Location: East Lansing, Michigan
2018 record: 7-6
Head coach: Mark Dantonio (13th year, 110-52)
2019 record so far: 3-1
Record against Ohio State since 2010: 3-5
What’s happened so far in 2019:
Then-No. 18 Michigan State took a loss against unranked Arizona State in its third game of the season by a score of 10-7. The Spartans had previously beaten Tulsa and Western Michigan before falling to Arizona State for the second consecutive year. The Spartans came back and won in Week 4 against Northwestern 31-10, placing them at No. 25 and earning head coach Mark Dantonio a win that gave him the most in program history.
Key offensive player:
Redshirt senior quarterback Brian Lewerke returns for his third season as a starter, averaging 256.3 passing yards per game. However, his 7.4 yards per attempt ranks No. 7 among Big Ten quarterbacks with at least 14 attempts per game. Lewerke has passed for more than 200 yards 15 times in his career. His primary target is senior receiver Darrell Stewart, who has 30 receptions for 439 yards this season.
Key defensive player:
Redshirt senior defensive end Kenny Willekes was No. 5 in the Big Ten with eight sacks in 2018, and he’s already outpacing himself with a team-leading 3.5 through four games this season. Willekes opened the season with two tackles for loss in three straight games, and recovered two fumbles in the season opener against Tulsa. As one of the best pass rushers in the conference, Willekes is instrumental for a defense that allows just 176 pass yards per game, and a Big Ten third-best 228.3 yards overall.
Michigan State has struggled with penalties, resulting in the loss of yards that could allow teams to close the gap. The Spartans’ 31 penalties thus far are the most in the Big Ten, including 14 in the season opener and 10 in the loss to Arizona State. A 12-men-on-the-field penalty negated a would-be game-tying field goal against Arizona State, and after missing the retry as time expired, Michigan State lost the game.