Michigan State Preview

Ohio State fans have come to expect certain things from a Mark Dantonio-coached Michigan State team. 

Start with a roster stacked with players from the Buckeye state, add a stingy defense, and finish off with a relatively conservative offense that will nevertheless run the occasional trick play. 

So these numbers shouldn't come as a surprise... 

The Spartans have 28 Ohioans on their team; they own the number one run defense in the country; and while they may be ranked 110th nationally in scoring offense, that's been enough to give them wins in six of their nine games. 

The Ohio natives include one of Michigan State's leaders in interceptions (David Dowell, two picks), three of the team's top four tacklers (Joe Bachie, 68; Andrew Dowell, 61; Justin Layne, 55), its leader in passes broken up (Layne, 9) and its leader in forced fumbles (Bachie, 3)

Bachie not only hails from Ohio, this week coach Dantonio compared him to Ohio State great Chris Spielman. 

The linebacker is at the heart of a defense that gives up fewer points per game than all but 15 other teams. They are 22nd in total defense, have the 13th best third-down defense, and they are 24th nationally in turnovers forced. 

They have struggled against the pass, giving up just over 253 yards a contest, but at the same time, they have recorded 12 interceptions while allowing just 11 throwing touchdowns. 

Offensively, Dantonio announced it would be Brian Lewerke starting at quarterback this week. Lewerke is 15-6 as a starter, and he's averaging 217.5 yards per game this season. However, he hurt his shoulder about a month ago in a win against Penn State. Even as recently as last week against Maryland, when he went just 11-for-20 for 87 yards and a pick--albeit in extremely windy conditions, he said his arm hurt after every throw. 

Freshman Rocky Lombardi has come in when Lewerke has been hurt or struggling, and has looked promising in those opportunities, but he does only have five games and 50 pass attempts under his belt.

The team's top receiver, Felton Davis III is out for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon against Michigan. Even though he missed the second half of that game and the two games since, he still leads the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. 

Running back LJ Scott is hurt as well, officially listed as "week-to-week." He's played in four games, and there's been talk of him redshirting, so the Spartans are likely to rely on 6'0", 229-pound sophomore Connor Heyward. 

Heyward's numbers aren't bad. He has five touchdowns and averages 5.11 yards per carry. As a team, though, the Spartans are ranked 111th in rushing. 

Ohio State and Michigan State meet today at noon. 

Extra Points:

  • Ohio State hasn't lost in East Lansing since 1999.
  • That being said, Dantonio is 2-4 against Coach Urban Meyer's Buckeyes with wins in the Big Ten title game in 2013 and in Columbus in 2015. He's one of just six head coaches with multiple wins against Meyer. 
  • The weather today at Spartan Stadium is expected to be cloudy, around 35 degrees, and with wind gusts around 17 miles per hour. 
  • The Buckeyes have allowed an average of 456.6 yards and 29.2 points per game over the last five games.