Michigan State vs. Ohio State: Bear down on Barrett
Matt Charboneau breaks down Saturday's Michigan State-Ohio State game at Ohio Stadium (3:30 p.m. ABC/WJR).
Buckeyes to watch
J.T. Barrett, QB: The sophomore has jump-started the offense since taking over as the starter against Rutgers. Barrett is 13-1 as Ohio State’s starter and has accounted for 14 TDs (eight rushing) the last four games, including five against Rutgers. In last season’s victory at Michigan State, Barrett was the difference. He threw for 300 yards and three TDs, and rushed for 86 yards and two TDs.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB: The junior leads the Big Ten in rushing yards (1,425) and rushing TDs (16), and is second in the Big Ten in average yards (142.5) and all-purpose yards (160.7). Elliott has run for more than 100 yards in 15 consecutive games and has 20 100-yard games in his career. He was one of Ohio State’s most effective weapons in last season’s victory over Michigan State, carrying the ball 23 times for 154 yards and two TDs.
Joey Bosa, DE: An almost certain first-round pick in the NFL draft, he is second in the Big Ten and fifth in the nation with 15 tackles for loss and has four sacks. Bosa is fifth in Ohio State history with 49.5 tackles for loss (most of any active FBS player in the FBS) and third with 25 sacks.
Chances aren’t: Despite being ranked in the top 10 in both major polls and the College Football Playoff rankings, the Spartans aren’t being given much of a chance to win in Columbus. They won their last meeting at Ohio Stadium, but that was in 2011 before Urban Meyer arrived.
Statement game: Ohio State has been criticized because it has yet to face a team ranked in the Top 25. That ends Saturday as it closes against Michigan State and Michigan.
That one loss: The motivation could go either way, but Michigan State is the only Big Ten team to beat Ohio State since Urban Meyer took over in 2012. The Spartans will be trying to add to that number and show they are the true rival for the Buckeyes.
Welcome home: Twenty-nine players on Michigan State’s roster hail from the state of Ohio, not to mention a good amount of the coaches, including Mark Dantonio. Michigan State’s coach was the defensive coordinator for the Buckeyes national title team in 2002 and he and the rest of the natives of the Buckeye state enjoy nothing more than winning in their home state.
A first: Michigan State has won at every Big Ten stadium under Mark Dantonio, but the current roster hasn’t played at Ohio State. Most of the fifth-year seniors did not travel as redshirts in 2011, and Ohio Stadium is the only conference venue they haven’t won in.
Facts and figures
*Ohio State enters on a 23-game winning streak, the longest active streak in the FBS. In the 2013 Big Ten championship game, Michigan State snapped Ohio State’s school-record 24-game winning streak. The Buckeyes also have won 30 consecutive regular-season conference games.
*Michigan State is 5-1 in its last six games against teams ranked in the top five of the AP poll. The Spartans are also 4-1 against top five teams since 2013.
*The Spartans have defeated the Buckeyes nine times when Ohio State has entered the game ranked in the Top 25. Today’s game marks the fourth time Michigan State has played Ohio State when both were ranked in the top 10 (1951, 1960, 2013).
*Connor Cook needs 230 yards offense to become Michigan State’s career leader. He enters the game with 8,775 yards, second behind Kirk Cousins (9,004). Cook is third in total passing yards (8,545) behind Jeff Smoker (8,932) and Cousins (9,131), and needs one more 300-yard passing game to surpass Smoker (10) for the most in school history.
*Senior WR Aaron Burbridge needs one more 100-yard receiving game to tie B.J. Cunningham’s season record of eight set in 2011. Burbridge had a streak of four straight 100-yard games end last week against Maryland. He leads the Big Ten in receiving yards (1,201) and receptions (65).