After their deflating loss against an unranked Nebraska team before their match up with a Top Five Ohio State squad, things looked dire for Michigan State. Playoff hopes were set aside, analysts began to count them out, and even quarterback Connor Cook looked questionable after an injury. But as many MSU fans have learned, once they’re the underdogs, the Spartans really begin to shine.
That scenario came true once again as Michigan State followed up their stunning penultimate regular season win over the Buckeyes in Columbus with a punishing 55-16 win over Penn State to take the Big Ten East division on Saturday evening. The team even saw QB Connor Cook return to form with a vengeance, who passed for 248 yards and three touchdowns. As he said after the game, it was not a game to be skipped for the fifth-year senior.
“It was Senior Day,” Cook said, “and I didn’t want to miss this.”
With the win, Michigan State clinched their third divisional title in the last five years, and are on their way to a match up with unbeaten Iowa for the conference championship this Saturday night. The last time Michigan State won their division in 2013, they won the title, as well.
Also with the win, MSU head coach Mark Dantonio becomes the first Big Ten coach to win 11 games five times within a six-year span. The Spartans also now have four undefeated home seasons, including 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2015. Should MSU win the Big Ten title on Saturday, many analysts claim that they would deserve a spot in the college football playoffs, though nothing is certain.
After the game, Dantonio reiterated what he’s said since the conception of the playoffs, stating that any team that wins the Big Ten deserves a chance to play in one of the four slots for the playoffs.
“We accomplished our first goal,” Dantonio said shortly after the win. “We got to the conference championship game. We’ll celebrate this for 24 hours but then it’s back to work and get ready for an excellent Iowa team that’s unbeaten. This was an important step, but our goal is to reach higher.”