Ohio State-Michigan State: 6 things to know about the series and the matchup

After thrashing Nebraska 48-7, Ohio State will return home to take on Michigan State on Saturday night.

The Spartans are 25th in the newest Associated Press poll while the Buckeyes moved up from No. 5 to No. 4.

>>LAST WEEK: 7 takeaways from the win at Nebraska | Anatomy of a blowout

Here are six things to know about the series and the matchup between Ohio State and Michigan State:

1. Ohio State leads the series 32-15. 

The Spartans won the first three games and eight of the first 15, including a stunning and controversial 16-13 upset of the top-ranked Buckeyes in 1974.

Since ’75, Ohio State has won 25 of 32 against the Spartans.

2. The Buckeyes and Spartans forged a mini rivalry in the Urban Meyer era as they twice thwarted Ohio State’s plans to play for the national championship in three years. 

Michigan State’s 34-24 victory in the 2013 Big Ten Championship game prevented Ohio State from making the last BCS Championship game, and the Spartans’ 17-14 upset in the penultimate game of the 2015 regular season ultimately sent them to the Big Ten championship game and the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State has won the last three games in the series by a combined score of 86-25.

3. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio gave Meyer 22 percent of his losses in seven seasons at Ohio State, including No. 1.  

Can he hand Ryan Day his first as head coach of the Buckeyes, too?

Dantonio, a Zanesville native who was defensive coordinator of the 2002 national champion Ohio State team, is 3-7 against Ohio State.

That includes two losses to Jim Tressel (his former boss), a win over Luke Fickell and a 2-5 mark against Meyer, whose Buckeyes were 24-0 in his tenure until that 2013 Big Ten title game.

4. Also fueling some rivalry talk over the last decade-and-a-half is Dantonio’s extensive recruiting throughout Ohio. 

Michigan State’s current roster includes 28 Ohioans, including cornerback Josiah Scott of Fairfield High School.

He is among four starters on the Spartan defense from the Buckeye State, joining linebacker Joe Bachie (Berea) and safeties David Dowell (Lakewood St. Edward) and Xavier Henderson (Pickerington Central).

5. Michigan State has a good defense (again). 

The Spartans have hung their hat on stopping people since Dantonio arrived in East Lansing, and defense is again MSU’s strength in 2019.

They rank seventh in the nation in total defense (253.8 yards per game) and No. 4 against the run (55.8).

They are 14th in points allowed per game (15.0) and 30th in passing efficiency defense and No. 37 in passing yards allowed (198.0).

The offense is tied for 60th in scoring (31.4 points per game) and 71st in total yards (413.6) with a better passing game (44th, 269.0 ypg.) than run game (83rd, 144.6).

6. While the defense is coming off its worst performance of the season, the offense is coming off one of its best. 

The Spartans kept the Old Brass Spittoon by outlasting Indiana 40-31 last Saturday, a game that included a fluke touchdown by the MSU defense after the Hoosiers tried for a miracle score.

With redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr. back in the lineup (he missed the Ohio State game earlier this season), the Hoosier passing game got something going with 286 yards and three touchdowns through the air, but Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke was better.

Despite completing only half his 36 passes, Lewerke threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. He also ran for 78 yards as the Spartans finished with 442 total yards, their second-most of the season behind 582 against Western Michigan in Week 2.

>>OSU-MSU 2018: Win in East Lansing gave Buckeyes needed shot of confidence 

“We have a tremendous challenge ahead of us next week, but hey we're 4-1 as we ride into Columbus, so that's exciting,” Dantonio told reporters in East Lansing after the game.

Indiana finished with 356 yards total yards, the most MSU has allowed this season, but Bachie chose to spin it positively.

“It was good to see us struggle a little bit I guess and our offense to pick us up,” he said. “The defense will be on our stuff next week. We are going to get this stuff figured out. You know it was great to see our offense today, can't say enough about that they put up 34 points and they did a great job.”

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