The throwing shoulder of Michigan State senior quarterback Connor Cook promises to be a crucial element when the No. 9 Spartans visit No. 3 Ohio State in a Big Ten showdown on Saturday. Cook, who possesses a 32-4 record as a starter, injured his right shoulder in last Saturday’s victory over Maryland and was pulled from the contest because he didn’t have the arm strength to continue.
It’s clear that Cook will attempt to play but unclear how proficient he will be against the sturdy Buckeyes’ defense. “My shoulder is good,” Cook said at a press conference. “I’m going to be ready to go so there is no issue with that.” Ohio State has won 23 consecutive overall games and a record 30 consecutive conference games and sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett is back in control as the starter. Barrett passed for 300 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 86 yards and two scores in last season’s 49-37 win over the Spartans.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened the Buckeyes as 13-point home faves and the total opened at 52.5.
Spartans – QB Connor Cook (Probable, shoulder), DL Joel Heath (Questionable, leg), DB Jalen Watts-Jackson (Out for season, hip), S R.J. Williamson (Late Nov., bicep), OL Dennis Finley (Out for season, leg), CB Vayante Copeland (Out for season, back), LB Ed Davis (Out for season, knee).
Buckeyes – CB Marshon Lattimore (Probable, hamstring), LB Chris Worley (Questionable, undisclosed), WR Johnnie Dixon (Out indefinitely, knee), S Erick Smith (Out for season, knee), DB Cam Burrows (Out for season, foot), LB Nick Conner (Out for season, knee), WR Corey Smith (Out for season, leg), WR Noah Brown (Out for season, leg).
WEATHER: Temperatures in the mid-40s with an 84 percent chance of showers. Wind will blow toward the north endzone at around 13 miles per hour.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “The Spartans will face the No. 2 ranked Buckeyes in Columbus this week, and an upset could put them right back in the playoff picture. Critics will say that the Buckeyes haven’t played anybody, but with their next two games at home to Michigan State and on the road at Michigan, they have a chance to silence the doubters.” Covers Expert Jesse Schule.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (9-1 SU, 3-7 ATS, 5-5 O/U): Cook has passed for 2,482 yards, 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions and junior Tyler O’Connor (6-of-11 for 44 yards, one touchdown, one interception versus Maryland) is the backup. Senior wideout Aaron Burbridge is having a huge season with Big Ten-leading totals of 65 receptions and 1,021 receiving yards and he is just the seventh player in school history to reach 1,000 yards in a season. Senior defensive end Shilique Calhoun (25 career sacks, including a team-best 8.5 this season) and sophomore nose tackle Malik McDowell (10.5 tackles for losses) are stalwarts of a tough defensive line, while junior middle linebacker Riley Bullough (team-best 79 tackles) and sophomore safety Montae Nicholson (team-high three interceptions) are also key players.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (10-0 SU, 4-6 ATS, 2-8 O/U): Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott has compiled 15 consecutive 100-yard outings while etching his name among the school’s best-ever backs. Elliott has rushed for 1,425 yards and 16 touchdowns this season and ranks third in school history with 3,565 yards — he needs 204 to pass former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George for second on Ohio State’s all-time list. Junior defensive end Joey Bosa has a team-high 15 tackles for losses — he has 49 in his career — but has just four sacks while sophomore middle linebacker Raekwon McMillian has a team-best 97 tackles and sophomore defensive end Tyquan Lewis has a team-high 6.5 sacks.
* Road team is 6-1 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Underdog is 4-0 ATS in their last four meetings.
* Over is 5-1 in Spartans last six road games.
* Under is 4-0 in Buckeyes last four conference games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Seventy-two percent of Covers users are backing the Spartans.