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Staff predictions: No. 7 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State

Spartan Nation, it's Game Day!

No. 7 Michigan State travels to No. 4 Ohio State in a bonafide playoff game as the Spartans and Buckeyes vie for first place in the Big Ten’s East Division. With each team already featuring a loss, the loser of this game is likely eliminated from the College Football Playoff discussion.

Furthermore, a loss by the Spartans would eliminate them from contention for the East division and Big Ten titles. Needless to say, the stakes are massive in Columbus this afternoon, and Spartan Nation staff writers Matthew Lounsberry and Kenny Jordan weigh in on what we expect to see in this incredible matchup.

Kenny’s 3 Bold Predictions:

1. Both teams score 40+ points

This game will be a shootout. Mel Tucker may not want to hear it, but his offense is going to have to score touchdowns to keep up with this Ohio State team. In all fairness, the secondary hasn’t been great for the Spartans but this Ohio State offense will score a lot of points on anybody especially with their two first round projected wide receivers. Michigan State’s best defense will be their offense ability to sustain drives and take time off the clock while able to score touchdowns. If you like a lot of points, this is your game.

2. Jayden Reed has two touchdowns including a kick return

There’s a reason Jayden Reed is one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award that’s awarded to the nation’s most versatile player. Reed has been stellar as the top passing option for Payton Thorne this season but he has also changed a few games with kick returns for touchdowns. I expect Reed to have a punt return for a touchdown as well as a reception for a touchdown.

3. Xavier Henderson 10-plus tackles

Henderson is currently fifth in the Big Ten in tackles with 82. The senior safety is the only player that has been a captain every single week for the Spartans this season. He’s also playing against his hometown team as Henderson grew up just south of Columbus. Henderson has been a bright spot for the Spartans secondary and with Ohio State’s ability to throw the ball, Henderson will be busy tomorrow afternoon with plenty of big stops for the Spartans.

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Matt’s 3 Bold Predictions:

1. Kenneth Walker III locks up the Heisman Trophy

There are bold predictions, and there are BOLD predictions. This one falls in the latter category. Kenneth Walker III will have a massive day for the Spartans and, win or lose, his performance in this game will secure his spot atop the Heisman Trophy competition. I’ll saw that Walker carries for over 150 yards rushing, scores two rushing touchdowns, and has a touchdown reception down in the redzone.

2. Jalen Nailor returns from injury

Given that I don’t have any knowledge of the injury Nailor sustained against Michigan in Week 9, this may be a foolish prediction. However, if there’s any chance the redshirt is healthy enough to go, he’ll be on the field. Nailor has missed the last two and a half games, and hopefully the time away was enough to get him healthy. It would certainly provide a needed extra weapon for Michigan State’s offense.

3. Both offenses eclipse 450 total yards

Mel Tucker said earlier this week that he didn’t want this game to be a shootout, but I think that’s exactly what he’s going to get. Both of these offenses will find a lot of success against the counterparts on the defensive end. The Spartans and Buckeyes will march – or sprint – up and down the field, each going over 450 yards of total offense. This is going to be a high-scoring one, folks.

Game Overview/Score Predictions:

Kenny’s overview: No. 7 Michigan State travels to No. 4 Ohio State with implications for first place in the Big Ten East on the line. Michigan State and Ohio State have identical 9-1 records, although the Buckeyes have one-game edge in the East division standings with their lone loss against Oregon out of the conference. The Spartans faltered two weeks ago against Purdue, but have all of their goals in front of them with two games remaining in the regular season. This game features one of the best passing offenses in the country with Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud along with his receivers Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who will match up against a struggling Spartan secondary. This will be a major factor in this game – if the Spartans can slow down this explosive offense, especially through the air, they’ve got a shot. Michigan State will also look to exploit a Buckeye rush defense – which was torched in their early season loss to Oregon – with Heisman hopeful, Kenneth Walker III. Score Prediction: Michigan State 42, Ohio State 40

Matt’s overview: I just don’t like this matchup for the Spartans. Michigan State’s pass defense ranks dead last in the country, and Ohio State has perhaps the most potent passing attack in the country with its quarterback and playmakers. In addition, Buckeye true freshman tailback TreVeyon Henderson will force the Spartans to play honest against the run. Michigan State will hang around with a strong performance from Kenneth Walker III, but the Spartans just don’t have enough defensively to hold down this Buckeye offense. Score Prediction: Ohio State 44, Michigan State 30