It's all but official now. The Spartans will defeat Iowa in the Big 10 conference championship game this Saturday night in Indianapolis.
That prediction might seem brazen given a few things. True, MSU is currently a 3.5 point favorite against the Hawkeyes. A close call. Also true is Iowa is the only undefeated Big 10 team at 12-0.
One can debate various stats and mundane matters such as strength of schedule and "quality" wins, but none of that really matters. It is what it is and there can be only one Big 10 champion. Somebody has to win -- and somebody has to lose. The winner is guaranteed a spot in the Final Four for the national championship, while the loser will go out west or down south to play in a "prestigious" bowl game.
The people that run that bowl will be happy. So will the TV folks. Lots of cha-ching ad time available to those that would pony up to advertise their wares. The players will be treated like royalty in a strange town while seeing the sights. And this is the highlight of the year for the marching bands. They'll come up with something special at halftime.
All in all a very good thing for everyone involved. Sort of. It matters little that the game itself will go down as a minor footnote in history of no consequence, or that it typically actually costs the participating schools more to participate in such a contest than what they will get back in "prize money". It's all about school spirit and having a good time. Let the bean counters worry about the financial stuff later. And what's a few thousand in loose change compared to the exposure on national TV? Priceless.
Nevertheless, Michigan State caught the luckiest of breaks long before they had to take the field against Iowa. Actually, it could have went either way. With the Hawkeyes considered #4 and in -- and the Spartans considered #5 and barely out, the geniuses had to make a decision.
Sports Illustrated chose to splash Iowa on its latest cover. Iowa raucous. New Kirk. New QB. New title contenders. And knock, knock, they're at the championship door.
Of course we all know what this means. Iowa is doomed. The SI cover jinx is legendary. When they hype-em or pick-em -- they're going down. Somewhere MSU head coach Mark Dantonio likely heaved a sigh of relief. It could have been HIS guys getting the whammy.
Idle thought. I wonder if the bookies take SI's always fearless, but usually bass-ackwards predictions into account? If that 3.5 point spread goes up to 6 or 7, then you know why.
But here's the thing. Though they've struggled to get respect in recent years, Michigan State just might be the best of them all this year. Sure, Alabama is always a popular choice. And who can root against #1 Clemson, though I think they're very much vulnerable to a good team. Oklahoma appears Final Four bound and are quite formidable themselves.
Yet in the end -- don't be surprised if Michigan State winds up winning it all. These guys are the real deal. When they went into Ohio State without the services of their star QB Connor Cook and knocked off the undefeated Buckeyes in their own back yard anyway, the message was loud and clear.
This is our year and, one way or the other, we're going to get it done.
Look out for these guys. I'm just saying.
And the SI jinx fell the other way. Definitely an omen.