After an exhausting week of uncertainty, which included pausing to see how badly CoVID had infiltrated the Ohio State locker room (and a similar scene up in Ann Arbor, putting next weekend's game in jeopardy), the Buckeyes are ready to take on Michigan State this weekend.
The plan all along was to play on Saturday - Gene Smith and Ryan Day were steadfast in saying so last weekend. But how we got here was one bumpy road. And of course, Ohio State still has to clear two more rounds of daily testing before they actually take the field.
Until the Buckeyes release their Game Day Status Report on Saturday morning, we still don't know exactly who won't be available for Ohio State this weekend. Even when that report comes out, it won't specify which players are dealing with the virus and which ones are otherwise unavailable. The university has made it a priority to protect the medical privacy of the players, as they should.
But we do know that head coach Ryan Day will be watching the game from home during what he said Thursday will "be the hardest three hours of my life." Day says he is resting comfortably and recovering from CoVID. If he tests negative this coming week, he'll be able to get back on the sidelines for next weekend's game.
Ohio State managed to hold on to its No. 4 ranking in the most recent College Football Playoff release this week, but committee chair Gary Barta made it clear there was conversation about moving Texas A&M up into that spot. He said the explosive nature of the Buckeyes' offense was the biggest separator in the discussion. With two games left in the regular season and OSU needing to play both in order to qualify for the Big 10 title game (under current league rules), the Scarlet and Gray are just hoping they can continue to control their own destiny.
Date: December 5, 2020
Where: Spartan Stadium (East Lansing, Michigan)
Expected Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Kickoff: 12:00 p.m.
Current Betting Numbers
Spread: Ohio State (-24)
O/U Total: 59.5
How to Watch/Listen
Streaming: fuboTV (Try for free)
Announcers: Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Dan Orlovsky (analyst), Quint Kessenich (sideline reporter)
Local Radio: Ohio State Sports Network from Learfield IMG College
Flagship: WBNS 97.1 The Fan
Announcers: Paul Keels (play-by-play), Jim Lachey (analyst), Matt Andrews (sideline reporter), Skip Mosic (pregame/halftime/postgame host)
National Radio: Touchdown Radio
Announcers: Brett Dolan (play-by-play), Lamar Thomas (analyst)
All-time: Ohio State leads, 33-15
First Meeting: Nov. 28, 1912 ... Michigan State won, 35-20
Last Meeting: Oct. 5, 2019 ... Ohio State won, 34-10
Consecutive Wins: Ohio State, 4 games
2019: Ohio State - 34, Michigan State - 10
2018: Ohio State - 26, Michigan State - 6
2017: Ohio State - 48, Michigan State - 3
2016: Ohio State - 17, Michigan State - 16
2015: Michigan State - 17, Ohio State - 14
The Buckeyes have won four straight games in the series, but Michigan State has perhaps given them more trouble consistently than any team in the league over the last five years. In fact, they've beaten the Buckeyes three times since 2011 - more than any other school in the league. The Scarlet and Gray have won seven straight in East Lansing dating back to 2004.
Last year, J.K. Dobbins rushed for 172 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown to lead Ohio State to a 34-10 win. Justin Fields threw for a pair of scores and rushed for another. Fields went 17-of-25 through the air for 206 yards and covered 61 yards on the ground on 11 carries. The Buckeyes totaled 529 yards in total offense with 323 coming on the ground. The Spartans managed 285 yards, 67 rushing.
Two years ago during Ohio State's last trip to East Lansing, the Buckeyes won a defensive struggle after capitalizing on several MSU mistakes. The Spartans lost three fumbles in the fourth quarter that lifted Ohio State to a 26-6 victory (it was 9-6 Buckeyes after 45 minutes).
Of course, all Buckeye fans remember the 2016 and 2015. In 2016, Ohio State ran into an inspired Spartans team having a tough season and played them right down to the wire. Michigan State scored a touchdown with just under five minutes to play to pull within one, but they went for two to try and take the lead on the road and the conversion failed. In 2015, the Spartans sans-Connor Cook, snapped Ohio State's 23-game unbeaten streak with a game-winning field goal as time expired to beat the Buckeyes, 17-14.
* Interim Coach Larry Johnson (Career Record: 0-0, Ohio State Record: Same)
* Mel Tucker (Career Record: 7-10 in second season, MSU Record: 2-3, first season)
Ohio State Team Capsule
What they've been able to control, the Buckeyes have largely done very well.
Justin Fields and the high octane Ohio State offense has looked as good as anyone in the nation - and the College Football Playoff selection committee acknowledged that to be the case this week.
