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This scene has played out before. A Michigan State team that was 9-1 entered Columbus, an underdog by more than two touchdowns. The year was 2015 and the Spartans were without quarterback Connor Cook. No matter, they stunned the Buckeyes that year, 17-14, en route to a College Football Playoff. But just because it has been done, doesn’t mean it will be done. This Ohio State offense hasn’t even been slowed down in two months and MSU’s defense is, frankly, atrocious. It will be close early, but the Buckeyes will win, with an MSU cover, late. We like MSU with the points and the over.
Michigan State to Cover the Spread +20 (-110)
Garcia’s 2021 record: (20-18)
No pressure Michigan State, but because your defense is the worst against the pass in the country and it is facing the best offense in the nation, your offense now has next to zero room for error.
However the good news if you’re MSU is you have the best player in the country — at least so far this season — in the backfield in Kenneth Walker III and he will try to continue his Heisman candidacy on just about the largest stage college football has to offer.
Walker has tallied 1,473 rushing yards (1,558 total) averaging a staggering 148.9 rushing yards per game, with 16 touchdowns on the season.
He’s the No. 1 reason that MSU — a team that entered the season by Vegas to win fewer than five games — is currently 9-1, ranked in the top 10 in the country and still has a chance to win the Big Ten with two weeks left in the season.
That said, he’s not alone. Quarterback Payton Thorne has come along nicely, but in the biggest game this season (against Michigan) he was only okay. His stat line that game was terrible.
Because of how good Ohio State’s offense has been, it’s been easy to overlook the improvements on the defense. The Buckeyes have held eight of their past nine opponents to 24 points or fewer, after allowing 31 or more in each of the first two games.
I mean, it’s really not fair and there’s not much to say. How many times can someone say, ‘this is the best offense in the country by an extremely wide margin and any team that goes up against it is at a disadvantage’?
Here’s the point total for the Buckeyes by game over their past eight contests: 41, 59. 52, 66, 54, 33, 26, 59.
Ohio State is doing it through a variety of ways, but namely it’s been the improved play of quarterback C.J. Stroud. The freshman has been nearly perfect since the beginning of October — throwing for 22 touchdowns and two interceptions during that time (30 touchdowns and five interceptions on the season).
He’s racked up 3,036 passing yards and has the best QBR (89.4) in the nation. The reason he’s been so dominant? He has likely the best receiving core in the nation. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave both found themselves on pre-season All-American watch lists as Ohio State’s lethal wide receivers, yet neither player leads the team in receiving.
That honor goes to Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who has 59 catches for 1,027 yards (17.4 YPC) and five touchdowns. Wilson has 53 catches for 813 yards and nine scores while Olave has caught 51 balls for 708 yards and a team-best 11 touchdowns.
Then, there’s the MSU defense which has been horrible recently. What was a ‘bend don’t break defense’ all season has only fully broken once, but looked very suspect for weeks.
It’s hard to imagine a team that’s giving up more than 33 points per game over the past three weeks will slow a team averaging better than 50 over the past two months.
For Michigan State, the key is trying to keep pace, somehow. If they do, it will be because Walker has help. Look for Jayden Reed to be that help. One of the best receivers in the Big Ten, Reed has 45 catches for 829 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns. He’s also the man in the return game — let’s see what he can do.
For Ohio State, the offense becomes almost impossible to stop because not only do you have to worry about the passing game, but the rushing attack is one of the best in the league.
Freshman Treveyon Henderson has been a stud (as expected) tallying 1,035 yards (7.3 per carry) and 14 touchdowns.
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|No. 7 Michigan State vs No. 4 Ohio State Information|
|Teams||No. 7 Michigan State vs No. 4 Ohio State|
|Location||Buckeye Stadium, Columbus, Ohio|
|Time||Saturday, Nov. 20, 12:00 p.m. EST|
|How to watch||ABC|
Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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