And now it’s officially official.
The front-runner for the better part of a month or more, Michigan State finally put the finishing touches on its run at the Big Ten Legends division title with a punishing 30-6 win over free-falling — and winless in conference play — Northwestern. The division title is the Spartans’ second in three years since the conference split the league in half beginning with the 2011 season.
It was also MSU’s seventh straight win since suffering its lone loss of the season against Notre Dame in Week 4, and, as has been the case more times than not, it was a dominating defense and a sprinkling of an ever-improving offense that led the way.
That Spartans’ defense, ranked at or near the top in nearly every major statistical category, held the limping Wildcats to a pair of first-half field goals while forcing three second-half turnovers. Showing they are somewhat human, however, MSU allowed more than 300 yards of total offense for the second straight game; entering last weekend, they hadn’t allowed a single team to top that mark the first nine games.
Offensively, running back Jeremy Langford came within a yard of matching his career-high, rushing for 150 yards and scoring two touchdowns. The junior’s career-high was 151 yards set a week ago against Nebraska. Connor Cook was brutally efficient, completing 16-of-23 passes for 293 yards and a pair of touchdowns while playing a pick-free game. One of those scoring tosses was an 87-yarder to Bennie Fowler.
The win officially ended any hopes Minnesota entertained of reaching the title game, which had involved the Gophers winning and the Spartans losing their last two. Those two teams will wrap up the regular-season portion of their schedules in East Lansing next Saturday.
As for MSU’s opposition in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis the first Saturday of December, that could (should) very well be decided in a couple of hours. If Ohio State beats Indiana in its game that kicks off at 3:30 ET this afternoon, the Buckeyes will clinch the Leaders division.
If the inexplicable happens and the 4-6 Hoosiers snap the Buckeyes’ nation’s best winning streak, MSU would have to wait until next weekend to start game planning for a specific opponent. Wisconsin, which lost to Ohio State earlier this year, would slide into its third straight conference title game if it wins out and the Buckeyes lose its last two. An OSU win against either Indiana or Michigan in The Game would clinch the division for the Buckeyes and leave the Badgers on the outside looking in based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.