COLUMBUS, OH – No. 2 Ohio State faces its toughest test of the season and brings a 23-game winning streak into its matchup with No. 9 Michigan State, the only Big Ten team to beat the Buckeyes since Urban Meyer became coach.
There’s quite a bit of attention being paid to this game, not the least of which came from the Cavs’ LeBron James, who made it very clear which side he’s on in today’s match-up.
The throwing shoulder of Michigan State senior quarterback Connor Cook promises to be a crucial element when the No. 9 Spartans visit No. 3 Ohio State in a Big Ten showdown on Saturday. Cook, who possesses a 32-4 record as a starter, injured his right shoulder in last Saturday’s victory over Maryland and was pulled from the contest because he didn’t have the arm strength to continue.
It’s clear that Cook will attempt to play but unclear how proficient he will be against the sturdy Buckeyes’ defense. “My shoulder is good,” Cook said at a press conference. “I’m going to be ready to go so there is no issue with that.” Ohio State has won 23 consecutive overall games and a record 30 consecutive conference games and sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett is back in control as the starter. Barrett passed for 300 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 86 yards and two scores in last season’s 49-37 win over the Spartans.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten): Cook has passed for 2,482 yards, 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions and junior Tyler O’Connor (6-of-11 for 44 yards, one touchdown, one interception versus Maryland) is the backup. Senior wideout Aaron Burbridge is having a huge season with Big Ten-leading totals of 65 receptions and 1,021 receiving yards and he is just the seventh player in school history to reach 1,000 yards in a season. Senior defensive end Shilique Calhoun (25 career sacks, including a team-best 8.5 this season) and sophomore nose tackle Malik McDowell (10.5 tackles for losses) are stalwarts of a tough defensive line, while junior middle linebacker Riley Bullough (team-best 79 tackles) and sophomore safety Montae Nicholson (team-high three interceptions) are also key players.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (10-0, 6-0): Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott has compiled 15 consecutive 100-yard outings while etching his name among the school’s best-ever backs. Elliott has rushed for 1,425 yards and 16 touchdowns this season and ranks third in school history with 3,565 yards — he needs 204 to pass former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George for second on Ohio State’s all-time list. Junior defensive end Joey Bosa has a team-high 15 tackles for losses — he has 49 in his career — but has just four sacks while sophomore middle linebacker Raekwon McMillian has a team-best 97 tackles and sophomore defensive end Tyquan Lewis has a team-high 6.5 sacks.