Ohio State looking forward to first road game

Buckeyes face Michigan State on Saturday

Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker needs a win badly when the Spartans host Ohio State on Saturday afternoon.

That’s because the Spartans, who began the season with Big Ten title hopes, are on a three-game losing streak.

Ohio State needs a win badly when the undefeated Buckeyes play at Michigan State on Saturday afternoon.

That’s because, well, to hear coach Ryan Day tell it, that’s just the way it is nowadays.

“There’s nothing you can do about that other than try to focus and be great right now,” Day said in a discussion with reporters stemming from the surprise firing of Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst on Sunday. “And you’ve gotta wake up running every day, you know, or someone’s gonna get you. So that’s just the way it is. And I think our team understands that. I think that so far, we’ve had that approach. Now, can we sustain it? That’s the challenge.”

Here are five things to know about the game Saturday:

1. Both coaches seemed unfazed by Chryst’s fate.

Chryst won more than 70 percent of his games at the helm for the Badgers, but he was let go after a 2-3 start to the season and consecutive lopsided losses to Ohio State and Illinois.

“Nothing shocks me or surprises me at all in anything that we’re doing from a football standpoint,” Tucker said Monday per MLive.com

The Wisconsin grad also said, “It’s a production business. That’s what it is.”

Day has frequently delivered some variation of, “You have to win ‘em all at Ohio State,” when speaking about expectations, and he said this week he doesn’t put much thought anymore into what kind of burden that can be to carry.

“I try to do the best I can when we get away from it on Thursday night, to try to do something to think about something else, but usually what happens is we end up as a family watching football on TV on a Thursday night,” he said with a chuckle.

“It’s just kind of way life, and we love that. We embrace it, and I just think of, five home games in a row with over 100,000 people in the stadium, just unbelievable crowds and just seeing all the people at the Skull Session, walking up to the game, post-game seeing the joy in their faces, after a win and that’s something we take a lot of pride in.”

2. Both teams have injury questions.

Michigan State’s defense was fairly short-handed in the Spartans’ 27-13 loss to Maryland last week, and it might be again Saturday.

The Detroit Free Press reported star safety Xavier Henderson is doubtful while most of the starting defensive line is among those who are considered questionable.

Standout MSU receiver Jayden Reed has also been playing banged up.

Meanwhile, Day said he was optimistic Ohio State will get back starting defensive backs Tanner McCalister and Cam Brown along with TreVeyon Henderson, who shares the No. 1 running back role with Miyan Williams.

He did not rule out receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but his suiting up might not make sense with the bye week on the horizon and a chance for two more weeks to rest his Week 1 hamstring injury.

3. Ohio State players are looking forward to facing a hostile crowd.

Center Luke Wypler is among the few Buckeyes who have played at Michigan State, but that 2020 Ohio State win took place in front of no fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He is happy that won’t be the case this time.

“It’s always nice to kind of be the villain,” Wypler said. “I’m pretty excited for that, the first one of the year, to kind of be the bad guy in the arena.”

4. Tucker believes his team is not far away from turning it around.

“Offense, defense and special teams have to work together for 60 minutes,” Tucker told reporters in East Lansing this week. “I believe that our best 60 is ahead of us.”

He described his team’s recent slide as “death by inches,” though the Spartans’ three losses have been by a combined 52 points.

“It’s all about execution,” Tucker said. “The question is how do you get better execution? That’s our job (as coaches). That’s what we’re working on right now.”

5. If the Ohio State defense makes mistakes on Saturdays, Jim Knowles says to blame him.

Most fans will not have a problem doing that, but the veteran defensive coordinator in his first season with the Buckeyes wants his players to feel that way because he believes it helps them relax and excel.

“It was a good thing for me to put in their mind as they go out to the field, ‘Hey, guys, there’s a sale,’” Knowles said. “‘I bought all you guys a free pass on any mistakes you make today.’ You know? That’s like the last thing I say to them. To me that kind of fires me up. ‘Okay, yeah, just go out and play. Just go out and play.’”

Although is scheme is generally regarded as being complex, the key to any plan succeeding is for players to be able to execute without thinking too much first.

“I think we all worry about making mistakes, and these are young men who get a lot of pressure from social media, or their parents, or everybody’s looking at them, every single thing they do,” Knowles said. “So I want them just to play when it comes to game day. I’ll stay on them pretty hard during the week, but game day, let them play.”


Ohio State at Michigan State, 4 p.m., ABC, 1410

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