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Ohio State vs. Michigan State Prediction: Undefeated Buckeyes Get First Road Game of the Season

Reeling Spartans have lost six in a row to their Big Ten East rivals.

At the beginning of the 2022 college football season, most fans looked at the upcoming schedule and believed that Michigan State would be one of the better teams in the Big Ten. Yes, Kenneth Walker III, a key part of Michigan State's 2021 success, had departed, but surely Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker would be able to adequately replace the talent lost with reinforcements, right?

So far this season, it has not worked out that way. Michigan State began the season 2-0 but has lost its last three games to Big Ten opponents, and on Saturday the Spartans are welcoming in an undefeated Ohio State team that has not lost in East Lansing since 1999 (23-7), when Nick Saban was at the helm.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 6

"We have a tremendous challenge this week with Ohio State," Tucker said at his press conference previewing Saturday's game. "The challenge is that they're very balanced. They’re extraordinary in the run game and also in the pass game. They have arguably the best quarterback in the country. Everyone’s at the point of attack on every play."

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has been to East Lansing before as an assistant in 2018, but this game will mark his first time patrolling the sidelines as head coach. Day was absent from Ohio State's last trip to East Lansing in 2020, a 52-12 Ohio State win, due to COVID.

Despite Michigan State's recent struggles, Day is emphasizing to his team that the Spartans are always a challenging opponent. This game will mark Ohio State's first road trip of the 2022 season.

"It is a tough, tough place to play," Day said of East Lansing at his press conference. "Certainly a great stadium and a great environment. And it's gonna be hard to win up there. It always is. And it was the first time we're going on the road. So new challenge for us, new tests. You know, it's been a unique year that we are in Week 6 and we haven't played a game on the road. It's been great, but we're going to a good rhythm."

No. 3 Ohio State at Michigan State

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 4 p.m. ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Ohio State -26.5
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When Ohio State Has the Ball

As Tucker stated at his press conference, the Buckeyes are well-balanced offensively, something that was a stated goal of Day's as the 2022 season began. The attack is led by quarterback C.J. Stroud, who is coming off a solid, if unspectacular, game versus Rutgers. Stroud completed 13 of 22 passes for 154 yards, two touchdowns, and one bad interception when he tried to complete a pass into quadruple coverage. Nonetheless, Stroud is the key to the offense, as he is distributing passes well to wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and Julian Fleming. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the 2021 campaign's leading receiver, has been sidelined for most of this the 2022 season due to a hamstring injury and he won't make his return on Saturday.

The Buckeyes also will be without running back Miyan Williams, who exploded for 189 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 21 carries last week against Rutgers. Williams saw a heavy workload because TreVeyon Henderson was unavailable and now it appears that the two will swap places. Williams was spotted wearing a brace at practice earlier this week but Henderson is expected to return against Michigan State. Henderson is averaging 6.4 yards per carry with three rushing touchdowns so far this season.

The Michigan State defense has been susceptible to strong passing offenses, so it will be curious to see how Tucker and defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton scheme to slow down this balanced Ohio State attack. A key Spartan defender to keep an eye out for is edge rusher Jacoby Windmon. The senior has 5.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles this season and may be called upon to harass Stroud in obvious passing situations.

When Michigan State Has the Ball

Michigan State has not yet been able to replicate the success in 2022 that they had running the ball with Walker in 2021. Transfers Jalen Berger (59 att., 301 yds., 4 TDs) and Jarek Broussard (38, 177, 2) have been part of a running back by committee approach that also includes Elijah Collins (14, 94, 3). Collins was the leading rusher in Michigan State's 27-13 loss at Maryland and may wind up getting the majority of the carries versus the Buckeyes.

Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne has completed 104 passes of 162 attempts for 1,121 yards, eight touchdowns, and six interceptions this season. Among Thorne's favorite targets is wide receiver Jayden Reed. Reed caught seven passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in the loss at Maryland and figures to be a key player Ohio State will need to identify in their preparations for this game.

The Ohio State defense has improved considerably since 2021, but a key area of concern is the lack of depth within the Ohio State secondary, as many players have missed games due to injury. Among the leaders in the Ohio State secondary is safety Ronnie Hickman. Hickman's versatility in playing both the pass and run may be crucial in this contest against the Spartans.

Final Analysis

Ohio State will finally get its first road test of the season, and it comes against a Michigan State team that is struggling defensively, while also trying to establish a consistent offensive identity. The Spartans may try to throw some wrinkles at the Buckeyes for the element of surprise, but Ohio State's depth in the passing game will be too much for Michigan State to handle.

Prediction: Ohio State 56, Michigan State 7

Podcast: Week 6 Preview, Predictions, the Latest in Coaching Changes, and Picks Against the Spread

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Land-Grant Holy Land. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

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