The co-leaders of the Big Ten’s East Division clash when No. 16 Michigan State travels to face No. 11 Ohio State on Saturday afternoon. The Spartans pulled into a tie with the Buckeyes when they upset Penn State 27-24 at home last weekend while Ohio State was dominated by Iowa 55-24 on the road.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio’s squad usually relies on a hard-nosed defense and a relentless running game, but quarterback Brian Lewerke has been red hot over the last two weeks, throwing for a school-record 445 yards two weeks ago before settling for an even 400 in the win over the Nittany Lions. Not that the Spartans aren’t tough defensively, ranking third in the country in rushing defense - allowing just 87 yards a game. They’ll be tested by the Buckeyes, though, who are 20th in the nation in rushing offense at 235.3 yards a contest and are led by freshman J.K. Dobbins’ 914 yards. While Urban Meyer’s squad is averaging a Big Ten-best 43.8 points and 549 yards of offense, Michigan State has been able to hold Ohio State in check in recent years while holding the Buckeyes to 17 or fewer points in four of their last six meetings.
TV: Noon ET, Fox. LINE: Ohio State -15.5
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten): While Lewerke is rightfully getting a lot of credit for the surge in the Spartans’ passing game, the team’s young receiving corps also deserves some kudos for their play as the team has uncovered a new wrinkle to its offense. Darrell Stewart Jr. had 11 catches for 98 yards and freshman Cody White added nine for 165 yards and two touchdowns while Felton Davis III registered eight receptions for 95 yards and a pair of scores against Northwestern. It was Davis as the dominant pass catcher with 12 grabs for 181 yards and a score while seven other players had receptions against Penn State, showing the Spartans’ depth and the difficult task the Ohio State defense will have shutting down a suddenly red-hot passing game.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (7-2, 5-1): There were a lot of position groups to blame after the blowout loss to Iowa, but one that came under a lot of scrutiny was the Buckeyes’ linebackers. Starters Chris Worley, Dante Booker and Jerome Baker had trouble covering Iowa tight ends, who caught four touchdowns in the contest, and simply didn’t play up to the level they expect of themselves. The trio of two seniors and one junior (Baker) must raise their level of play against Michigan State, which has had big rushing days against Ohio State in the past and now boasts a running quarterback in Lewerke that the Buckeyes will have to keep a constant eye on.
1. Sophomore LB Joe Bachie continues to be Mr. Everything for the Michigan State defense, leading the team with 77 tackles and two forced fumbles, ranking second in tackles for loss (7.5) and tying for third in sacks (3).
2. Ohio State ranks eighth in the country in tackles for loss with 74, led by DL Nick Bosa’s 10.5 and DE Sam Hubbard’s 6.5.
3. In the six regular-season meetings between the two schools since 2008, the visiting team has won each time.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 24, Michigan State 21