After easy road wins at Indiana and Nebraska, Ohio State will at home for the first time this year in conference play, hosting the Michigan State Spartans. Tonight’s contest will be the first night game at Ohio Stadium since the Buckeyes hosted Oklahoma in 2017, with the Sooners coming away with a 31-16 win in that contest.
Last week many around the country had Ohio State on “upset alert”, but the Buckeyes put any chances of an upset by the Cornhuskers to bed early, jumping out to a 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. Ohio State kept their foot on the gas in the second quarter, and by halftime the Buckeyes had a 38-0 lead over Nebraska. Ohio State left Lincoln with a 48-7 win, giving them four straight victories by at least 40 points, which is a feat no Big Ten has accomplished since the end of World War I.
Justin Fields continued to work his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation by totaling four touchdowns against the Cornhuskers. Through five games, Fields is the only quarterback in the country with at least one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown in each game. The 138 points Fields is responsible for so far this season ranks second in the country.
Even more impressive for the Buckeyes against Nebraska was Ohio State’s rushing attack. The Buckeyes totaled 368 yards rushing against the Cornhuskers, which was the most by Ohio State since they ran for 410 yards against Rutgers in 2016. J.K. Dobbins did a lot of the damage on the ground, rushing for 177 yards. The junior running back now ranks second in the country with 654 yards rushing this season.
Defensive end Chase Young anchors an Ohio State defense that has yet to allow an opponent to gain over 300 yards of offense this season. Young already has eight sacks this year, which is most in the country. The junior is just two sacks away from joining Mike Vrabel as the only Buckeye to record at least 10 sacks in two seasons.
Michigan State enters tonight’s matchup with two straight wins after a 10-7 loss to Arizona State earlier this season. Last week the Spartans squeaked out a 40-31 win over Indiana in East Lansing. After Indiana tied the game at 31 late in the fourth quarter, the Spartans used a game-winning 21-yard field goal from Matt Coghlin to take the lead for good, and added a fumble recovery in the endzone as time expired to boost the margin of victory.
After throwing 11 interceptions and just eight touchdowns in 2018, Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke has rebounded this year and is leading the Big Ten in passing yards and completions. The redshirt senior has passed for 1,325 yards, 10 touchdowns, and thrown just one interception so far this year. Lewerke has struggled against Ohio State in two starts, completing just 29 of 64 passes for 259 yards, and he has been picked off by the Buckeyes three times.
The Buckeyes will be facing their toughest defensive challenge of the year, as they’ll be going up against defensive end Kenny Willekes, who is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. Willekes has four sacks already this year and two forced fumbles. Joining Willekes on Michigan State’s defense is linebacker Joe Bachie, who is leading the Big Ten with 47 tackles this season. The Spartans rush defense is fourth in the nation, allowing opponents just 55.8 yards per game on the ground.
Ohio State comes into tonight’s matchup as 21-point favorites over the Spartans. Since 2012, Ohio State is 60-5 against Big Ten opponents, but Michigan State holds two of those wins. The Spartans beat Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game, and in 2015 in Columbus. Since then, the Buckeyes have won three straight games over Michigan State, including the last two by a combined score of 74-9.
When is the game and how can I watch?
Game date/time: Saturday, Oct. 5th
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Radio: 97.1 FM/1460 AM
Where is “GameDay” this weekend
Rece, Kirk, and the rest of the College GameDay crew will be in Gainesville for the first time since 2012. Florida will be hosting Auburn on Saturday afternoon in a matchup of two SEC teams ranked in the AP Top 10. This marks the 13th time College GameDay has been in Gainesville, and the Gators are 8-4 in those games, but Auburn is 2-0 when playing Florida with College GameDay in attendance.
What’s the rest of the Big Ten up to today?
There’s no doubt which game in the conference is the marquee matchup of the day. Iowa travels to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan. The Hawkeyes come into today’s meeting with the Wolverines undefeated, and they’ll be looking to win their six meeting with Michigan in their last seven matchups.
The rest of the noon kickoffs don’t come anywhere close to the importance of the Iowa-Michigan tilt. A Purdue team without quarterback Elijah Sindelar and wide receiver Rondale Moore will travel to State College to take on a Penn State team coming off a 59-0 pasting of Maryland last week. The Terrapins will look to get back in the win column against Rutgers, who not only fired head coach Chris Ash last week, but are still looking for their first point in conference play this year. Wisconsin is favored by five touchdowns against Kent State, which will wrap up the non-conference schedule for the Badgers.
Minnesota will look to stay undefeated when they kick off in Minneapolis at 3:30 PM EST against Illinois. The Golden Gophers hope to finally get an easy victory, as their four wins have come by a combined 20 points. Nebraska looks to rebound from last week’s loss to Ohio State when they host Northwestern in Lincoln for a 4:00 PM EST kickoff.
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