Nebraska vs. Michigan State: Why Clash Is a Must-Win for Both Schools

Allan BrulettCorrespondent IINovember 2, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 27: Running back Ameer Abdullah #8 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers atop his huddling teammates before their game against the Michigan Wolverines during their game at Memorial Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska beat Michigan 23-9. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Michigan State has never beaten Nebraska.  

Nebraska has never won a Big Ten title.   

One of those things is about to change.

When the Cornhuskers travel to East Lansing to face the Spartans on Saturday, they will do so as the first-place team in the Big Ten's Legends Division by virtue of their win over the Michigan Wolverines.   Defending Legends Division champion MSU comes in off of a big win at Wisconsin.  

The Spartans have had a down year with a 5-4 record overall, including 2-3 in the conference and 0-2 in the Legends Division.  They need a win, and they will need some help.  After Nebraska comes Northwestern at home and a road game at Minnesota.  The Spartans need to go 3-0 to have any chance of keeping their hopes of repeating alive. 

The path is simpler for Nebraska.  After Saturday, the Cornhuskers get Minnesota and Penn State at home before a road tilt at Iowa.   The three games following the weekend's matchup are not cupcakes, but Nebraska will be favored in all of its remaining contests.  Michigan State represents the last serious challenge to Nebraska's hopes.  Win all four, and the Cornhuskers win the Big Ten title. 

Here's why.

The (inaptly-named) Leaders Division is currently topped in the standings by Ohio State and Penn State.  Both squads are ineligible for the 2012 Big Ten title game.  That means that the winner of the Legends Division will have to beat Wisconsin for the Big Ten title, something that both Nebraska and MSU have already done (albeit narrowly).

If the Spartans lose, their postseason hopes are dashed.  If Nebraska loses, its postseason hopes are dealt a serious blow because Michigan remains right there with the 'Huskers.  No Big Ten team will play in a BCS game without winning the Big Ten Championship.

It's do-or-die time for the Spartans and the Cornhuskers.