Skip to main content

HISTORY: Revisiting Ohio State's Narrow Victory at Michigan State in 2016

The last five matchups in this series haven't been close, but the Spartans nearly pulled off a huge upset in East Lansing during the 2016 campaign.

Let’s be point blank… the last five matchups between Ohio State and Michigan State on the football field haven’t been particularly close. In fact, none of them have been decided by closer than three possessions with the Buckeyes holding an average winning margin of 35.6 during the span.

The Spartans have not defeated OSU in East Lansing since way back in 1999, although they were dangerously close to winning 17-16 games in both 2012 and 2016. For now, let’s take a quick glance back to the more recent affair during late November of 2016, and what happened that afternoon…


Ohio State entered with great feelings of redemption and motivation after a devastating 17-14 loss to MSU the previous year in Columbus, which ultimately kept the Bucks out of the College Football Playoff.

It was OSU’s lone defeat of the season en route to an 11-1 mark, while Michigan State had made the CFP before getting routed by Alabama (38-0).


This time around, in 2016, the teams were headed in very opposite directions. Ohio State entered with a 9-1 record and playoff aspirations still very much alive. Michigan State stood 3-7 overall with a load of issues, having played multiple quarterbacks and struggling to find much rhythm. Nevertheless, the game settled into an old-fashioned, low-scoring, Big Ten battle.

More News: SI's Top 10: Georgia Shows Vulnerability | College Football Scoreboard | October Storylines To Watch | College Football Bowl Projections | ESPN's College GameDay Will Head To Kansas | What We – And Don't – Know About CFP Expansion


The No. 2-ranked Buckeyes (trailing only Alabama) were in a classic “lookahead” spot to Michigan, and the Spartans threw everything they had with nothing to lose.

MSU quarterback Tyler O'Connor hit Youngstown native L.J. Scott for a 64-yard touchdown less than a minute into the game, representing half of the team’s eventual 127 passing yards on the day…

Curtis Samuel, now with the Washington Commanders, hauled in a 24-yard TD pass from J.T. Barrett shortly thereafter and the Buckeyes were back to even. Both sides traded field goals in a rugged second quarter, leaving the game 10-10 at the break.

Ohio State took the lead for good in the middle of the third quarter on a short touchdown from Mike Weber, going on to rush for 111 that day. He also became the third freshman in program history to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season, joining Robert Smith (1990) and Maurice Clarett (2002) at the time.

Sparty let it all hang out in the fourth, executing a successful fake punt early in the period but finding themselves doomed by a holding penalty and sack moments later. However, Mark Dantonio’s group would regain possession and strike a final push…

MSU went on a 56-yard scoring drive that lasted nearly five minutes, capped when Scott punched in another score from just a yard out after converting 3rd and 3. Playing to win, the Spartans went for two but O’Connor would be intercepted over the middle by Malik Hooker.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

A holding penalty forced Ohio State to punt with 2:12 left, but the defense came up big once more on MSU’s final drive when Gareon Conley picked off a wobbly pass up the right sideline.

Michigan State outgained Ohio State 334-310 that day. Barrett had just 86 yards passing but the ground game racked up 224 rushing.

The Spartans were routed at Penn State the following week to end 3-9. The Buckeyes went on to narrowly outlast Michigan (30-27) in double overtime before a tough loss to Clemson in the CFP semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl.


Ohio State (5-0) now heads to East Lansing for this latest installment ranked No. 3 in the country, and marking its first road game of the year. Michigan State (2-3) is desperate to get back on track after losses to Washington, Minnesota and Maryland in recent weeks. While SI Sportsbook has the Buckeyes as sizable 26-point favorites this Saturday, you never know what craziness might happen in a midseason Big Ten game!

You may also like:

Ohio State's Ryan Day, Jim Knowles, Tony Alford Preview Michigan State

Ohio State RB Miyan Williams Named Big Ten Offensive Player Of The Week

Ohio State Names Four Players Of The Game Vs. Rutgers

What They’re Saying Following Ohio State’s Win Over Rutgers

Photos From Ohio State's 49-10 Win Over Rutgers


Be sure to stay locked into BuckeyesNow all the time!

Join the BuckeyesNow community!
Subscribe to the BuckeyesNow YouTube channel
Follow Adam on Twitter: @APrescott614
Follow BuckeyesNow on Twitter: @BuckeyesNow_FN
Like and follow BuckeyesNow on Facebook!