The first BCS Rankings of 2010 are out, and Michigan State is in an enviable spot.
The Spartans are 7-0 on the season, the first time since the glorious 1966 season—and the famed 10-10 with Notre Dame later that year—that MSU has been unbeaten this late in the season.
Michigan State has shown great balance this year. Its offense is ranked second in the Big Ten for total offense, and the Spartans are third in the conference in scoring defense, giving up just 16.6 points per game.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio suffered a heart attack after the 34-31 overtime win over Notre Dame in September, but rejoined the team a week later and coached from the press box.
Michigan State was unranked in the preseason Top 25 polls. It jumped into the polls at No. 25 after the stirring Week Three victory over Notre Dame, in which the Spartans called for a fake field goal in overtime and won it with a touchdown pass.
It made a big leap from No. 24 to No. 17, after knocking off previously unbeaten Wisconsin in Week Five, to No. 13 after beating Michigan in Ann Arbor, and then to No. 8 this week after beating Illinois.
While some may say it was the heart-stopping—no pun intended, Coach Dantonio—victory over Notre Dame, or even the win over Wisconsin, it has to be going on the road and beating Michigan at Michigan Stadium for the second time in three years.
MSU’s defense intercepted Heisman Trophy front-runner Denard Robinson three times on the day, and the Spartans at one point scored on five consecutive possessions between the second and third quarters to put the game away.
Impressive, impressive victory from a team that normally folds in this game, especially on the road.
The Spartans are seventh in the first BCS standings, one spot ahead of No. 8 Alabama and one spot behind No. 6 Louisiana State.
This is the highest BCS ranking that Michigan State has ever achieved, a testament to the great 7-0 start that the Spartans are off to.
Beat Northwestern this weekend, and it’s likely MSU moves up since two teams ahead of them, LSU and Auburn, play each other.
Michigan State’s BCS ranking is probably just about right.
Remember, this program doesn’t have a great amount of pedigree to work off of. By this point, the Spartans have usually made some sort of gaffe that resulted in a loss to a Central Michigan—which has happened before—or some program of that caliber.
Sparty is in new territory. So to have MSU at No. 7 actually seems just about right.
Here’s what the Spartans have left this year:
Oct. 23, at Northwestern
Oct. 30, at Iowa
Nov. 6, vs. Minnesota
Nov. 20, vs. Purdue
Nov. 27, at Penn State
Definitely the Iowa game.
Iowa City is always a difficult place to play, and the Hawkeyes certainly look like they’re back on track after a solid road win over Michigan. Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi is the type of QB who can give the Spartans defense fits.
Also, assuming the Spartans beat Northwestern this week, they’ll likely move up at least another notch in the polls since LSU and Auburn play each other.
Two big ones, actually.
First, and we’re certainly not making light of this, but even though coach Mark Dantonio has returned from his heart attack following the Notre Dame game, it was a huge scare. These Spartans realize they have much to play for with a passionate coach like Dantonio
Second, the Wisconsin game is over, the Michigan is game is over and there’s no Ohio State on the schedule this season.
Michigan State is far enough back that it obviously is going to need plenty of help in the remaining seven weeks of the season.
But, as we said before, this is all going to change on a weekly basis. It will even change by next Sunday—LSU plays Auburn, two teams right ahead of the Spartans in the standings, and if Michigan State beats Northwestern it will at least move up one spot.
Can it win out? That remains to be seen, but it sure is going to be interesting to see if an unbeaten Big Ten team pushes past the likes of an unbeaten TCU or Boise.
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1, vs. Louisiana State.
Can’t imagine the Spartans getting past both Iowa and Penn State on the road and staking a claim for the BCS National Championship Game. Even then, would the Spartans have the cache that a one-loss SEC team would have?
Boy, that would be a tough call in a year when you don’t play Ohio State and your wins against Notre Dame and Michigan came against two down programs. We’ll have to see.