Michigan State vs. Ohio State preview: Spoiler again?
Matt Charboneau breaks down Saturday's Michigan State-Ohio State game at Spartan Stadium (noon, ESPN/WJR).
Buckeyes to watch
J.T. Barrett, QB: The junior has thrown for 2,218 yards 23 TDs (No. 1 Big Ten, No. 14 nationally) and four INTs. Barrett also has 140 carries for 617 yards and eight TDS and has accounted for 98 career TDs (68 passing, 30 rushing), second in Big Ten history (Purdue QB Drew Brees, 106).
Curtis Samuel, RB: The junior has 750 yards (75 average, No. 3 Big Ten) and six TDs. Samuel is also second on the team with 637 rushing yards. He’s joined by redshirt freshman Mike Weber (935 yards, seven TDs), who is close to becoming the third freshman to run for 1,000 yards for the Buckeyes.
Malik Hooker, S: The sophomore has 55 tackles and was named to midseason All-American lists by several publications. Hooker has 4.5 tackles for loss and one-half sack, and leads the team with five INTs. Hoover also has four pass break-ups, nine passes defended and returned an INT for a TD.
It’s over: Michigan State ended its seven-game skid with the victory over Rutgers, and won a second straight for the first time since Week 2. Two more wins, and the Spartans would be 5-7 and could possibly get into a bowl.
Hello, Buckeyes: Michigan State kept Ohio State from an almost certain spot in the BCS title game with a win in the 2013 Big Ten title game and dashed its playoff hopes with a win in Columbus last season.
Last time: It’s the final home game for 28 seniors, a group that has been part of two Big Ten titles, two bowl victories and an appearance in the College Football Playoffs. The class is 39-12.
Home grown: The Ohio State game always has been big for Michigan State — 28 players hail from Ohio, as well as coach Mark Dantonio. There are also several assistants who have worked for the Buckeyes (co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman, offensive line coach Mark Staten, co-defensive coordinator Mike Tressel).
Title hopes: A win by Michigan State could cause all sorts of issues in the East and playoff picture. Ohio State can’t afford to lose in the chase for the division and No. 2 playoff ranking.
Facts and figures
■ Michigan State has won three of the last five over Ohio State, including the 2013 Big Ten Championship game. The visiting team has won each of the past four.
■ The Spartans are on a 7-3 run against teams ranked in the top 10.
■ RB LJ Scott leads Michigan State with 775 rushing yards and shares the lead with five rushing TDs. In his last four games, Scott has averaged 109.8 yards and has gone over 100 yard three times.
■ Michigan State has had a different starting lineup every game — on offense and defense — and 24 players have either started for the first time or are in their first full-time starting role. With 19 first-time starters, The Spartans are one of the youngest teams in the FBS.
■ Ohio State’s defense has allowed 10 TDs, three rushing (fewest in the FBS). It also has scored six defensive TDs, No. 2 in the FBS.