COLUMBUS, Ohio – There's a possibility that fifth-ranked Ohio State could do unto No. 23 Michigan State what it did the last time the two Big Ten East Division rivals met in Columbus. In 2017, the Buckeyes rolled to a 48-3 victory and based on the way the Buckeyes are playing this season, they're a decisive favorite heading into Saturday's game.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Ohio State -20
Ohio State won its 10th consecutive contest with a dominant performance last week, when the opened a 38-0 lead in the first half on the way to a 48-7 victory at Nebraska. The Buckeyes are functioning on all cylinders offensively and defensively, led by quarterback Justin Fields and running back J.K. Dobbins on offense and sack specialist Chase Young on defense. That's not good news for Michigan State, which has lost three straight in the series and struggled to generate offense the past two years against Ohio State. With Brian Lewerke at quarterback, the Spartans have moved the ball with some regularity through first five games this season but managed to score only seven points in a disappointing loss at home to Arizona State last month.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten)
Lewerke, a senior who played in Michigan State's loss two years ago in Columbus, is leading the Big Ten in passing yards and has thrown only one interception, but the Spartans and receiver Darrell Stewart (conference-leading 35 receptions for 556 yards) have not faced a defense as talented as Ohio State, which intercepted Nebraska's Adrian Martinez three times. While Michigan State's defense is as good as anyone in the country (No. 7 nationally in fewest yards allowed per game), finding a way to slow down the Ohio State machine will be a challenge for reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Kenny Willekes and company. The Spartans have to hope they can confuse and pressure Fields with a defense that likely will be the best he has seen in his sixth start at quarterback for Ohio State, though Michigan State had trouble stopping Indiana last week in a 40-31 victory in East Lansing.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (5-0, 2-0)
The platitudes have poured in for the Buckeyes after the resounding win at Nebraska and justifiably so after crushing the Cornhuskers with a 580-231 advantage in total yards. Ohio State appears to have a complete package, as reflected by four consecutive wins of least 40 points or more, believed to be tied for the longest such streak by a Big Ten team since World War I. Fields has accounted for 23 touchdowns (16 passing, seven rushing) and 138 points, which ranks second in the country, and Dobbins has racked up 654 rushing yards in five games, including 177 at Nebraska. The defense (second nationally in fewest total yards allowed) not only has shown strength up front with edge rusher extraordinaire Young (FBS-leading eight sacks), but cornerback Jeff Okudah leads a capable secondary with three interceptions in the past two weeks and six passes defensed.
1. Ohio State has not given up a touchdown to Michigan State since 2016.
2. Dobbins has eclipsed 3,000 yards in less than three seasons, cracking the top 10 on the Ohio State career rushing chart. He needs 273 to vault past the likes of Carlos Hyde, Keith Byars, J.T. Barrett, Braxton Miller and Chris "Beanie" Wells into the top five.
3. Ohio State has lost only five Big Ten games since 2012 and two of those have come against Michigan State - in the Big Ten championship game in 2013 and in Columbus in 2015 under coach Mark Dantonio, a former Buckeyes assistant who is 2-2 against Ohio State in Columbus.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 45, Michigan State 14