Ohio State Buckeyes: 5 things to know about the Michigan State matchup and series

Ohio State returns home this week after a pair of road victories in a row.

The Buckeyes will play host to a Michigan State team that is struggling but could enter on a high note.

Here are five things to know about the Spartans:

1. The Spartans just got their first win in almost two months.

Michigan State started 2-0 with wins over Central Michigan (31-7) and FCS Richmond (45-14).

Getting crushed 41-7 at home by Washington on Sept. 16 began a six-game losing streak that included a three-point loss at Rutgers and a 49-point loss to Michigan.

The Spartans snapped the skid last week with a 20-17 win at home over Nebraska in which they forced three turnovers and logged seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

True freshman Sam Leavitt threw the eventual game-winning touchdown pass to Montorie Foster Jr. early in the fourth quarter.

2. They have an interim head coach.

Long-time assistant Harlon Barnett was named acting head coach Sept. 10 after the school put head coach Mel Tucker on administrative leave. Tucker was accused of sexual harassment and fired for cause later in September.

A graduate of Cincinnati Princeton, Barnett is a former Michigan State player who has been on the staff in East Lansing for 15 of the last 17 seasons, including the previous three coaching the secondary.

3. Things have not been good on or off the field.

Michigan State is No. 72 in SP+ rankings, an advanced metric that measures teams by efficiency and explosiveness, among other factors. The Spartans were projected to be No. 42 before the season, but both the offense and defense have been disappointing as the team has dealt with the loss of its head coach.

They rank No. 103 in SP+ offense and 36th in defense, and their traditional stats look worse.

Michigan State is 121st in scoring offense and 111th in total offense with one of the worst running games (116th) in the country and a passing game that is not much better (81st).

The Spartans are 45th in total defense, 42nd in rushing defense and 55th in passing yards allowed, but they are 79th in passing efficiency defense and 72nd in points allowed per game (26.6).

Nate Carter, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound sophomore from Rochester, N.Y., is third in the Big Ten in rushing at 73.2 yards per game, and sophomore Jaden Sangham is second in the Big Ten with four interceptions.

4. The Spartans have not had stability at quarterback.

Noah Kim began the season as the starter, but he was replaced by Katin Houser in Week 6.

Houser started last week and threw for 165 yards and a touchdown, but Leavitt made cameos the past three games as well.

MLive.com reported Monday that Barnett would not say what the plan is at quarterback this week, but Leavitt will not play the last three games if he prefers to redshirt and Kim is unavailable because of injury.

Leavitt was a four-star prospect at West Linn High School in Oregon last year, and he has played in four games, the maximum to be allowed to save a season of eligibility.

Houser is a sophomore from St. John Bosco Prep in California who was also a four-star prospect.

5. Ohio State has dominated the series.

But MSU has a history of upsets, including four times top 10 Ohio State squads lost to unranked Michigan State (1971, ‘72, ‘74 and ‘98).

The second-ranked Buckeyes were riding a 24-game winning streak when they dropped a 34-24 decision to No. 10 Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game, and Michigan State stunned defending national champion Ohio State 17-14 in 2015 to snatch away a trip to the Big Ten title game and College Football Playoff.

The Spartans have not beaten the Buckeyes since, dropping seven in a row, and only a 17-16 decision in 2016 was a close game.

Ohio State has won the last six games by at least 20 points, including a 56-7 wipeout the last time the teams played in Columbus (2021) and a 49-20 final last season.

Ohio State leads the all-time series 36-15.


Michigan State at Ohio State, 7:30 p.m., NBC, 1410

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