Ohio State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) seemed to enjoy last week’s trip to Maryland. It’s unknown if they ate any crab cakes, but they certainly feasted on a soft Maryland team en route to a 62-3 win. They now head north to East Lansing for the club’s final true road game of the year. While Michigan State (3-7, 1-6) entered the season with high expectations, they have face planted and will not qualify for a bowl game. So, is a win all but assured for the Scarlet and Gray? To quote the immortal Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.”
Ohio State leads the all-time series with Michigan State 29-15, but the series has been remarkably competitive of late. MSU has won three of the last five including the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game. In a strange twist, Sparty has won the past two contests in Columbus while the Bucks have won the 2014 and 2012 games in Michigan. That stat bodes well for the Scarlet and Gray this weekend. Last season’s game was particularly brutal for Buckeye Nation; Michigan State won 17-14 in a last second, walk-off 41-yard field goal by Michael Geiger. The Spartans’ head-to-head advantage wound up booking them a ticket in the Big Ten Title Game. That appearance led to a conference title and appearance in the College Football Playoff. Needless to say, Ohio State fans were left to wonder if that path could have been theirs had they bested the Green and White.
The 2016 Spartans are having their worst season since 2006 which is especially surprising considering their pre-season standing. Sparty opened up at No. 12 in the AP Poll and started 2-0 with wins over FCS Furman and then-No. 18 Notre Dame. A home loss to then-No. 11 Wisconsin followed and the freefall began. MSU dropped seven straight games – Wisconsin, at Indiana, BYU, Northwestern, at Maryland, No. 2 Michigan, and at Illinois. Their fortunes changed last week when they encountered the team that cures all ills: Rutgers. Michigan State vanquished the Scarlet Knights 49-0. They will close the year at home against Ohio State then at Penn State where they will play for the Land Grant Trophy. The Spartans will not play in a bowl game for the first time since 2006, but even with a postseason game out of the picture they will be plenty motivated against the Buckeyes.
Program of the Week
Today’s program of the week goes back to 1966 when the Horseshoe looked like a horseshoe. The stadium has undergone numerous transformations over its existence, but the differences are most dramatic when compared to older versions. The south stands are miniscule when stacked against the current iteration. There are no permanent lights, and the current pressbox casts a literal and figurative shadow on the proceedings. The biggest difference might be that we no longer have a mythical imp painting the lines across the field. Simpler times. Michigan State won the game in question 11-8.
For the past few years, quarterback Connor Cook has been the biggest offensive weapon for Michigan State. Last year the Walsh Jesuit grad entered the NFL and is currently on the Oakland Raiders depth chart. He left giant shoes to fill, and his replacements have largely scuffled in his wake. Redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke appeared in four games, but suffered a broken tibia against Michigan which shut him down for the year. Senior Tyler O’Connor started last week’s game and has appeared in nine games all season. He has thrown for 131-of-213 yards for 1,747 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions. The top receiver, RJ Shelton, has 710 yards and five touchdowns on the year. The top running back L.J. Scott has gained 775 net yards and five touchdowns.
Last week completely disrupted the rankings and left Ohio State as a major winner. OSU sits as the No. 2 team in this week’s College Football Playoff Poll behind Alabama and ahead of Michigan and Clemson. If the Bucks manage to win out coupled with two more Penn State wins then the Nittanies would represent the East in the Big Ten Championship Game. However, even if the Buckeyes are boxed out of the conference title game they still stand a chance to qualify for the CFP. The next week will help frame the conversation going into the final week of the regular season. The good news is, Ohio State is in the mix for a New Year’s Eve bowl game.
It would be dangerous to overlook the Spartans. All eyes will be on Columbus November 26 when the Bucks host the Wolverines in a likely battle of top-5 schools. However, with Michigan State at the tail end of a lost season, this game becomes their de facto bowl game. MSU is dangerous at home and on Senior Day emotions will be high. Ohio State is favored by 22 points, and while the final difference might be closer than that the Bucks should leave East Lansing with their tenth win of the season.