short, this battle in the trenches between the Ohio State offensive line and Michigan Stat defensive line will be a blast to watch.

2 Things We Want To See

Getting third down stops

Another major key to Ohio State’s scoring success on offense is how efficient they are on third down. They convert at a whopping 54.4 percent, good for third in the nation only behind Alabama and Kent State (of course, who didn’t have the Golden Flashes in their top three??).

MSU’s third down defense was massive last weekend, holding the Wildcats to just a five-of-18 clip as well as two-for-four on fourth down.

It’s the epitome of “wayyyyyyyy easier said than done” but getting the Buckeyes off the field at a somewhat reasonable clip at least gives the Spartans a prayer.

The same(ish) Rocky Lombardi as last week

Rocky’s stat line wasn’t the most dazzling thing in the entire world, but it’s how he did it that was the game-changer.

Just think back to the Iowa and Indiana games when Rocky got in trouble — far too many times he would try some ridiculous hero play and it would turn into mass chaos and disaster. Last week? Sure, that one interception wasn’t great, but he didn’t force anything crazy in the face of pressure all game. He either a.) smartly tossed the ball to the ball boy on the sidelines or b.) just tucked it and ran.

I’m going to get CRAZY here and assume that Rocky will see some pressure on Saturday. If Rocky can go without relapsing to his Iowa-Indiana ways, that would just be great.

1 Best Bet

MSU +23.5, over/under 59.5

Tough beat for under 40 last week, but hey, I’ll gladly take it if it means a Spartan win.

This week the over/under is a big number. So big, it seems a little fishy. And when Vegas gives you a fishy line, you cut against that grain.


That’s exactly what I’m doing. So Vegas is telling us the assumed score will be a 42-18 Buckeye win, give or take a point either way. I’m more confident about both teams going under their respective numbers than I am about both going over them, so I like the under.

Pick: Under 59.5

Record: 2-3


What’s your best bet for MSU vs. OSU on Saturday?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    MSU +23.5
    (54 votes)
  • 18%
    OSU -23.5
    (23 votes)
  • 11%
    Over 59.5
    (14 votes)
  • 26%
    Under 59.5
    (32 votes)
123 votes total Vote Now