Urban Meyer Mark Dantonio

The Numbers Show A One-Sided Affair

We are still a couple of days out from Saturday’s game between the Buckeyes and the Spartans of Michigan State. Despite both being in the Big Ten, these two teams have played fewer times than Ohio State has against many traditional foes with just a grand total of 50 meetings going into this year’s game.

As with most opponents in the league, the Buckeyes hold a significant edge, 35-15 overall in the series that was first played in 1912 and became a Big Ten game in the 1953 season.

We have seen great coaches like Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, “Biggie” Munn, Duffy Daugherty, and Mark Dantonio. There has been no shortage of great players, on both sides of this series.

There is a saying that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” but don’t let a shared dislike of Michigan fool you into thinking that these two teams are best of friends. That’s not saying that there has been a lot of bad blood either but in a football conference, there is no room to let up.

As we get closer to the big game, Ohio State’s first road trip of the season, let’s take a few minutes to look at some lesser-known numbers from this series and maybe learn a thing or two along the way.

The Buckeyes Have Been Here Before

Going into this season everyone knew that Ohio State had a lot of returning players and that is true when you look back on the history of this series with Michigan State and see who has experience against the Spartans.

Now, participation reports are shaky, at best. To be included here, you had to record a stat to make the final book, but the numbers are still impressive.

29 players on Ohio State’s current roster have recorded stats against Michigan State while 12 have played in two games and a pair have played in three.

That breaks down to 10 players currently on offense and 19 players currently on defense. The numbers are high because both the 2021 and 2020 game provided Ryan Day the opportunity to play a lot of players as Ohio State got into the 50’s each year and held the Spartans to two scores or fewer.

An interesting caveat in the numbers is that both Cade Stover and Steele Chambers have recorded stats on the “opposite” site of the ball they are playing now. Chambers is credited with one rush for eight yards in 2020. Stover had two tackles and forced a fumble in the same game.

A couple of other oddities include that CJ Stroud recoded his lone career rushing touchdown in this series, a 48-yard run in the 2020 game against the Spartans. The Ohio State signal caller, who we all know is a thrower first, has not found the end zone as a runner since.

It should come as no surprise that Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the leading returning receiver in terms of receptions with 10 but did you know that Julian Fleming is second with seven? Fleming has seen very limited action during parts of his career but for whatever reason, has been good to go against Michigan State as he gets ready to face the Spartans for a third time.

Lastly, the Ohio State specialists come in with limited action against the Spartans. Punter Jesse Mirco has one punt, a 50-yarder in the 2021 game while Noah Ruggles only has one field goal attempt, strangely enough his only miss of the ’21 season.

Home Sweet Home?

The Buckeyes have had success in both buildings, as you can expect with a 35-15 edge, but the Buckeyes are better in East Lansing (Mich.) against the Spartans than they are at home.

49 of the 50 games have been played at one school or the other with only one game taking place elsewhere, the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.

Believe it or not, Ohio State is 18-5 in East Lansing and have not lost at Michigan State since 1999. That is a 78.3-percent winning percentage.

In Columbus, the numbers are a little worse with the Buckeyes just 16-10 against the Spartans. That includes going 1-3 in the first four games of the series, all in Columbus, to start things out. That checks in at 61.5-percent.

Slow Starts

For all of Ohio State’s winning over the course of program history, the Buckeyes have gotten off to slow starts in the historical series against its fellow Big Ten teams. Now, Ohio State did not join the Big Ten until 1912 and there are other schools, like Michigan State, that joined even later than that.

The time between the 1890’s and 1920’s were not kind to the Buckeyes as seven of 13 current members of the Big Ten (with Ohio State being the 14th) opened their series with winning streaks of at least two games.

We all know about Michigan starting off the series with Ohio State on a 13-0-2 run between 1897-1912 and the fact that if it were not for that streak to start things off, Ohio State would hold the edge here.

Did you know that between 1901-1913 that Indiana started its series with Ohio State on a 5-0-1 run? Penn State, who joined the league in the 1990s started off with four wins against the Buckeyes in the years between 1912-1964. Michigan State is one three teams (Iowa, Wisconsin) with a three-game run of wins without losing to Ohio State. Illinois rounds things out with a pair of wins to start, as the Illini would go 2-0-2 against Ohio State from 1904-1915.

Frequent And Decisive Wins

Over the course of the 50 previous games, the Buckeyes have outscored the Spartans by an average score of around 30-16, or two touchdowns. When you factor in the fact that Ohio State has dropped 15 games in the series, the margin of victory in the wins is even greater.

The most points that Michigan State has scored in a game against Ohio State is 37 and that took place in an Ohio State win during the 2014 season.

The Spartans have only broken the 30-point mark four times against Ohio State in the series history and that 2014 games marks the last time that happened.

Ohio State’s high-water mark is 56 points in the most recent game, a game where the Buckeyes likely could have put a lot more points up but chose to call the dogs off and just get the game over with.

How many times have the Buckeyes broken the 30-point mark in this series? The Buckeyes have done it in 36-percent of the games, or 18 out of 50 times, including four of the last five times out.

We’re Going Streaking

This series has been firmly in Ohio State’s favor since the 1980s and the winning streaks will go to show that. Yes, Michigan State did win the first three, five of the first seven and eight of the first 15.

But since then? Ohio State is 28-7 against Michigan State from 1975 on.

Ohio State is currently on a six-game streak but Ohio State’s longest streak against Michigan State is eight games. The Buckeyes also have a seven-game and five-game streak in there as well for good measure.

What has Michigan State done since its three-game streak to start the series? The Spartans have never been able to get their streak above two games with four streaks of that length in the record book with 1998-99 marking the last time that has occurred.

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