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Ohio State Buckeyes running back Master Teague III (33). (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)
November 19th, 2021
The fate of the Big Ten, a playoff berth, and the Heisman Trophy could all be on the line Saturday afternoon, when the Michigan State Spartans hit the road to Columbus for a Top 10 matchup with the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Horseshoe.
After rushing for a combined 369 yards against two ranked opponents this season, Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III knows he will yet again be the focal point of the offense this weekend.
He also knows that his Heisman moment against Michigan might not matter, should he falter against the Buckeyes.
Walker, the nation’s leading rusher (1,473 yards), who is tied for the lead with 17 touchdown carries, will face the 14th best run defense in the nation and will hope to show that, like with Michigan, rankings mean nothing when he’s got the ball.
Ohio State's pulled the rare "completely change your defense mid-season" feat. What talent can do for you. Still. They haven't seen a back like Kenneth Walker III. I'd argue they haven't played a QB like Payton Thorne. Can Michigan State do this?https://t.co/JXmwrMMQ4x— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) November 19, 2021
Ohio State's pulled the rare "completely change your defense mid-season" feat. What talent can do for you. Still. They haven't seen a back like Kenneth Walker III. I'd argue they haven't played a QB like Payton Thorne. Can Michigan State do this?https://t.co/JXmwrMMQ4x
Quarterback Payton Thorne is likely going to have to have another huge game, as well. His 21 touchdowns this season have been in large part due to his duo of terrific receivers, as Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor have caught 13 of those scoring throws. They each average better than 18 yards per reception, and they will look to take advantage of an Ohio State secondary that ranks 108th in the nation in yards allowed.
Michigan State’s offense ranks 26th in scoring and 21st in total offense. They will need to score points on nearly every drive, because their defense hasn’t proven effective.
Michigan State’s defense: Purdue’s QB Aidan O’Connel threw for 536 yards Michigan’s QB Cade McNamara threw for 383 yards Maryland’s QB Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 350 yards— Mr. Ohio (@MrOH1O) November 17, 2021
Michigan State’s defense: Purdue’s QB Aidan O’Connel threw for 536 yards Michigan’s QB Cade McNamara threw for 383 yards Maryland’s QB Taulia Tagovailoa threw for 350 yards
The worst-ranked pass defense in the FBS has allowed nearly 1,300 passing yards over its last three games. Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and the nation’s sixth-best passing attack will put pressure on the unit the entire game.
Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson must feel like it is Christmas Eve as they prepare for the woeful Spartan secondary. They have caught a combined 20 of Stroud’s 30 touchdowns this season, and they now have a third weapon in Jaxon Smith-Njigba stepping up of late.
For an offense that leads the nation in scoring and total yardage, they will be looking to help strengthen Stroud’s Heisman hopes.
C.J. Stroud19/25 Comp/Att212 Pass Yds3 TDTreVeyon Henderson6 Carries72 Rush Yds2 TDFirst-half dominance 😤 pic.twitter.com/MVj6W9oQwV— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 13, 2021
C.J. Stroud19/25 Comp/Att212 Pass Yds3 TDTreVeyon Henderson6 Carries72 Rush Yds2 TDFirst-half dominance 😤 pic.twitter.com/MVj6W9oQwV
However, it’s not just the passing game clicking at the moment. Running back TreVeyon Henderson has rushed for 14 touchdowns this season, and although he has topped 100 yards just once in his last four games, he has found the end zone five times in that span.
Michigan State’s 20th-ranked run defense might struggle a bit, given it may be without linebacker Quavaris Crouch and considering how much attention it must show to slowing down Stroud.
Ohio State’s defense isn’t miles ahead of Michigan State’s, but it is allowing fewer yards. The defense has also posted a conference-high 32 sacks this season.
The unit has not been tested on the ground by a good run game since Ohio State's loss to Oregon, so it will be interesting to see if the Buckeyes can slow down Walker and force the Spartans into obvious passing situations.
I expect Ohio State to win this game comfortably, but with how large a spread it is between two good teams, I find much more value in the game total.
I expected the total for this game to be upwards of 75 points. To see it under 70 is a great value. These two teams combine to average nearly 81 points per game, while defensively they concede a combined 43 points per contest.
In both of these teams' games against Purdue and Maryland, who boast strong offenses, their games saw an average of 73 points per contest.
It’s Q&A time: -Can a struggling Michigan State defense actually stop Ohio State? -Offensively, can the Spartans move the ball on the Buckeyes? -What has made OSU so dominant over the years? Let’s find out from @Gene_Ross23 of @Landgrant33. https://t.co/ZO0H2OmkGZ— The Only Colors (@TheOnlyColors) November 18, 2021
It’s Q&A time: -Can a struggling Michigan State defense actually stop Ohio State? -Offensively, can the Spartans move the ball on the Buckeyes? -What has made OSU so dominant over the years? Let’s find out from @Gene_Ross23 of @Landgrant33. https://t.co/ZO0H2OmkGZ
Their offenses combined are posting 1,000 passing yards per game, while defensively they are giving up more than 800 combined yards per contest — including nearly 600 combined through the air.
Both Michigan State and Ohio State have real problems in their secondary, and both offenses can score in a hurry. The top two receivers for each team have also combined for a staggering 33 touchdown catches this season.
I expect Michigan State to try to maintain a bit of ball control with Walker and limit Ohio State’s chances, but it might not matter with the quick-strike offense and talented receivers at Stroud’s disposal, and Henderson’s running ability complementing the air attack.
I’m also not sure it will take Michigan State long drives to find the end zone, given the ability of Reed and Nailor to capitalize off play action. Points should be posted in bunches on Saturday.
I expect the Buckeyes to look to score a touchdown every time they get the ball, as they know their hopes at a playoff spot could ride on dominant performances.
Take the Over in what should be an entertaining affair, and pair it with Ohio State winning by at least two touchdowns for a same-game combo play.
Score prediction: Ohio State 45, Michigan State 31
Our predictive engine is calling for Ohio State to win outright and for the score to go Over the projected total.
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