This Saturday night, Michigan State will host Ohio State in a crucial game for both teams.
Currently, both are 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten. Michigan State's only loss came early in the season @ Oregon, and the Ducks remain a consensus Top 4 team nationally.
Somewhat surprisingly, Ohio State's only loss came early in the season as well, but it was at home to an unranked Virginia Tech team -- and by two touchdowns. Ouch. Hence their fall in the rankings.
But all is not lost for either. Depending on the poll, MSU currently checks in somewhere around #7 or 8, and OSU roughly #13 or 14.
Since those early losses, both teams have posted eerily similar records. Each has had one close call (MSU hanging on at home against Nebraska, and OSU needing two overtimes to finally knock off Penn State on the road) but pretty well blistered the rest of the competition.
They also share the luxury of having relatively weak remaining schedules after this game, though OSU will likely be semi-tested in Minnesota the following week. Yet both are likely to "win out".
In other words, this game is pretty much for most of the marbles in the Big 10. If MSU loses at home to the Buckeyes (the Sparties are roughly a 3 point favorite), they can kiss whatever slim chance they had at making the national playoff good-bye. But if they happen to thump OSU by, say, 20 points, the pollsters will likely move them up a notch or two. Depending on what happens elsewhere in the next few weeks, particularly in the SEC, MSU still has a shot at the big dance.
Conversely, while an impressive win over MSU would likely bump OSU up into the Top Ten nationally, it's equally unlikely they would have the slimmest of chances of making the Final Four. As they say, it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature and, when it comes to the pollsters, it's REALLY not nice to get beat by 14 points at home by an unranked team.
Nevertheless, this game is a big deal to both teams. OSU has not been shy is saying they've been waiting for almost a year to avenge their only loss to another Big 10 team (in last year's conference championship game to MSU) in their last 20 games. Beating Michigan State would put the Buckeyes in the driver's seat for the Big 10 title, a Rose Bowl berth, and knock the Spartans not only out of national championship contention, but might also relegate them to a second-tier bowl game. That would be major revenge indeed. There's likely to be several high-profile one-loss teams at the end of the year across the country, and if MSU has two -- well-- do the math. Plus, besides MSU not exactly having achieved the status of "media darling", and the Big 10 being perceived as weak in the first place.......
So this Saturday night is pretty much it for MSU and OSU. The marbles, on national TV.
When it's over, one of them is gonna be movin' on up. A premier bowl awaits them. The other will certainly drop out of the Top 10, and might well drop out of the Top 15, with no way to make up ground in the remaining weeks. They'll try to sell their fans on how great it is to be shuffling off to the Tidy Bowl, or whatever, in January.
Yep, this Saturday night is a big deal. Yours truly hopes one or the other wins it convincingly. Because if it's a super close game, or even goes into overtime, two things will happen -- and both of them are bad.
It would send the talking sports heads into berserko, tera-byte warp drive spewing even MORE of their worthless stats, probabilities, and predictions.
Second, it would just get too damn complicated. And I'm a simple kind of guy. I don't need that aggravation.
Much easier if the final score is 40-0 either way. Then we'll know who's who.