View from the other side: Michigan State at Ohio State

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Michigan State at Ohio State

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

TV/radio: ABC/760 AM

Records: No. 25 Michigan State 4-1, 2-0 Big Ten; No. 4 Ohio State 5-0, 2-0

Line: Ohio State by 20

View from the other side

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, top, leads the nation with eight sacks.

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State for the Columbus Dispatch. He breaks down the Buckeyes for The Detroit News, answering five questions heading into Saturday’s Michigan State-Ohio State game at Ohio Stadium. You can follow him on Twitter at @brdispatch.

Question: There were high expectations for Justin Fields entering the season. Has he exceeded those expectations?

Rabinowitz: Yes, he has. As talented as he was billed to be, he hadn't started a college game and just arrived on campus in January. It wouldn't have been fair not to expect some growing pains, but there haven't been any significant ones. He has thrown 16 touchdown passes and more impressively, hasn't thrown an interception. He's shown the ability to make every throw, is a dangerous runner and has displayed poise and maturity.

Question: Should we expect the OSU rushing attack to keep rolling even against MSU, one of the top rushing defenses in the nation?

Rabinowitz: That's a great question. That may be the key matchup in this game. If the Spartans can make OSU one-dimensional, that'll give them a chance. But I wonder how likely that is. This offensive line is better than last year's. I did a little minor statistical digging into MSU's run defense, which is giving up less than 2 yards per carry. But if you subtract sacks, the average jumps to over 4. That's still good, but not as impressive.

Question: Will MSU’s patchwork offensive line have a chance at slowing Chase Young and OSU’s pass rush?

Rabinowitz: Good luck. Young is Bosa-like in his dominance, and he has plenty of help from a deep and talented group of linemates. Davon Hamilton is a force in the middle, as is undersized-but-quick Robert Landers. But it starts with Young. Opponents need to double-team him, and that opens up opportunities for everyone else.

Question: MSU has spoiled seasons for OSU in the past. What would have to take place for that to happen again?

Rabinowitz: The Spartans will have to play their best game of the season and the Buckeyes will have to play their worst. Michigan State's defense gives the Spartans a chance. Ohio State is due for a flat game. All the Buckeyes have done is get progressively better. To continue on that trajectory without a step backward is unrealistic. Could it happen Saturday? Sure. But I think it would take some major Buckeye mistakes — turnovers, penalties (which haven't been an issue, unlike last year) — for MSU to pull the upset.

Question: What has been the key for what appears to be a seamless transition from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day?

Rabinowitz: Meyer is a Hall-of-Fame coach and his methods obviously worked. But he grinded everybody in the program. Seven years of that is a long time. Day is as competitive as Meyer and demands toughness from his players, but he has a lighter touch. It has helped Day tremendously that he stepped into a turn-key situation. He inherited a stacked roster and benefited from the availability of Fields. Day also benefited from having all of the key infrastructure remain in place, starting with strength coach Mickey Marotti. But Day also did the hard-but-wise decision to overhaul his defensive coaching staff. Jeff Hafley has revitalized the secondary, and ex-Michigan coaches Greg Mattison and Al Washington (linebackers) have done a terrific job. But as Day would say, the real tests haven't arrived yet. Maybe this week will be. But we thought the same thing last week, and OSU drilled Nebraska, 48-7.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields has thrown for 16 touchdowns against no interceptions this season.

Players to watch

Justin Fields, QB: There isn’t much the transfer from Georgia hasn’t done in his first five games with the Buckeyes, accounting for 23 touchdowns (16 passing, seven rushing) while compiling 138 points, which ranks second in the nation. Through five games, Fields has yet to throw an interception while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for more than 1,000 yards, helping Ohio State win by 40 or more four straight games.

J.K. Dobbins, RB: The junior ranks second in the nation with 654 rushing yards and is third nationally, averaging 130.8 yards a game. His 177 yards in last week’s win over Nebraska pushed him past the 3,000-yard mark, ranking 10th in program history with 3,110 yards. The output against the Cornhuskers was the 12th time Dobbins has gone over 100 yards for a game and he’s now just 273 yards from cracking the top five in program history.

Chase Young, DE: The junior leads the nation with eight sacks and has recorded at least one sack in seven consecutive games. With two more sacks, Young would join Mike Vrabel as the only players in program history to record 10 or more sacks in two seasons. Entering the Michigan State game, Young has 22 career sacks, good for ninth in Ohio State history.

Facts and figures

Conference supremacy: Since 2012, Ohio State is 60-5 in Big Ten play with two of those losses coming to Michigan State. The first was in the Big Ten Championship game in 2013 in Indianapolis, and the second was in Columbus in 2015.

Running it up: Ohio State has scored 20 or more points in 31 consecutive games. That streak is tied with UCF for the second-longest streak in the nation. This season, the Buckeyes have outscored opponents, 173-18, in the first half.

Pound the rock: Ohio State ranks seventh in the nation, averaging 281.6 rushing yards a game, which is tops in the Big Ten while the 6.1 yards per carry is sixth in the country. Dating back to the start of the 2012 season, the Buckeyes rank second among Power Five teams in rushing yards per game, averaging 247.8.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau