The Michigan State Spartans may have garnered the attention they needed to turn their season around with a 16-13 OT win over No. 25 ranked Wisconsin on Saturday—too bad it took them nine games to do so.
In what was another come-from-behind victory, the Spartans managed to charge back after being down a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Andrew Maxwell had a strong showing against the Badgers, throwing for 216 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner to Bennie Fowler in OT. Even though Michigan State's offense struggled to get things going early, they managed to close out the win when it mattered—something they've struggled to do all season.
Le'Veon Bell also contributed to the win with 77 yards on the ground and the game-tying reception in the fourth quarter. Bell, who leads the Big Ten in rushing yards this season, outdid his counterpart in Wisconsin's Montee Ball, who previously rushed for over 500 yards in his last three games.
Michigan State's defense had no intention of letting Ball run all over them. The defense held the Wisconsin RB to just 46 yards—six yards more than his lowest total this season. All in all, it wasn't the prettiest of wins for the Spartans, but it's implications could be the turnaround Mark Dantonio has been looking for out of his team.
Who would have figured that Michigan State would be climbing out of a hole so late in the season after the level of expectations it had before the season started?
However, with the Spartans currently sitting in fifth place of the Big Ten Legends division, this once-top-ranked team has seemingly faded among the rest of the Big Ten powerhouses, underachieving for the type of season that was expected from them early on. Too many times this season, the Spartans have found themselves clamoring from behind late or failing to hold off a surging opponent.
In the preseason AP Poll, Michigan State boasted a No. 8 ranking, and many had the Spartans as favorites in the Big Ten. By Week 6, Michigan State dropped out of the poll after losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. Dantonio and his team then proceeded to lose two more close games to Iowa and Michigan, forcing them to fall even further.
The most upsetting issue to ponder is the fact that this team has the tools to be a contender for the Big Ten title, yet inconsistency has led them to a measly 5-4 record after Saturday's win.
Prior to Saturday's loss, the Wisconsin Badgers were riding a 21-game home winning streak and a 6-2 record this season, making Michigan State's victory that much sweeter. Looking ahead, the Spartans will continue to fight for bowl eligibility as they face Nebraska, Northwestern and Minnesota. While the slow start certainly has made things tougher on Dantonio's team, a strong skid of wins could very well have the Spartans back on their feet this season.