Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Michigan State. A final four team?

After the first poll from the almighty committee that will eventually decide which four football teams qualify for the national championship playoff -- the Michigan State Spartans find themselves on the outside looking in.

Idle thought: Condoleezza Rice is a member of this supreme council. Didn't she botch enough things when she was W's right hand girl (see non-existent weapons of mass destruction and the resulting Iraq war)? And now she's supposedly an expert on college football? Says who?

At any rate, MSU is ranked #8 and needs some help to move up four spots in the remaining weeks. It's odd, because through the first seven games, the Spartans have only played two bad quarters of football. Early in the season, at Oregon, MSU was hanging with the Ducks, but fell apart in the fourth quarter to lose by 19 points. Fast forward a few weeks, and the Spartans were dominating Nebraska at home. Another fourth quarter let-down let the Cornhuskers back in the game, but the Spartans still held on to win 27-22. Other than that, they've pretty well blistered everybody they've played.

But maybe that's the thing. Strength of schedule matters to Condy and Company. While the Spartans mowed down early season non-conference patsies, then in-conference patsies like Indiana, Purdue, and Michigan, the only tough games they've played resulted in a loss on the road and a close one at home. Perhaps that's why they're rarely mentioned as being a potential Top Four team amongst all the talking heads.

Certainly, 2 out of the current top 4 belong there. Miss St., and defending champ Flor St. both remain undefeated having played some pretty tough competition. After that, there's a bevy of one loss teams, including Mich St.

Some of the usual suspects lurk, like Alabama, Auburn, Oregon, and Notre Dame (which came within a whisker of knocking off Flor St. on the road). Despite having one loss as well, many pollsters want to jump on the Ole Miss bandwagon, likely because they haven't been any good in decades. It's like if the Chicago Cubs suddenly roared to a division title in baseball.

Yet while they may well be a Top 4 team, Michigan State continues to get the Rodney Dangerfield treatment nationally.

In order for MSU to move up the 4 spots necessary to get into the Final Four, three things have to happen. Two of them the Spartans control, while the third will happen elsewhere.

#1. After their bye week, MSU hosts Ohio State, also a one-loss and ranked team. Just beating the Buckeyes isn't good enough. It has to be convincing.

#2. MSU won't get any brownie points from the committee even if they roll through the weak remainder of their Big 10 schedule. Knocking off Maryland on the road, Rutgers at home, and Penn State in Happy Valley isn't going to impress anybody. Therefore, they must also rack up a decisive victory in the Big 10 championship game against whichever opponent emerges.

#3. This is what could benefit the Spartans most. While Flor. St. and Oregon are likely on cruise control, some of the current teams ranked above them still have to face some mighty tough competition, especially in the SEC. Both Mississippi teams, Auburn, and Bama have a brutal schedule amongst themselves in the next few weeks. Somebody has to lose those games. Plus they have a conference championship game themselves. While the SEC champion will no doubt get an invite to the big dance, it could well turn out that many of them will have at least two losses.

If Michigan State remains impressive and unbeaten for the rest of the year -- with only one early loss --would the committee actually ignore them on their final ballot in favor of another team that had been beaten twice -- the last defeat being quite recent? That would be tough to justify, even for Condy.

But first things first. State has to roll at home over the Buckeyes, and that's no piece of cake. Even though OSU lost their star QB Braxton Miller for the season due to an injury, his replacement J.T. Barrrett has come on like gangbusters in his absence, running and throwing for ridiculous yardage.

Nov. 8 will feature the biggest Big 10 game of the year between MSU and OSU. Somebody's going to move up a spot or two in the polls, with an outside chance of going to the Big Dance. The other will go bowling for dollars elsewhere in January at a second tier affair.

Yep, it can fairly be said that in the next 6 weeks or so, we'll see a whole lot of poll shuffling going on. Which four teams will eventually be chosen by Condy's "coalition" for a chance at greatness is anybody's guess. Today's allegiances could be tomorrow's outcasts. Sound familiar? But you just know, no matter how it works out, there will be those left out that will claim they got screwed over by politics and what can be sold as popular to the American people.

Hmm. Looking at it that way, maybe Rice's "appointment" to such a committee begins to make a little sense.

Just a thought.....

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