5 things to watch: Ohio State
On Saturday, the Spartans face off against the Buckeyes on the road in Columbus, with the winner taking the lone spot at the top of the Big Ten East Division standings.
Here are five things to watch for in Saturday’s game:
How MSU’s youth handles pressure: This weekend brings a championship-game vibe; it’s essentially a winner-take-all contest. As long as the winner of Saturday’s game doesn’t allow its remaining two opponents to come away with an upset victory, the victor this weekend will be headed to the Big Ten title game.
Both teams sit at 5-1 in the conference standings, with Michigan and Penn State right behind at 4-2.
MSU exhibits one of the youngest teams in the nation. They have handled pressure and played well in big-time games. Their season relies on this game, and how the youth on this team are able to handle their nerves Saturday will be a deciding factor in who wins this game.
Continuing history: Based off recent history, Spartan fans have some hope entering Saturday as the home team hasn’t won in the series since 2007.
While it doesn’t necessarily correlate with performance, the Spartans will head to Columbus hoping to continue this part of history.
Stopping OSU’s prolific offense: The Buckeyes rank first in the conference in total offense, scoring and passing offense.
While Penn State’s Saquon Barkley brought a tough matchup against MSU, the Spartans were able to contain him and the rest of the Nittany Lions’ offense, however, PSU isn't as high powered of an offense as Ohio State. The Buckeyes are fifth in the nation in total offense, the Nittany Lions are 36th.
Headed by quarterback J.T. Barrett and running back J.K. Dobbins, OSU’s offense will likely bring the biggest challenge this season to the Spartans’ defense.
Lewerke’s dominance: Sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke is coming off two straight 400 yard passing games.
Over the last two games, Lewerke has completed 72 of 113 passes for 845 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions.
He has shown he can be clutch when he needs to orchestrate a late-game scoring drive, but will his luck run out against the Buckeyes?
Improving the rushing attack: MSU is currently eighth in the conference in rushing offense, while the Buckeyes are second in the conference.
The Spartans haven’t recorded over 100 yards rushing in a game since their road win against Minnesota on Oct. 14. If they can turn around this aspect of their game, the Spartans will have a viable shot at leaving Columbus with a win.