Since 2011, Michigan State is 3-2 against the Buckeyes and has won those games by an average margin of victory of 5.3 points per game. Michigan State broke a seven game losing streak last week against Rutgers with a 49-0 shutout win in East Lansing.
The Buckeyes are coming off of two impressive conference victories over Nebraska and Maryland by a combined scores of 128-6.
Ohio State is averaging 46 points per game and is rushing for 267 yards per game along with passing for 244 yards per game through the air this season. The Buckeyes have converted 52% of their third down attempts this year and in the last two wins have completed 56 of 80 passes (70%) for 340 yards with 7 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Quarterback J.T Barrett has completed 64% of his passes for 2,218 yards with 23 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Barrett is the catalyst for the offense and can put pressure on opposing defenses on the perimeter with his legs. On the year, Barrett has rushed for 8 touchdowns averaging 4.4 yards per carry (617 yards).
Running back Mike Weber leads the team in rushing with 935 yards averaging 6.1 yards per carry with 7 touchdowns. Weber is a tough runner that can pound defensive fronts with his tough running style and also catch the edge of the defense on read options.
Ohio State has done an excellent job of jumping up early on opposing teams and forcing them to play catch up with them. The offense must be patient in this game because Michigan State will want to slow down the tempo and get the Buckeyes into a low scoring game.
Running back/slotback Curtis Samuel is the team’s leading receiver with 57 receptions for 750 yards with 6 touchdowns. Samuel has great speed and elusiveness and the coaching staff does an excellent job of finding ways to get him the football in space to utilize his athleticism.
Defensively, the Buckeyes are allowing 12 points per game and are giving up 110 rushing yards per game along with 162 passing yards per game.
The defensive front seven has recorded 22 sacks and has held opposing offenses to 29% on their third down attempts. Entering this game the defense is +13 turnover margin and will look to force turnovers against Michigan State who has struggled with ball security this season.
Over the last two games, the defense held both Nebraska and Maryland to 60 rushing yards per game with no rushing touchdowns. During that span, the secondary allowed 24 of 60 pass attempts (40%) for 129 passing yards per game with no touchdowns with forcing 3 interceptions.
The Spartans are averaging 26 points per game and have rushed for 175 yards per game along with passing for 230 yards per game through the air this season.
Quarterback Tyler O’Connor will lead team into battle this Saturday and has big game experience with leading the team to the road win 17-14 in Columbus last year. He has completed 61% of his passes for 1,747 yards with 15 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
The offensive line has struggled with protection this year and has allowed 21 sacks through the first 10 games of the season.
Running back L.J Scott is the most important player on the offense for the Spartans to pull off the upset win on Saturday afternoon. Scott must find running lanes and be able to pound the football between the tackles to allow the offense to control the clock and keep the Ohio State offense on the sidelines. Scott leads the team with 775 rushing yards averaging 5.2 yards per carry with 5 touchdowns. Teammate Gerald Holmes is the slasher that can catch the edge of the Buckeyes defense after Scott does his damage.
Holmes has rushed for 416 yards averaging 5.0 yards per carry with 5 touchdowns this year.
Michigan State has converted 39% of their third down attempts and will look to put themselves into third down and short situations to methodically work down the field.
Defensively, the Spartans are giving up 27 points per game and are allowing 160 rushing yards per game along with 200 passing yards per game to opposing offenses.
A major disappointment has been the front seven which has only recorded 7 sacks through 10 games this season.
The unit is allowed opponents to convert 42% of their third down attempts and enters this game -3 in turnover margin. This is the first time that the Spartans have been negative in turnover margin since the 2009 season when they ended the year at -6.
In comparison, the unit has forced 12 takeaways this year. It has been a significant drop-off in productivity since 2014.
2016- 12 takeaways
2015- 28 takeaways
2014- 34 takeaways
That is a main reason why the Spartans have lost 7 straight games.
-3 in 2016 (through game 10)
+14 in 2015
+19 in 2014
+13 in 2013
+2 in 2012
+7 in 2011
+5 in 2010
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