While the end of each Ohio State football season has rightfully been centered around The Game, there is another team from that state up North that has been way more of a thorn in the side of Buckeye fans in recent years: the Michigan State Spartans.
In a series where home field advantage hasn’t seemed to matter and all available metrics are usually thrown out the window, we have seen upsets and blowout wins alike. It appears that when two veteran football coaches in Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio face off, almost anything can happen — and it has.
2012: 17-16 Ohio State (@ Michigan State)
The first meeting between these two coaches took place in 2012, when the No. 14 Buckeyes traveled to East Lansing to face-off against the No. 20 Spartans in Meyer’s first Big Ten game as coach of Ohio State.
In a low-scoring affair, the Bucks held a 7-3 lead at the end of the first half. After trading field goals coming out of the break, MSU took a 13-10 lead on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Spartan quarterback Andrew Maxwell with 4:49 remaining in the third quarter.
Less than two minutes later, OSU would answer with a 63-yard TD pass from Braxton Miller to Devin Smith to put Ohio State up for good, 17-13. The Spartans would manage just a field goal the rest of the way as the Bucks held on to win by a point to give Meyer his first Big Ten victory.
Miller finished with 179 passing yards (with a TD) and another 136 yards rushing. Corey Brown caught 12 passes for 84 yards while Smith had two receptions for 79 yards including the long score. Ohio State was able to hold Spartan running back Le’Veon Bell (Yes, that Le’Veon Bell) to just 45 yards on 17 carries.
2013: 34-24 Michigan State (Neutral Site - B1G Championship)
Before the realignment of the conference, the Buckeyes and Spartans sat in opposite divisions, making it possible for the two to play in the conference title game. While this was better than the current alignment from a competition standpoint, it was bad news for Ohio State.
The No. 2 Buckeyes met the No. 10 Spartans at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis with a virtual guarantee that a win would send them to the BCS National Championship game. Sparty had plans of their own, however, as they would come out and score the first 17 points of the game.
Ohio State would rally, and after a Braxton Miller TD pass to Philly Brown and a Drew Basil field goal, the Buckeyes found themselves down just 17-10 at half. They would come out of the gates firing in the third quarter, as consecutive Miller rushing TDs gave OSU a 24-17 lead.
The Spartans owned the remainder of the game, as a field goal and an early fourth quarter Connor Cook passing TD put MSU back on top 27-24. On the ensuing OSU drive, on a fourth-and-2 play that still lives in infamy among Ohio State fans, Miller kept the ball instead of giving it to power back Carlos Hyde and was stopped short of the sticks.
Sparty would add another TD on their next drive to put the game away at 34-24. The loss was the team’s first under Urban Meyer, snapping a 24-game win streak and keeping the Buckeyes out of the BCS title game.
2014: 49-37 Ohio State (@ Michigan State)
After an early-season loss to Virginia Tech, many had counted Ohio State out of the picture for the inaugural College Football Playoff. However, Sparty would not be ready for the firepower the Buckeyes had been producing since that game.
After a bunch of back-and-forth through the early stages of the game, Michigan State held a 21-14 lead on a pair of Jeremy Langford rushing scores and a Connor Cook TD pass. Ohio State was down, but certainly not out, as with just over three minutes remaining in the first half, Buckeye QB J.T. Barrett unloaded a 79-yard TD pass to Michael Thomas to tie it up at 21. OSU would score again before the half on a 44-yard TD pass from Barrett to Devin Smith to put the Bucks up 28-21 at the break.
Ohio State pretty much scored at will for the remainder of the contest, with Ezekiel Elliott punching it in twice in the second half and Barrett adding another passing TD of his own as the Buckeyes went on to win 49-37. Barrett finished with 300 yards passing and three scores while Zeke had 154 yards and two scores on 23 touches.
Fueled by Elliott’s unstoppable ground game and an elite defense, Ohio State would go on to win the National Championship in 2014.
2015: 17-14 Michigan State (@ Ohio State)
Sitting at 10-0 with more or less the same team from the year before, No. 3 Ohio State came into their matchup against the No. 9 Spartans at home under the lights with aspirations of a repeat National Title. What happened on Nov. 21, 2015 would dash those dreams and shock the college football world.
As both teams struggled to get anything going on offense on a wet, chilly night in Columbus, the Buckeyes got on the board first on an Ezekiel Elliott TD early in the second quarter. Later in the quarter, Michigan State would answer on a TD pass from backup QB Tyler O’Connor (Connor Cook did not play with an injury) and the teams would head into halftime locked at seven apiece.
Fans became restless in the second half as the Buckeyes refused to utilize Zeke in the running game despite the rainy conditions, resulting in numerous three-and-outs. However, they would take the lead on a J.T. Barrett TD pass to Jalin Marshall late in the third quarter.
After Sparty got a rushing TD early in the fourth to tie it at 14-14, both teams offenses were stagnant for the remainder of the game, and as the clock was about to hit double zeros, it was Michigan State in possession of the ball. As time ran out, Spartans kicker Michael Geiger nailed a 41-yard field goal to win the game, putting a dagger in Ohio State fans’ dreams of a title with a windmill celebration directed at the Buckeyes’ student section.
The loss was shocking for many reasons, but mostly for Meyer’s inexplicable game plan that saw Elliott touch the ball only 12 times. An Ohio State offense that seemed unstoppable most of the year and featured a handful of now-NFL stars was held to 132 total yards and just five first downs.
2016: 17-16 Ohio State (@ Michigan State)
In another closely contested matchup between these two schools, this time it was the Buckeyes who were able to come away with a narrow victory in enemy territory.
Tied 10-10 at halftime, Ohio State would get the first points of the second half on a four yard rushing TD by Mike Weber. It was a long time before any more points were put on the board, but it was Michigan State with a rushing TD by L.J. Scott with under five minutes remaining in the game that would break the drought.
With a chance to knock of the No. 2 Buckeyes at home, Dantonio elected to go for two instead of kicking the PAT to tie the game. The pass play failed, and instead the Spartans found themselves down one late in the fourth quarter.
After OSU was forced to punt with 2:37 remaining, Sparty again would have a chance to win the game. It was not to be, however, as on the second play of the drive MSU QB Tyler O’Connor was intercepted by Gareon Conley to seal the 17-16 victory for Ohio State.
2017: Ohio State 48-3 (Home)
The result of last year’s contest was one most did not see coming. After arguably the program’s worst loss ever against Iowa the week before, many expected the now 13th-ranked Buckeyes to struggle against No. 12 Sparty. This was not the case.
The Ohio State offense came alive against Michigan State, scoring at will throughout the entire game. Weber broke open the scoring with a 47-yard TD run early in the first quarter. Barrett would add a pair of rushing touchdowns and short passing TD of his own before another long 82-yard scamper from Weber had the Bucks up 35-0 midway through the second quarter.
Sparty registered their only points of the game on a field goal as time expired in the first half, and the Ohio State defense would hold them in check for the rest of the afternoon. The Buckeyes came out of a halftime with a 48-yard TD pass from Barrett to Binjimen Victor and would coast the rest of the way to a 48-3 victory.
OSU running backs Weber and J.K. Dobbins combined for 286 yards on 27 carries as the defense held Michigan State to just 64 rushing yards. MSU QB Brian Lewerke was picked off twice while also losing a fumble.
This year’s matchup is expected to be a close one, as Ohio State is currently just a 4-point favorite midday Friday, according to Vegas. However, as we have seen in the past, numbers mean nothing and literally anything can happen.
The two will face off yet again tomorrow, this time in Spartan Stadium. The game will be broadcast on FOX at noon ET.