You have to hand it to the Spartans. Going into Columbus to face the undefeated Buckeyes without the services of their star QB Connor Cook was a daunting task indeed. They were two touchdown underdogs -- but they beat OSU. No fluke. Fair and square.
The defending national champ Buckeyes just kissed another trip to the Final Four good-bye. A loss early in the season can possibly be overcome. OSU did it last year, as did Bama -- and again this year -- but losing at home late in the season is a dagger in the heart of any playoff aspirations. It's over for the Buckeyes, regardless of what they do next week at arch-rival Michigan.
Michigan State has been living on the edge all year. Sure, they won games against far inferior opponents, but the scores were closer than they should have been. In their game against Michigan, they needed a last second miracle to eke out a victory. They got it. But the following week at Nebraska, the football gods taketh away what they had given the Green in Ann Arbor. The Spartans would taste defeat on a highly questionable call in the waning seconds. Perhaps in the whole scheme of things -- that's fair. Catch a good break, than a bad one comes along.
True, there are some far-fetched scenarios that could upset the Big 10 apple cart. MSU could lose at home to Penn State next week which would give them two conference losses. Whoever then won the Mich/OSU game (only one conference loss) would then go on to the conference championship game to face Iowa. But barring a colossal let-down after such a huge win at OSU, it's a pretty safe bet the Spartans will easily dispatch the Nittany Lions.
Thing is, while UM/MSU/OSU have/are been going through their little round-robin in the Big 10 East (each with currently one conference loss), the above-mentioned Iowa has quietly rolled to a perfect record in the West. 11-0, 7-0 in the conference. They have to go to Nebraska next week. Certainly no gimme game. Ask MSU. And the Huskers seem to have long had this uncanny ability to knock off undefeated teams that dare invade Lincoln.
But at least good teams are slugging it out in the Big 10 as the season winds down -- as it should be. Likewise in the Big 12. Baylor just went into previously undefeated Okla St. and knocked off the Cowboys. The Waco Bears get TCU next week. Another tough one. Okla St. gets Okla. Brutal.
Not so much so with some other high profile teams. While the big boys are slugging it out around the nation, Alabama played a game against the Special Olympics JV team, sometimes known as Charleston Southern. Do Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have no shame? When they made out their non-conference schedule, weren't the autistic Campfire Girls available for this Saturday? Or maybe their local preschool day care center had serious reservations when contacted regarding fielding a team of their charges to square off against Bama on the gridiron. Charleston Southern? Really? Did I mention shameful?
Elsewhere, in an apparent Catholic league intra-mural game, Notre Dame took on the always ferocious Boston College. Like the Alabama contest, of COURSE it was a blow-out. This is what schools with no sense of decency or fair play do. Rack up late season stats against pushovers they scheduled themselves in the hope of somehow making it into the playoffs. Shameful indeed.
Nonetheless, hats off to the Michigan State Spartans. Whether or not they ultimately wind up in the four team national playoff remains to be seen. But they've got a shot. They need to take care of business against a mediocre Penn State team, and then put on an impressive showing against Iowa in the Big 10 title game. If both those things happen, entirely possible, while some other big boys around the country are beating each other's brains out, the Spartans could wind up in the Big Dance.
Again, beating Ohio State on the road with a backup QB was very impressive. That will no doubt catch the attention of the Selection Committee, and the new rankings due out Tuesday might well reflect it. Remember, MSU is only one bad call away from being undefeated themselves.
The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.
And if everything works out just right and the Spartans land a spot in the national semis -- beware of these guys. Sure they have weaknesses. So does every other team. Nobody's perfect, with the possible exception of my ex. At least that was her take, and probably still is, wherever she is these days. Good luck with THAT.
Hey, Mark Dantonio's boys might not be flashy, but top to bottom, they're as good as anybody else out there right now when it comes to getting the job done on the field.
Idle thought: After MSU defeated the Buckeyes, while holding "star" running back Ezekiel Elliott to a mere 33 yards rushing in his home stadium, EE lamented the play calling of his coaches and all but said he would be declaring for the NFL draft as soon as allowed. Nice timing. Whatever Heisman hopes he may have had were just trashed by the Spartans, and if he couldn't run against a better than average, but not superb college defense, while supposedly having a monster O-line in front of him at OSU -- it's not too much of a stretch to assume his NFL draft status just took a serious turn south as well. A player calling out his coaching staff after he himself turned in a decidedly underwhelming performance is not the best of ideas. That young man needs to learn two words. Shut up. Further, if Michigan shuts him down again next week -- entirely possible, because they'll certainly be keying on him -- what would the pro scouts think of him then?
But for now, nice job Sparties. Nobody else, including the bookies, thought you could pull it off in the Horseshoe. Yet you did.