Months before the start of the college football season kicked off there was one specific game every college football fan following the Big Ten knew to circle on the calendar. Michigan State will host Ohio State in a rematch of the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game on November 8. This season, as a result of Big Ten expansion and division realignment, the Spartans and Buckeyes are now in the same division. This sets up the November 8 match-up as a potential Big Ten semifinal, because it looks as clear as ever the two best teams in the Big Ten’s East division play in Columbus, Ohio and East Lansing, Michigan.
Michigan State will benefit by getting a week off to rest up and prepare for the game that figures to still carry some significant weight in the College Football Playoff discussion. The Spartans, fresh off a pounding of in-state rival Michigan, has done just about everything it can to make this game as important as it will likely be. Aside from a fourth-quarter collapse at Oregon, Michigan State has pretty much been able to do whatever it has wanted this season. Nebraska made things interesting earlier in October and Purdue offered a minor scare, but Michigan State has responded very well for the most part.
Against Michigan, Michigan State delivered a loud message to their in-state opponents who drove a stake into the turf in East Lansing before the game got started. Michigan State has grown to be a program that can do its talking on the scoreboard rather than in the pregame antics. Michigan State held Michigan to just 186 yards of offense and forced three turnovers. Three drives by Michigan ended in negative yardage and the only touchdown allowed by the Spartans came in the final minutes of the game, with everything pretty much decided. Michigan was celebrating moral victories. Michigan State was staying focused on a larger picture.
Ohio State went on the road to play Penn State this weekend, and the escaped with a double overtime victory. One must wonder how much Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will take from the Penn State game plan, as well as Virginia Tech’s performance from earlier in the season.
Ohio State appears to be a much better team now than when they faced Virginia Tech back in week two. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett has taken big strides since his first significant test against the Hokies. He faced a challenge form Penn State but he managed to gut through an injury to lead Ohio State to a win in overtime as well. Having been on the road in Big Ten play, these Buckeyes look ready to take on whatever atmosphere Michigan State packs Spartan Stadium with in a couple of weeks.
Can we get to November 8 already?
- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)