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No. 10 Ohio State keeps Big Ten and playoff hopes alive with slugfest win at Michigan State

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It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t have to be. No. 10 Ohio State (9-1, 6-1) leaving No. 18 Michigan State (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) with a 26-6 win means the Buckeyes are still in position to make their own case not just for the Big Ten championship, but also for a spot in the College Football Playoff field. For either of those goals to be obtained, however, Ohio State still ha some work to do moving into the final few weeks.

Ohio State’s defense certainly looked improved in the road win in East Lansing. After being dominated by Purdue two games ago and then after a shaky performance after a bye week against Nebraska last week, Ohio State’s defense played much better on Saturday. Of course, the Spartans offense has been a bit damaged and may have served as the perfect recipe for an ailing Ohio State defense. The Spartans had just two third-down conversion in 15 tries and the running game never found a way to get going.

Things were so difficult for Michigan State, Mark Dantonio called for a signature trick play that seemingly worked for a go-ahead touchdown only to see a penalty bring the score off the board. The Spartans also took an intentional safety in a 7-6 game and the punter backed up at the back of the endzone. In a defensive battle like the one unfolding, that appeared to be a decent gamble in an attempt to flip the field. Ohio State punted after four plays, but the Spartans were still pinned deep in their end, and the Buckeyes recovered a fumble in the end zone on the first play run by the Michigan State offense. Suddenly, a one-point game had turned into a 16-6 lead for Ohio State.

Ohio State added a field goal to extend the lead to 19-6 after Michigan State fumbled on the first play of their next possession (for two fumbles in as many snaps by the Spartans, who had switched from quarterback Brian Lewerke to Rocky Lombardi). The teams then exchanged turnovers with Ohio State fumbling on the Michigan State four-yard line and Lewerke (who had returned to the game) being picked off by Shaun Wade.

Dwayne Haskins passed for 227 yards with a touchdown, and Urban Meyer found spots to get Tate Martell in the game as well. Although Michigan State’s Big Ten-leading rushing defense had contained Ohio State for much of the game, Mike Weber accounted for 104 yards and a touchdown in the game.

With the win, Ohio State continues to keep relative pace with Big Ten East-leading Michigan. The Buckeyes trail Michigan by one game in the loss column but will have a chance to win a head-to-head tiebreaker in the final game of the regular season as long as Ohio State does not lose next week. Ohio State will play at Maryland next week before returning home to host the Wolverines in two weeks, when a spot in the Big Ten championship game is expected to be on the line. And, of course, the game could carry some College Football Playoff implications.

Michigan State remains in third place in the Big Ten East, tied with Penn State but with a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Nittany Lions. A shot at the Big Ten East is now out of reach for Michigan State with head-to-head losses to Ohio State and Michigan. The Spartans now head to Lincoln, Nebraska next week to play a recently charged up Nebraska team. It could be a dangerous spot to be in for Michigan State.

Late touchdown gives Ohio State 7-3 lead in defensive battle with Michigan State

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You want defense and punting? Ohio State and Michigan State have you covered up in East Lansing. The Buckeyes and Spartans are in a battle for second place in the Big Ten East Division and points appear to be at a premium this afternoon in Big Ten play. At halftime in Spartan Stadium, Ohio State is leading Michigan State 7-0 thanks to a late touchdown drive capped by a short touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to Parris Campbell form the one-yard line.

The Big Ten’s leading rushing defense of Michigan State has not allowed Ohio State to get their running game going. J.K. Dobbins had just 11 rushing yards with five minutes to play in the first half, and that was nullified by Haskins being taken down for a loss of 11 yards in the half. Haskins now is up to 23 yards. Michigan State’s running game has fared only marginally better with a combined team rushing total of 10 yards. Connor Heyward had zero rushing yards in the first half.

In need of a spark, Michigan State has switched quarterbacks as well with Rocky Lombardi taking over for Lewerke late in the first half.

Michigan fans are likely paying close attention to this result, as it will impact the division-clinching scenarios for the Wolverines. A win by Michigan State could mean Michigan can build a two-game cushion on Ohio State in the Big Ten standings with a win against Rutgers later today. A win by the Buckeyes will leave the possibility of a regular season finale to determine the Big Ten East crown on the table.

Maryland ends tumultuous week with 24-3 loss to Michigan State

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Perhaps it was fitting for Maryland to end this week the way it did. Dressed in all black uniforms at home in the first game since the school fired DJ Durkin as head coach shortly after initially opting to reinstate him, Maryland (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) lost to Michigan State (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten) by a score of 24-3. Maryland was held to just 100 yards of offense in the entire game.

Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke returned to the starting lineup and had a rough day in terms of production by completing 11 of 20 passes for 87 yards with one interception. Lewerke, who sat out last week, also rushed for 45 yards on nine carries. Connor Heyward was the star of the game with 157 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, including an 80-yard score one play after a crazy sequence that saw Maryland fumble an interception into the end zone, where it was recovered by the Spartans for a touchback. The result of the play ended up being a net-gain of four yards for Michigan State. Backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi got some playing time with the game well in hand for the Spartans.

With Matt Canada continuing his role as interim head coach after a bizarre week for the Maryland football program, the Terps turned in one of their worst performances of the season. It was evident this was a team that had its share of distractions this week as the Terrapins looked sloppy on offense and failed to keep composed on offense or defense at key times. Kasim Hill completed just eight of his 21 pass attempts for 74 yards and the team combined for a total of 26 rushing yards on 29 rushing attempts.

Michigan State will return home next week for a key division game against Ohio State. Second place in the Big Ten East will be on the line as the Spartans and Buckeyes are each chasing Michigan. The Buckeyes have been struggling and could be arriving in East Lansing ripe for a loss in the division, but will the Spartans have enough in the tank to scratch together a third-straight win?

Maryland will be on the road next week for a game against Indiana. The Hoosiers had off this week and last played on Friday, October 26th (a road loss at Minnesota despite a furious fourth-quarter rally). Maryland and Indiana have split their first four meetings as Big Ten division opponents, with Maryland winning last year’s contest by a 42-39 final score in College Park.

Distracted Maryland hanging around against Michigan State

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After a tumultuous week centered around the Maryland football program, the Terrapins got back to playing football on Saturday afternoon in front of their home crowd. It did not get off to a great start with the offense opening the game by going three-and-out and then seeing Michigan State work a 12-play drive to score their first touchdown in a first quarter since September 22. The Spartans have yet to put Maryland away with just a 10-3 lead at halftime in College Park.

One play after Michigan State converted a fourth-and-one from the Maryland 20-yard line with Brian Lewerke pushing forward two yards for a first down, Connor Heyward rushed 18 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time Michigan State had scored a first-quarter touchdown since a Week 4 game against Indiana. With Maryland’s offense looking out of sorts on their ensuing possession, Michigan State seized the opportunity to tack on a few more points with a field goal moments later.

Midway through the second quarter, with Maryland moving the football well for the first time all game, Michigan State’s Tyriq Thompson avoided being ejected form the game for a potential targeting penalty. A video replay overturned the call on the field, allowing him to stay in the game after his hit on Maryland quarterback Kasim Hill. Maryland ended that drive with a field goal.

On Michigan State’s following drive, Maryland defensive lineman Mbi Tanyi was ejected for throwing a punch, a 15-yard penalty that came at the end of a 3rd-and-9 play that appeared to show the Spartans pick up the first down anyway, but the penalty added 15 free yards. Fortunately for Maryland, the Spartans drive would stall and end with a punt.

It may have been easy to lose track of things regarding Maryland this season given the off-field headlines, especially over the last week. But both Michigan State and Maryland came into this game with identical 3-2 records in Big Ten play, so the outcome of this game is of some importance for the Big Ten bowl position at the end of the year. Both teams still need one win to become bowl eligible this season as well, and the winner of this game will end the day in at least a tie for third place in the Big Ten East behind Michigan and Ohio State.

Michigan State may have to embrace Rocky (Lombardi) mentality without QB Brian Lewerke

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It is expected Michigan State will play without starting quarterback Brian Lewerke this weekend against Purdue. A week of leaving his status up in the air has apparently taken a turn for the worse as the Spartans prepare to take on the Boilermakers in Big Ten play.

One report from a radio show in Michigan reported Lewerke will not play this weekend due to a shoulder problem that was the reason Lewerke’s status was unknown all week. The shoulder injury popped up a few weeks ago against Penn State and carried over to last week’s game at home against Michigan.

Other reports have classified Lewerke’s status as doubtful, which typically results in a player not playing. Either way, it doesn’t look promising for Lewerke and Michigan State.

If Lewerke is indeed out of action this weekend, the Spartans will give the job to Rocky Lombardi for his first career start. Lombardi has appeared in three games, including last week in relief of Lewerke. He has attempted just two passes with one completion for nine yards.

The Spartans are clearly banged up at this point in the season. Michigan State is already without wide receiver Felton Davis III and a handful of other players. On top of all of those injuries, the Spartans have also reportedly lost backup punter Tyler Hunt to a season-ending injury suffered in practice this week.

This all comes as Michigan State is about to play one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten (a week after playing the hottest team in the Big Ten, Michigan). Purdue has won four straight games, highlighted by last week’s runaway victory over Ohio State. The Boilermakers have scored at least 40 points in each of their last three games, all in conference play.

Michigan State hosts Purdue at noon eastern on Saturday.