Spartans turn attention to Buckeyes

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
MSU's Madre London runs toward the end zone but gets stopped short.

East Lansing – Before this season began, many believed the Big Ten's East Division would come down to the meeting Nov. 21 between Michigan State and Ohio State.

And even with one loss on the docket, that belief holds true, at least as far as Michigan State is concerned. The 14th-ranked Spartans defeated Maryland, 24-7, on Saturday while No. 1 Ohio State dispatched Illinois, 28-3.

It sets up next Saturday's showdown in Columbus (3:30 p.m., ABC), and if Michigan State plans to get back to the Big Ten championship game and make its case for a spot in the College Football Playoff field, a win is imperative.

A loss would almost certainly knock the Spartans (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) out of hunt and put the Buckeyes, the defending national champion, in the driver's seat.

"We have an opportunity to sit for 24 hours and then get ready for the game down in Columbus," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said after the Maryland victory. "All year long we've sort of pointed to this game, or a lot of people pointed toward this game. So it's got to a point where it's like a playoff situation. We knew whether we were 10-0 going into that game or 9-1 that we control own destiny. So we're to that point."

Victories haven't come easily – Saturday's included – and the loss at Nebraska last week hurts the overall resume. But it didn't cripple the Spartans' chances.

The players are keenly aware of that fact, and that means the typical 24-hour rule of celebrating a victory is thrown out the window.

"Nah, I'm going right to the next (game) all the time," defensive tackle Malik McDowell said. "I'm about to get right back to watching film. I'm going to go out to eat with my family and then I'll be in my room watching film."

Linebacker Jon Reschke said he would amend his weekend plans, as well.

"I'll probably watch some (film) tonight," he said. "Then all day tomorrow and Monday, then we get going. I promise you I'll be watching film tonight.

"All of us have been looking forward to this game all season. That taste we have in our mouths after losing to them last year – it's gonna be big. I'm excited."

Michigan State understands it hasn't played its best, but it feels it's in position to compete with the Buckeyes. The defense played as well as it has all season while the offense should be fine as long as quarterback Connor Cook is OK after hurting his shoulder.

"This is one of those kind of games," running back Gerald Holmes said. "We are still at that point of showing people that MSU football hasn't left. We haven't showed that the past couple of games. We're gonna go against a talented team with a lot of skilled players. We're gonna come hard. We're gonna challenge them."

GameDay in Columbus

ESPN announced on Saturday night that its "College GameDay" crew would be in Columbus, Ohio, next Saturday for the Spartans big showdown against Ohio State (3:30 p.m., ABC).

This is the third time this season Michigan State will be part of GameDay. The show was in East Lansing on Sept. 12 for Michigan State's game against Oregon and the crew was in Ann Arbor on Oct. 17 when Michigan State traveled to face Michigan.