For the fourth straight year, the Michigan State Spartans celebrated a win over Michigan. For the fourth straight year, don’t expect them to be content to leave it at that. The Spartans have a chance to run the table directly into the first ever Big Ten Championship game. You think Michigan is mad about losing? Imagine Wolverine fans having to watch Sparty party at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3rd.
The Spartans’ road isn’t easy. They are actually half way through a gauntlet few in the Big Ten would want to face. Before the home win over Michigan, MSU won a defensive tug-o-war against Ohio State in Columbus. They now sit at 2-0 in the Big Ten and are in the driver’s seat for the conference title game.
The road for the Spartans the next two weeks won’t be easy though. They host Wisconsin on Saturday night before going to Nebraska for their first conference meeting against the Cornhuskers. Not the easiest path to Indy they could have hoped for, but if you are going to go, you want to earn it. Michigan State will do just that.
Green and white faithful can take heart in the fact they don’t have to win both games. The bigger game is next week in Lincoln. A loss to Wisconsin, though disappointing, would not cost Michigan State. At this point, Michigan State is the only undefeated team in the Legends division. Michigan, Nebraska, and Iowa are the one loss teams. Wisconsin does count a conference loss but, being in the Leaders division, Sparty wouldn’t have to worry about the head to head numbers.
If MSU beats both Nebraska and Iowa, even if those two schools (and Michigan) win out, they will all have at least one conference loss, where as Michigan State will hold all the tie breakers. That’s a nice place to be sitting.
Of course, that assumes MSU won’t slip up in their final 4 games, which they shouldn’t. They host Minnesota and Indiana, with a trip to Iowa in between, before closing at Northwestern. This isn’t your older brother’s Spartans. I don’t see this team falling to a lesser opponent this year, as they did with pretty much all other coaches after George Perles.
The main reason is the defense. With the exception of the Notre Dame game, they have been nothing short of dominant. Teams are averaging just over ten points per game against the Spartans. Their run defense is mentioned amongst the best, up there with LSU and Alabama. They are as good as anyone in the nation.
The other reason the Spartans have had success is their quarterback, Kirk Cousins. His numbers appear to be unremarkable, but he manages the game for the offense. He’s only thrown four interceptions in six games this season, and he’s completed 66% of his passes. With his calm, cool, collected demeanor, MSU will be able to stay in games.
The biggest enemy for Michigan State is likely to be themselves. They let Michigan hang around last week by committing two very costly turnovers. Throw into the mix 13 penalties. Mental mistakes have killed many teams’ great season. Michigan State has to avoid those.
Yet, if they do, this season can be special. The great thing about Mark Dantonio is that his Spartans, though maybe over zealous, are always prepared. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the coach can get his team up and ready to go in each of the next six weeks. If they can avoid the let down, Michigan State should be smelling Roses.