Saturday, November 26, 2011
Michigan State 31, Northwestern 17, and Spartans all alone as Legends Division champions
There will be no sharing of the Big Ten Legends Division title. The Spartans won it outright by defeating a pesky Northwestern Wildcats team, 31-17.
MSU will have a rematch next week with the Wisconsin Badgers for the Big Ten title. The Badgers crushed Penn State, 45-7 (and in the process, inexplicably left their starting quarterback Russell Wilson in the game until the very end of a blowout win--yet another reason to dislike Bret Bielema and hope that MSU clobbers the Badgers next week).
As usual, Northwestern put up a valiant effort. I certainly won't miss seeing Dan Persa. That elusive, gunslinging little guy has been a constant thorn in MSU's side for four years, although the Spartans have managed to beat the Wildcats in each of those years. It certainly hasn't been easy.
Although MSU had already clinched a spot in the Big Ten championship, make no mistake: this game against Northwestern WAS important. It assured MSU of it's 10th win (the first time that MSU has ever recorded back-to-back double-digit victory seasons), and kept the Spartans' momentum going. If State had lost, I can just imagine the headlines ("MSU limps into Big Ten title game", "Spartans again falter on the road", etc.) as well as the inevitable belief in some circles that the Michigan Wolverines ended the season on more of an upswing than the Spartans and would be a better representative in the title game. Trust me, I've been around here long enough to know that this would be a common refrain.
Now, of course, all of the pundits seem to believe that MSU has no chance next week. They are starstruck by Wisconsin's win over Penn State and seem to have forgotten that Wisconsin always plays better in Camp Randall. Also missing in some of the analysis I've heard--namely from Mark May and Lou Holtz on ESPN--is that Will Gholston didn't play in the first MSU/Wisconsin game. Despite not having one of MSU's best defensive players, the Spartans were still able to win.
Fine, let the so-called experts think what they want to think. I feel confident that MSU is going to lay it all on the line next week. They are still smarting over not making it to the Rose Bowl last year, and have dedicated their season to this goal. I am not going to go so far as to guarantee a Spartan victory next week, but the Badgers better strap their helmets on tightly.