2020 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Michigan State

The Buckeyes found themselves in a tough spot this past weekend. Ryan Day has tested positive for COVID-19, and will have to sit out the next 10 days based on the employee protocol. Assistant head coach, and defensive line coach, Larry Johnson will fill in the role for Ryan Day, and is the first African American head coach in Ohio State football history. Unfortunately, the team had a high positive test rate as well, and conducted tests all the way through Friday night, until cancelling the game against Illinois. 

This cancellation now puts Ohio State in a very very tight window. They will need to get the last two games in this week and then next week against Michigan in order to meet the Big Ten threshold. If they have to cancel, they would need 12 out of the next 14 games to cancel as well, which is very unlikely. The Playoff Committee does not have a requirement for games played, but Ohio State can use all the data points it can, which include a conference championship to help its positioning as a final 4 team. At the moment, 3rd or 4th seems to be their ceiling. 

The Buckeyes are on a 4 game win streak against Michigan State, and lead the overall record 33-15. The Spartans and the Buckeyes played each other touch between 2012-2016, but with the regression of Michigan State, and the Buckeyes gaining more talent with recruiting, the games have not been the same. 

This game will be played on ABC at noon, and we are hoping this game is able to be kicked off. Not to look ahead, but as of Monday, Michigan had to pause activities for their football team, which could put next week’s game in jeopardy. 


Head Coach: Mel Tucker
2020 Record: 2-3
Location: East Lansing, MI
Conference: Big Ten

Ohio State Preview: The Buckeyes had another unexpected bye week, this time as a result of positive testing on their own team. Gene Smith was interviewed on Saturday that the Buckeyes could have played this past weekend, but opted not to in order to limit the spread, conduct testing, and have a chance to be able to compete the last two regular games of the season. If they are able to compete in those games, they will be eligible for the Big Ten East representative as they would meet the 6 game threshold. This could all change if the Big Ten announces they are changing protocol, based on the new guidelines from the CDC, and based on games getting cancelled because of the impacts in the Big Ten states.

Justin Fields did not have his typical gam on Saturday either, but is still completing nearly 80% of his passes. He is 90 of 113 for 1208 yards, to go along with 13 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He had a much bigger running game on against Indiana, bring up his rushing total now to 135 yards on 42 carries and 3 touchdowns. Hopefully this game is one where he can sit back and pass, and get back to his normal self.

Master Teague had over 160 yards rushing against Indiana, and now sits at 380 yards on 73 carries and 6 touchdowns. Trey Sermon also had some good runs, and brings his totals up to 232 yards on 45 carries. 

Garrett Wilson has been playing like an All-American through 4 games this season and has 513 yeards on 31 catches and 4 touchdowns so far. He had had 4 straight 100 yard receiving games. Chris Olave also broke 100 yards against Indiana, and now has 389 yards on 26 catches and 4 touchdowns.

Michigan State Preview:  Mark Dantonio left the program in what could be considered an early retirement, and in a spot to where he would get paid the remaining amount of his contract. With him stepping down, the Spartans had to scramble and try to get a coach to replace Dantonio. It seemed that Luke Fickell was about to accept the job, but then decided to turn it down, and that opened the door for Mel Tucker, who was the coach at Colorado. 

Michigan State has not had the season they expected so far, starting off with a loss against Rutgers (who actually might be better with Schiano at the helm) but were able to rebound and defeat Michigan the next week, who had come off a big win against Minnesota. They lost their next two games to Iowa and Indiana, and lost by a combined score of 73-7. Like the Buckeyes, their game against Marlyand was cancelled, and then were set to play Northwestern, who was undefeated going into that game after being Wisconsin. Michigan State got off to an early lead, and held on to defeat the Wildcats 29-20. They now enter this game 2-3, and are looking to pull off another upset. 

Rocky Lombardi is the starting quarterback for the Spartans, who had come in to try to spark a comeback in 2018 against the Buckeyes, but failed to get the job done. This season, he has 1057 passing yards along with 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He also has 48 rushing yards on the season, but is not known for his rushing abilities. 

Running the ball has been a struggle, and they have done so by committee. Connor Heyward is the leading 179 yards on 52 carries and no touchdowns. Jordan Simmons is the next leading running back with 147 yards on 42 carried, also with 0 touchdowns. The Spartans only have 1 rushing touchdown for the year. 

Jalen Nailor is the leading receiver for MSU with 379 yards on 16 catches and 2 touchdowns. Jayden Reed leads the team in receptions with 22 and has 252 yards to go along with 3 touchdowns. Ricky White has 223 yards on 10 catches with 1 touchdown. 

The strength of this team is the defense, but they are giving up 370 yards a game, including over 230 yards passing. The Buckeyes will need to attack this side of the ball to control this game. 

Buckeye Spotlight: Master Teague. Depending on the weather, there might be a heavy emphasis on the run game with week, and with his performance last game against Indiana, he should be the lead back for the Scarlet and Gray. The Buckeyes will need a run game to be effective to open up the play action passing game they have been reliant on the first 4 games.

Spartan Spotlight: Antjuan Simmons. The one time Ohio State commit is the leading tackler and best player on the Michigan State defense. He has 53 tackles for the season, and 6.5 for a loss, in which 13 tackles and and 2 for a loss came in last weeks game against Northwestern, where he was honored as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. 

Water Cooler Stat of the Game:  5. Chris Carter is the only receiver in Ohio State history to have recorded 5 straight 100 yard receiving games, and Garrett Wilson is at the cusp of tying it. If he ties it this week, he will have a chance to break it next week against Michigan, and mark his legacy in the rich receiver history.

Prediction:  Ohio State will need to be focused as they prepare to take on Michigan State, and will need to look good doing so, as they might not have a chance against TTUN the next week. If this game can be played, Ohio State needs to control the tempo of the game with a balanced running and passing game. Their last trip to East Lansing was a field position battle due to the limited running ability of Dwayne Haskins, but Justin Fields has that advantage. The goal will be to stay healthy, win and win big. The Buckeyes should have the advantage with their passing attack against the Spartan secondary, and will need to rely on that to help them convert first downs.

Ohio State 45 – Michigan State 13

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