COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOOD) – The ninth-ranked Michigan State Spartans arrived on the Ohio State campus around 2 p.m., Friday afternoon, and carried out their final walk-through in anticipation of their matchup with the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday.
There’s no doubt MSU has taken their play to another level when playing elite competition. In its last six games against AP Top-10 teams, the Spartans are 5-1.
“We’ve got to play our best football game this Saturday if we’re going to be successful,” said MSU head coach Mark Dantonio. “I truly believe that. But, I do think that we’re very, very capable.”
This contest is as elite as it gets. The Ohio State Buckeyes, defending national champions, have not lost a regular season game in the Big Ten since Urban Meyer took over as head coach.
Other than that, this game is a bit personal with 29 players on the MSU roster from the state of Ohio.
“Being from Ohio, I have a lot of friends that I went to high school with that attended the university,” said MSU senior quarterback Connor Cook. “Like how the Michigan people describe the Michigan game, this is kind of like that game for me.”
On the field, Michigan State is tied for the third best turnover margin in the nation at +13. What has the Spartans fired up, however, is the battle in the trenches, particularly how to stop the Ohio State ground game and feature back Ezekiel Elliott, who has 15 consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing.
“Obviously, any game turnovers are a huge deal, and then you have to win it up front,” said Dantonio. “I don’t think there’s any secret that they want to run the football and we do too.”
It won’t just be Elliott the Spartans must stop in the Buckeyes rush efforts. Also watch out for quarterback J.T. Barrett. The duo of Elliott and Barrett combines to form the Big Ten’s leading rushing attack.
“It’s big time, both stopping Elliott and Barrett,” said MSU senior linebacker Darien Harris. “They do a great job staying behind their blockers, staying tight to the gaps that they’re supposed to hit. So we have to be incredibly sound in that aspect on defense.”
Both rushing defense are ranked in the Top 25 in the country, so it is sure to be a slugfest for the Spartans and Buckeyes offensive and defensive lines.
Yet, perhaps the most eye-opening and touching aspect to this matchup doesn’t focus on either team. Instead, it deals with the biggest rival for MSU and OSU–the University of Michigan.
When the Spartans and Buckeyes take the field on Saturday, each will be paying tribute to the grandson of former Wolverines head coach Lloyd Carr, five-year-old Chad Carr, who was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and was placed in hospice last week. The two teams will wear decals on their helmets for Chad as he fights for his life.
The game has monumental implications for the College Football Playoff rankings. However, the respect MSU and OSU will pay to their rival and the kind human spirit visible to the Carr family in their time of need puts some perspective on the game.
Stay with 24 Hour News 8 for continuing coverage of the Big Ten battle. We will have updates online at woodtv.com and tune in to WOTV at 7 p.m. Saturday for a live update from Columbus following the game.