Buckeyes should dominate struggling Spartans

It’s a question that won’t go away. Is Urban Meyer interested in becoming Michigan State’s football coach?

It’s a question that won’t go away mainly because some of the websites which cover MSU football won’t let it go away.

Meyer has said repeatedly that he’s not interested in the Michigan State job and that he will continue in his role as a game day analyst for FOX.

“I am good. No desire,” Meyer said to Mike Wilson of the Knoxville News Sentinel late last month.

That the Michigan State job would be open at this point in the season is not something anyone would have predicted before the season began.

Oh, there was some grumbling about the Spartans going 5-7 last season. But coach Mel Tucker could point to an 11-2 record the year before that. And he had the security that came with a 10-year, $95 million fully guaranteed contract.

But on Sept. 27 Michigan State fired Tucker for non-football actions which the university said violated the terms of his contract and named longtime assistant Harlon Barnett interim coach.

At the Big Ten Football Media Days in late July, Tucker said the Spartans had done more team building events than ever before.

But since Sept. 27, it has been more like MSU has been playing defense and trying to avoid a run of team dismantling events.

Five players entered the transfer portal after Tucker was fired and five recruits have decommitted.

The talent drain began months before Tucker’s departure, though, when starting quarterback Payton Thorne transferred to Auburn and No. 1 receiver Keon Coleman transferred to Florida State a few days after spring practice ended.

So, it is a battered Michigan State team (3-6, 1-5 Big Ten) that No. 1 Ohio State (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) will see tonight in Ohio Stadium.

The Spartans ended a six-game losing streak last Saturday when they beat Nebraska 20-17. Ohio State will be their third Top Ten opponent this season. The other two match-ups against highly ranked teams were disasters in which they were outscored 90-7 by Washington and Michigan.

But scoring points has been a problem against almost everyone, not just Top Ten teams. The Spartans average 18.2 points a game, which places them last in the Big Ten and No. 121 nationally in scoring.

Five things to look for in Saturday’s game:

• Can Ohio State find the consistency to score early and continue to score throughout the game? OSU has scored 10 points or fewer in the first half of five of its six Big Ten games.

• Can Ohio State’s defense get its first shutout against a Big Ten team since a 56-0 win over Rutgers in 2017? MSU has scored one touchdown or been shut out in four of its six Big Ten games.

• C.J. Stroud threw six touchdown passes against Michigan State last season and in 2021. Could this year’s game against MSU be a breakout game for Kyle McCord?

• How many of the injured Buckeyes will play this week? Safety Lathan Ransom, cornerback Denzel Burke and tight end Cade Stover didn’t play last week in a 35-16 win over Rutgers. Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg and safety Josh Proctor left that game in the second half because of injuries and didn’t return.

• Will TreVeyon Henderson run for more than 100 yards for a third consecutive game? Or will the back-ups get a lot of playing time in what should be a blowout?

The prediction: Ohio State 38, Michigan State 7.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.