It's been quite a roller coaster over the last two weeks and the last time the Buckeyes took the field, Justin Fields threw three interceptions against a relentlessly pressuring Indiana defense. The Buckeyes secondary also struggled against IU, giving up four plays of 50+ yards and they squeaked out a win against the Hoosiers.
With two games already cancelled by CoVID this year, the Buckeyes have no margin for error and have to play each of the next two weeks to potentially qualify for the Big Ten title game. In order to try and make that happen, Ohio State's medical staff has worked diligently.
Under the direction of Dr. Jim Borchers, the OSU medical team has increased and enhanced COVID-19 testing this week. The team continues to be tested daily, in adherence with Big Ten Conference protocols, and has enhanced its polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing surveillance throughout the week.
“We are very confident that we are heading to East Lansing with a team that can safely compete and whose health, safety and well-being has been our utmost concern,” Borchers said. “We’ve tested, monitored and evaluated our results daily and have advised the student-athletes, coaches and performance staff accordingly.
“Our population positivity rate, which exceeded the threshold for participation at this time last week, has now returned on the seven-day rolling average to a level that allows us to compete safely this weekend.”
Justin Fields is fourth nationally in quarterback efficiency (202.10). He is completing 79 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions this year. His top wide receiver targets are Garrett Wilson, who is seventh nationally at 128.3 yards per game, and Chris Olave, who averages 97.3 yards per game. The pair has combined to catch eight of Fields’ 13 touchdowns.
Master Teague set career-highs in attempts (26) and yards (169) vs. Indiana while also adding two touchdown runs, including one of 41 yards. Teague is averaging 95.0 yards per game and has 100-yard efforts against both Penn State and Indiana. Teague’s backfield mate, Trey Sermon, is second on the team with 232 yards on 45 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and has added four receptions for 35 yards.
On defense, senior linebacker Pete Werner leads the team with 24 tackles and has added 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and a quarterback hurry. Tuf Borland and Baron Browning each have 19 tackles. The backend of the defense is headlined by All-America candidate Shaun Wade, who had a 36-yard interception return for touchdown late in the third quarter of last Saturday’s win over Indiana. Wade added three tackles and a pass breakup. Fellow cornerback Sevyn Banks added a career-high three pass breakups vs. the Hoosiers.
Saturday’s game will be Ohio State’s first regular-season December game since 1891.
Michigan State Team Capsule
The Spartans have had an up-and-down season with two huge victories and a few frustrating losses. They lost their opener to Rutgers, but responded by beating Michigan in the Big House. The next two weeks were frustrating, getting blown out by both Iowa and Indiana. After a cancelled game against Maryland, the Spartans played quite well last weekend and beat the Big Ten West champion Northwestern Wildcats, 29-20.
Senior linebacker Antjuan Simmons was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after helping MSU limit No. 8 Northwestern to 20 points and 63 yards rushing. Simmons recorded 13 tackles, including two for losses (5 yards) and a 4-yard sack. He ranks second in the Big Ten in tackles, averaging 10.6 per game (53 total), and tied for fifth in tackles for loss (6.5).
Redshirt junior defensive back Shakur Brown is tied for first in the FBS with five interceptions, including four in the last two games (two each vs. Indiana and Northwestern). Brown, who has started two games at nickelback and three games at cornerback this season, also has a team-high four pass break-ups this season to rank second in the Big Ten in passes defended (nine total: five interceptions, four pass break-ups).
Redshirt senior kicker Matt Coghlin was named the Big Ten Special Teams Co-Player of the Week for his performance last week. Coghlin was 3-of-4 on field goals against the Wildcats, including the game-winner from 48 yards out with 3:35 left in the game that put MSU on top, 23-20, in the eventual 29-20 win. Coghlin also connected from 44 yards and 22 yards in the game. That marked the third time in his career that he earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors (2017 vs. Penn State, 2018 vs. Indiana). He also has four game-winning field goals in his career (2017 vs. Penn State, 2019 vs. Indiana and Maryland).
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jalen Nailor leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth in the FBS with his 23.7- yard average per reception. Nailor has four catches for 50-plus yards this season, including a 75-yard TD reception vs. Northwestern. Overall, he leads the team with 379 receiving yards on 16 catches (75.8 ypg).
You may also like:
Be sure to stay locked into BuckeyesNow all the time!
Join the BuckeyesNow community!
Subscribe to the BuckeyesNow YouTube channel
Follow Brendan on Twitter: @brendangulick22
Follow BuckeyesNow on Twitter: @BuckeyesNowSI
Like and follow BuckeyesNow on Facebook