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It’s a battle in the Big Ten as the undefeated Buckeyes of Ohio State are in East Lansing for a conference clash with 2-3 Michigan State inside Spartan Stadium on Saturday. The Buckeyes have won four straight in the series, with the last three coming by at least 20 points, and hold a 31-13 edge all-time. Michigan State has not beaten Ohio State at home since 1988, a string of nine games, with their three most recent wins coming inside the Horseshoe.
COVID Concerns in Columbus
Ohio State’s Week 13 game with Illinois was canceled due to a rise in positive COVID-19 cases, including head coach Ryan Day. It was the second game the Buckeyes were forced to miss this season after their trip to Maryland was shut down two weeks prior for the same reason.
Ohio State has posted at least 38 points in all four of their wins this season, most recently holding off a furious comeback bid from Indiana on Nov. 21. They remain in the top four in the AP poll, but we’ll have to wait and see if the CFP committee docks them a spot or two for missing a second game.
Signature Win for Sparty
Michigan State snapped a two-game losing streak this past Saturday with an upset over previously undefeated Northwestern at home. The Wildcats entered the matchup as the No. 8 team in the country with a clear path to the Big Ten Championship after upending Wisconsin the week before. However, Sparty jumped out to a 17-0 lead and held on after Northwestern came all the way back to take the lead themselves in the fourth quarter. Michigan State took the lead with 3:35 to go, and returned a fumble for a touchdown as time expired to steal the win.
Keep an eye on Shakur Brown, who has leaped into a tie for the most interceptions in the Big Ten with five. Four of his interceptions have come in the last two games. OSU's Justin Fields hadn’t thrown a single pick in the team’s first three games, but then coughed it up three times against Indiana their last time out. Brown could feast if Fields struggles once again.
Betting Line and Pick
Ohio State is a 22.5-point favorite in this one, but the biggest question entering Saturday will be whether or not the game will be played at all. School officials are still holding out hope despite shutting down team activities for the time being.
The Buckeyes have joined Maryland and Wisconsin as the three schools to have multiple games shut down. Missing a third would make Ohio State ineligible for the conference championship, as the Big Ten declared that a team must play a minimum of six regular-season games to qualify for championship play.
If the game is played as planned, expect the Buckeyes to make a statement win. Missing games will hurt the team’s playoff chances and Fields' candidacy for the Heisman. Playing and winning big will help both in a big way.
Pick: Ohio State Buckeyes (-22.5).