Little brother no more.
Back in June, exactly zero media members picked Michigan State to win the Big Ten. Fast-forward six months, and in one of the most boring exciting game you’ll ever watch, MSU punched a ticket to the most exclusive dance in college football as a late touchdown lifted the Spartans to a 16-14 win over previously unbeaten Iowa.
The game-winning touchdown came after a successful fourth-and-two conversion from the Iowa five-yard line, a man-sized one-yard run by freshman L.J. Scott with just 27 seconds remaining. The score capped a drive for the ages, a 22-play, 82-yard march led by a quarterback, Connor Cook who obviously wasn’t close to 100-percent healthy and chewed up over nine minutes of the fourth-quarter clock.
The Spartans converted four third downs on the drive as well as the key fourth-down conversion in the red zone. The key third-down conversion, though, came five minutes earlier as Cook hit Aaron Burbridge for 16 yards from the 50; 12 plays and three conversions later, and after a last-gap effort by the Hawkeyes, the Spartans were conference champions for the first time since 2013 and the third time under head coach Mark Dantonio.
With the Spartans sitting at No. 5 and the Hawkeyes at No. 4, the Big Ten championship game was essentially a play-in game for the playoffs. Barring something completely unforeseen, one-loss MSU will join fellow one-lossers Alabama and Oklahoma as well as the only remaining unbeaten, Clemson, in the four-team playoff, the field of which will be announced Sunday afternoon.
More than likely, Iowa will be left one hell of a prize as they will likely head to the Rose Bowl. Ohio State should also earn a New Year’s Six bid to the Fiesta Bowl.