No. 4 Ohio State plays host to No. 7 Michigan State in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday and this massive Big Ten showdown carries more ramifications than just jockeying for position in the conference standings. Both the Buckeyes and Spartans enter with records of 9-1 and ranked in the top 10 of the College Football Playoff. Both teams have the goal of winning the Big Ten East and following it up with a win in the Big Ten Championship Game. After that, they want a playoff berth. After that? Well, there's only one thing left after reaching the playoff: winning it.
But before any of those things can happen, one must win this game. A loss for Michigan State would give it two Big Ten losses and eliminate it from Big Ten title contention. Ohio State can afford to lose and still win the Big Ten, but it would destroy its hopes of reaching the playoff.
The history of this series dictates that Ohio State is likely to emerge as the victor. The Buckeyes lead the all-time series 34-15 and have won five straight meetings. However, Michigan State's last win was in Columbus, a 17-14 win in 2015.
Ohio State vs. Michigan State: Need to know
Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba is on a tear: It's nice to be Ohio State. The Buckeyes have an incredible collection of talent, but nowhere on the field is it on display more than at the receiver position. Both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were touted as the team's best receivers coming into the year, and they've lived up to the billing. Wilson has caught 53 passes for 813 yards and nine touchdowns, while Olave has caught 51 passes for 708 yards and 11 touchdowns. In recent weeks, however, it's been the sophomore Smith-Njigba lighting it up. Against Nebraska and Purdue, Smith-Njigba caught 24 passes for 379 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those two games have turned him from Ohio State's third receiver to its leading receiver, as he now has 59 receptions for 1,027 yards.
Kenneth Walker aiming for history: The transfer from Wake Forest is still one of the leading candidates to take home the Heisman Trophy, and he'd be the first player in Michigan State history to take home the award. Walker leads the nation in yards rushing (1,473), rushing yards per game (147.3) and is tied with BYU's Tyler Allgeier for the lead in rushing touchdowns (17). He is a genuine home-run threat, capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. His four rushes of at least 50 yards this season trail only East Carolina's Keaton Mitchell.
These are the only two Big Ten teams to reach the playoff: Sure, Ohio State is responsible for four of the Big Ten's five playoff berths, but it's somewhat surprising Michigan State is the only other Big Ten program to have earned a berth previously. The Spartans made an appearance in 2015 and lost in a semifinal to Alabama. Now these two teams are two of the Big Ten's three possible candidates to reach the playoff in 2021, with the third being Michigan.
How to watch Ohio State vs. Michigan State live
Date: Saturday, Nov. 20 | Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Ohio Stadium -- Columbus, Ohio
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Ohio State vs. Michigan State prediction, picks
There are two factors at play for me with this pick. The first and most important one is that Michigan State is a good football team, so to get nearly three touchdowns with them against an Ohio State team that's struggled to dominate opponents all season long is a hard deal to pass up. The other factor is the timing of the game. While this one is huge, Ohio State plays Michigan next week. The Buckeyes have been bad against the spread before the Michigan game, and they have failed to cover the spread a week before Michigan for seven straight seasons (they didn't play last year). Prediction: Michigan State (+19)
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