Ohio State and Michigan State have identical 9-1 records, and both are still alive in the chase for the College Football Playoff. But one team will likely see those hopes disappear on Saturday when the Spartans travel to Columbus to face the Buckeyes in a huge Big Ten showdown.
Ohio State currently leads the Big Ten East with a perfect 7-0 conference mark, one game ahead of both Michigan State and Michigan.
Ohio State faces two big games down the stretch
The Buckeyes finish their regular season with head-to-head matchups against both teams. The math is simple: win both, and they’ll reach the Big Ten Championship. Go on to win that game, and Ohio State should comfortably reach the playoffs.
“This is what it’s all about,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day told reporters. “A big game in November, having [ESPN] GameDay in town, a top-10 matchup. This is why you come to Ohio State.”
Michigan State is less accustomed to being in this position in recent years. But the Spartans hold a win over Michigan and sit at No. 8 in the CFP rankings, still in striking distance of the playoffs if they can find a way to get past the Buckeyes and win out.
Both Michigan State and Ohio State have shown that they can put up lots of points. But the Buckeyes have shown the ability to slow opposing offenses, something the Spartans have struggled to do, particularly against the pass. That means Saturday could produce a high-scoring affair, even if Michigan State coach Mel Tucker doesn’t want that.
“I’m not in the shootout business,” Tucker told reporters. “If it ends up being that, then it’s that. But that’s not the goal…a shootout to me, when I hear something like that, it makes me want to vomit.”
Tucker: Spartans can’t play with ‘scared money’
FanDuel Sportsbook has posted a total of 68.5 for the game, showing that points are likely to come in bunches. But the bigger concern for Tucker will be the fact that the Spartans are 19.5-point underdogs. Ohio State is an imposing -1400 on the moneyline. Despite everything Michigan State has accomplished this year, oddsmakers aren’t giving them much chance of pulling off an upset.
But the Spartans aren’t worrying about any of those numbers. They say that if they come out and play their best game, they can hang with anyone, including Ohio State.
“You gotta prepare during the week for a 15-round fight,” Tucker told reporters. “Scared money doesn’t win. You gotta play to win, and then you have to have competitive greatness. Be at your best when your best is needed, and your good players need to play good.”
Meanwhile, Day isn’t taking anything for granted as his team continues its run towards the playoffs.
“They have really good players, and they’ve played well,” Day said of Michigan State. “They have a good scheme, so it’s going to be a challenge across the board.”