LJ Scott and the Spartans look to ruin the Buckeyes' postseason plans for a second straight season
Fresh off consecutive 62-3 victories over Nebraska and Maryland, Ohio State will travel to East Lansing to battle Michigan State. The Buckeyes have revenge on their collective minds, as the Spartans were the lone team in 2015 to defeat them, winning on a last-second field goal by Michael Geiger, 17-14. Despite winning every other game on their schedule that season, the Buckeyes were not included in the College Football Playoff, denying them the opportunity to successfully defend their 2014 national championship.
Michigan State enters this game, far removed from the successes the Spartans have enjoyed over the previous seasons. Last week’s 49-0 shutout of Rutgers snapped Michigan State’s seven-game losing streak, meaning the Spartans won’t be going to a bowl this season. Even at 3-7, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, his staff, players, and fans will be eager and anxious to play spoilers to Ohio State's season once again.
Ohio State at Michigan State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Ohio State -23
Three Things to Watch
1. Ohio State's Running Game vs. Michigan State's Rush Defense
Spartans head coach Mike Dantonio announced earlier this week that standout defensive lineman Malik McDowell may miss the game against Ohio State, which would be his second in a row. Ohio State's offense is built around its power running game, spearheaded by redshirt freshman Mike Weber, junior Curtis Samuel and redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett. In last year's victory over the Buckeyes, the Spartans were able to clamp down on Ohio State ball carriers. Will the result be the same, if McDowell is not in the lineup? Throw in the weather forecast that calls for it to be windy and raining at kickoff in East Lansing, and the Buckeyes may prefer to stay grounded to minimize any chances of turnovers or dropped passes.
2. Michigan State's Passing Game vs. Ohio State's Secondary
Michigan State has gone back to Tyler O'Connor at quarterback, after losing Brian Lewerke to injury against Michigan on Oct. 21. O'Connor seemed to regain some consistency in the win over Rutgers, throwing for three touchdowns in the first half alone and finishing with no interceptions. Ohio State prides itself on the play of their secondary with Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley, Damon Webb and Malik Hooker all the types of players capable of capitalizing upon turnovers and turning them into points. Will Michigan State adopt a more conservative offensive approach against this ball-hawking secondary?
3. Special Teams Play
As stated above, the weather forecast calls for windy and rainy conditions during the game. As both teams will probably look to keep things on the ground, the battle for field position will be at a premium. Blocked punts, shanked punts, poor coverage on kickoff or punt returns, and fumbled punts may all wind up being the difference in this game.
Beware Mark Dantonio and his wounded Spartans team. A master motivator, Dantonio will summon the collective pride of his team, reminding so many on his roster who are Ohioans that the Buckeyes did not deem them worthy of scholarship offers. Running back LJ Scott, offensive lineman Noah Listermann and cornerback Justin Layne were all recruited by Ohio State yet chose Michigan State. Michael Geiger, who kicked the game-winning field goal last year in Ohio Stadium, hails from the Buckeye State as well. Spartan starters center Benny McGowan, quarterback Tyler O'Connor, defensive end Robert Bowers, linebacker Andrew Dowell, linebacker Chris Frey, and cornerback Darian Hicks all came from Ohio, but were not offered scholarships by Ohio State. Dantonio will be preaching about respect and pride, while Urban Meyer will be reminding his team that the Spartans are once again looking to deny the Buckeyes of their goal of a national championship. The Las Vegas oddsmakers must know something, but this point spread seems awfully substantial for a game that traditionally is very close.
Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan State 17
— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.