Ohio State at Michigan State

The Sports Xchange

November 07, 2018 at 6:21 pm.

KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
SERIES: Ohio State leads Michigan State 31-15. The Buckeyes won 48-3 last season.
RANKINGS: Ohio State No. 10; Michigan State No. 18


–QB Dwayne Haskins didn’t have his best day last week against Nebraska, but he was good enough to get the job done in Ohio State’s 36-31 victory. The negative: the redshirt sophomore fumbled twice and threw an interception. The positive: he completed 18-of-32 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. With 242 completions this year, Haskins broke the school season record of 240 set last year by J.T. Barrett.

–WR Johnnie Dixon led Ohio State in receiving last week with five catches for 96 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown. With WR Austin Mack out after foot surgery, Dixon might continue to see more throws coming his way. He has 26 receptions for 380 yards and five touchdowns. WRs Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill are still 1-2 on the team in catches with 56 and 51, respectively.

–S Brendan White hadn’t been a big contributor before he stepped up to lead the Buckeyes in tackles along with LB Malik Harrison last Saturday vs. Nebraska. White’s 13 tackles included eight solos and a team-best two tackles for loss. He had just five tackles for the season before his breakout game against the Cornhuskers. The secondary has been hit with injuries but may be starting to get healthier.


–RB Connor Heyward had a career day in the victory over Maryland, running for 157 yards and two touchdowns. It was part of Michigan State’s best running game of the season as the sophomore helped the Spartans gain 269 yards on the ground. With the status of senior LJ Scott up in the air, it means Heyward will likely continue to have a significant role in the MSU running attack.

–QB Brian Lewerke didn’t play against Purdue because of a shoulder injury but made the surprise start at Maryland. The junior wasn’t terribly effective, going 11-for-20 for 87 yards with an interception in strong winds. However, coach Mark Dantonio has made it clear Lewerke is the starting quarterback and it doesn’t appear he has any plans of going back to redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi, who threw for 318 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Purdue.

–CB Josiah Scott was back in the lineup last week after missing the entire season with a knee injury he suffered in the early days of preseason camp. Scott was a freshman All-American last season and showed quickly that the time off hadn’t left him rusty, breaking up a pass in the first quarter. His return gives Michigan State two top cover corners along with junior Justin Layne.


Michigan State doesn’t have a quarterback controversy entering its Big Ten East Division showdown with Ohio State on Saturday.

Coach Mark Dantonio squashed all that talk during his weekly press conference, declaring Brian Lewerke his No. 1 guy. Backup Rocky Lombardi led the team to victory over Purdue two weeks ago when Lewerke sat out with a shoulder injury, but Lewerke was back behind center in the team’s 24-3 win at Maryland.

“Brian is our starting quarterback, I think you can go with that,” Dantonio said. “That’s the foundation that he’s built here. I didn’t see any velocity issues relative to his arm strength. If he was hurt, he would not be playing.”

No. 18 Michigan State (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) is two games behind Michigan in the division standings but could still wind up in the Rose Bowl if it wins out. First, it would have to knock off No. 10 Ohio State (8-1, 5-1), which hasn’t lost at Spartan Stadium since 1999.

“This is a strange football season. A lot of people have lost. There’s a lot of two-loss teams and quite a few three-loss teams right now,” Dantonio said. “If you can’t win the Big Ten Championship — I guess mathematically, there’s still opportunity there — but I think the next thing is there, can you go to a Big Six Bowl? Can you be 9-3? Well, you’ve got to win this one if you’re going to do that.”

The Spartans have won three of the last seven meetings, including the 2013 Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes crushed the Spartans 48-3 last season in Columbus after getting upset the previous two times Michigan State visited the state.

Ohio State has been dominant in East Lansing, collecting victories in its last six journeys to Spartan Stadium. The Buckeyes pulled out a 17-16 squeaker there in 2016.

The Buckeyes need to win out to remain in contention for a College Football Playoff berth. They won’t have a chance if they continue to play like they have the past two weeks.

After getting stunned by unranked Purdue 49-20, they struggled past a rebuilding Nebraska program at home 36-31.

“They are still 8-1. Everybody is acting like, ‘poor Ohio State.’ They are still 8-1 and ranked in the Top 10,” Dantonio said. “They are pretty good and they have got some playmakers up front.”

The Buckeyes trailed at halftime and allowed 450 total yards to the Cornhuskers. Safety Isaiah Pryor and cornerback Jeffrey Okudah missed the game with undisclosed ailments.

“On defense, right now it’s the confidence factor,” coach Urban Meyer said. “You’ve got three starters out of the secondary again (last) Saturday. I think we’re going to have them all healthy (this week). It’s been like that. It’s been a deck of cards shuffling in and out of the back end of our defense.”

One of the positives from the game was the production of running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. Dobbins rushed for 163 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns. Weber gained 91 yards in nine carries.

Finding creases will be much more difficult against a Spartans rushing defense that ranks No. 1 in the nation. Michigan State is allowing just 71.7 rushing yards per game.

“That’s what we’re working on right now,” Meyer said of trying to sustain the success his team had running the ball. “Obviously, you’re facing the number one rush defense in the country coming up this next week. But our offensive line played very well and our backs, that was their best pad level game as far as dropping their pads and getting through those holes.”

Dobbins, a sophomore, rushed for 124 yards and also caught a touchdown pass against the Spartans last season. Weber, a junior, erupted for 162 yards on just nine carries and two touchdowns in the same game.

The Spartans will also have their hands full with sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who has thrown 32 touchdown passes and surpassed 3,000 yards this season against Nebraska.