Michigan State can clinch a spot in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game with a home victory against Indiana and a little help on Saturday.
Unfortunately for Spartan fans, the help they’re looking for needs to come from their hated rivals the Michigan Wolverines. If Michigan wins their game against Nebraska, and the Spartans don’t choke against a Hoosiers team who hasn’t won a conference game all year, then Sparty will party in Indianapolis.
Of course, there is the possibility that Big Red goes into the Big House and cuts down the Wolverines. If that happens, the Spartans are still in complete control of their postseason aspirations. A win at Northwestern to end the season will crown the Spartans as champs of the Legends Division.
In recent years, the Spartan’s have had a monkey on their back that has held the team back from making a BCS Bowl. In reality, that monkey was actually a Hawkeye and, after last week’s victory in Iowa City, that bird has finally flown the coup.
However, the next true test for Michigan State begins on Saturday. Needing just two victories (possibly one) against inferior opponents to secure arguably the program’s most successful season in 20 years is no small task. The Spartans cannot take either Indiana or Northwestern for granted, despite the disparity in talent.
Mark Dantonio has been very clear in his message to his team in saying that they must take care of the business at hand without looking for help from Michigan, or toward possible postseason play down the road. While that is certainly the right mantra in theory, the Spartan players must prove they are mentally tough and disciplined.
The best part for Michigan State is, if they are able to secure a conference championship game bid, they will more than likely square off for a second time against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Wisconsin, a team that looked utterly unbeatable through the season’s first month-and-a-half, already fell at the hands of the Spartans in East Lansing.
While many will remember that game (with good reason) for the heroic catch and score by Keith Nichol on a last second Hail Mary pass, some may have forgotten that the Spartans recovered from a 14-point deficit and controlled the majority of that game. A rematch against Wisconsin is not quite the terrifying proposition once imagined.
Since we are getting ahead of ourselves, why not take it a step further. A win against Wisconsin gives the Spartans a second consecutive Big Ten Championship and a spot in the Rose Bowl for the first time in over two decades. There they would likely face the high flying Oregon Ducks.
The offensive artillery that Oregon possesses would give the stout Spartans defense their biggest test in recent memory, but it is a matchup Michigan State fans would be delighted to see.
While it is fine for fans, beat writers and bloggers to get ahead of themselves when looking at the postseason possibilities, the team must avoid doing the same and focus only on an Indiana team that would undoubtedly love to play spoiler.