It’s six down, one to go for Michigan State.
Fighting to maintain control of the divisional driver’s seat, the Spartans went into Lincoln and did just that. With its punishing, nationally-ranked defense turning Nebraska into a turnover-prone offense, the Spartans staked its claim to a 41-28 win. The name of this game, as is ofttimes the case when MSU is involved, was defense in general and turnovers specifically. Oh, the turnovers.
The Spartans forced a soul-crushing five Cornhusker turnovers. The MSU offense was then able to turn the myriad gaffes into 24 of its 41 points. It was, in essence, the game, set and match.
The Cornhuskers were actually able to move the ball on the Spartans, something that’s been few and far between for every team on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage in 2013. The country’s top-ranked defense against the run hadn’t given up more than 100 yards on the ground to any team this season; the ‘Huskers were able to pound out 182 yards, including 123 from Ameer Abdullah. They hadn’t given up more than 300 yards in total offense in a single game; they allowed 392 on the day.
Again, though, the turnovers. Seemingly every time Nebraska appeared to be gaining momentum, an interception here or a fumble there… and there… and there… and there quashed any headway the ‘Huskers were making. And, as a result, officially ended any shot Nebraska had at a return trip to Indianapolis.
On the other hand, and with the win, the Spartans are now a perfect 6-0 in Big Ten play. It also means that, regardless of what the other teams in the division do from here on out, MSU needs to win just one of its two remaining conference games to claim the Legends title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game.
Next Saturday, Michigan State will travel to Evanston to take on Northwestern (0-6 in conference), then return home for the regular-season finale against Minnesota. The Gophers, on a bye this weekend, are at 4-2 in league play and represent the only team with a shot to catch the Spartans. It’s an outside shot at best, to be blunt, as the Spartans would have to drop their next two while the Gophers would need to beat Wisconsin and MSU in back-to-back weeks. Such a scenario would leave Minnesota and Michigan State tied at 6-2, with the former owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Nebraska could also finish at 6-2 by winning out, but would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to both Minnesota and Michigan State and would be knocked out of a three-way tiebreaker per B1G protocol:
b. If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 7 will be followed until a determination is made. If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.
- The records of the three tied teams will be compared against each other
The two-team tiebreaking procedure also means that, if Minnesota beats Wisconsin… and Michigan State loses to Northwestern… the Nov. 30 meeting between the two would be for all of the, um, whatever snack for which Indianapolis is famous.
In other words, and barring something extraordinarily unexpected, it will be Michigan State vs. Ohio State Dec. 7 for the Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl. And, yes, I probably just jinxed one or both of the teams. You’re welcome.