Since the arrival of Urban Meyer as head coach of the Buckeyes, the winner of the OSU-MSU tilt has gone on to success after posting a victory. In 2012, Meyer and the Buckeyes traveled north and earned a hard-fought 17-16 victory – one that helped spur Ohio State to an undefeated campaign and is arguably the most notable win during the Buckeyes’ current 20-game conference regular-season winning streak.
“The Big Ten has taken some heat but that was a great game, a great atmosphere and a bunch of players on the field who will play at the next level,” Meyer said. “That was a good for the conference and good for the Big Ten.”
Coming off a seven-loss season the year prior, Meyer and the Buckeyes knew immediately that the win over the 20th-ranked Spartans could be a turning point.
“I’ve lost games like this,” then-junior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said. “Last year, as Coach Meyer puts it, we got kicked a lot, and we were in battles that we lost. To just go out there and really just put it all on the line and rip it open and play four hard quarters, it was sledgehammer football.
“It feels good to come out of here with a win. It makes it well worth our while.”
Even more important was that the win seemed to bring the Buckeyes together. Before the game, Meyer put together a new "tradition" at Ohio State known as championship water, a pregame toast that served to bring the team together that lives on to this day.
Ohio State fans know the rest of the story. The Buckeyes blasted No. 21 Nebraska 63-38 the following week in Columbus and completed just the sixth undefeated and untied season in program history.
Even today, the Buckeyes know that passing that test in Spartan Stadium was important.
“I think that was the deciding factor of our season, that big win over Michigan State,” senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “I think if we had lost that game, we might have lost a lot of our confidence. But winning that game, and the way we won it by shutting down their run – they had been a very good running team – it showed that we had the guys and we could come together.
“I think that’s similar to this year. I think it’s very important that we stop their run and win by stopping their run because we have the scheme and the personnel on the back end to stop the pass as well.”
The Buckeyes did not lose another game until their next meeting with the Spartans in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. This time, it was Michigan State getting a big boost from the victory. The 34-24 win over the second-ranked Buckeyes gave MSU its first outright conference title since 1987.
Michigan State also went on to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl for just the fifth time in school history, where the Spartans posted a 24-20 win over Pac-12 champion Stanford. Like Ohio State, MSU also has an impressive conference winning streak heading into Saturday. The Spartans have won 13 straight regular-season Big Ten games.
Now, with the teams set to renew acquaintances Saturday night at Spartan Stadium, the stakes are again high. The loser of the game will need help to reach the Big Ten title game – and will out of the College Football Playoff picture. The winner, meanwhile, will have the inside track in the Big Ten East division and keep their national title hopes alive.