As a fan of the football team from Michigan State University I was not completely shocked at the result of the game on Saturday morning/afternoon/night. Teams coached by Mark Dantonio are ones that typically play up or down to the level of competition and Saturday was no different. The Spartan defense shut down a former Heisman hopeful (sorry, Happy Valley. That trophy is going to Norman, Oklahoma now) and the offense did what it needed to on countless 3rd and long situations to set up our 12 year old kicker, Matt Coghlin up to slip and slide his way into the best night of his life. And you thought YOU peaked your freshman year of college.
After the power came back on in East Lansing and the light of the burning couches faded into Sunday’s dawn a familiar feel crept up in me: radical and blinding delusions of College Football Playoff grandeur.
I know, I know. Last year I was writing for a different website and I VERY incorrectly predicted the Spartans were going to walk through the season with exactly zero losses. To my credit, I was only off by 9 but that is besides the point. Right now the Spartans are sitting at 7-2, ranked 13th in the nation with big time wins over Michigan, Penn State and Iowa. Also, let’s not forget that the week 11 rankings in 2015, Michigan State was ranked 13 as well. Granted that year it was more of a “control your own destiny” scenario where MSU had a clear path to the playoffs by winning every one of their upcoming games. This time around things are a little murky but there is a path and I am going to break it down for you conference by conference.
So this one is pretty simple: Win the rest of your games. Hypothetically if MSU can march into Columbus this weekend and win against the 11th ranked Buckeyes in a decent fashion (they opened as 14.5 point underdogs so the disrespekt is palpable) and then beat an injured Maryland team and a not the worst Rutgers team the Spartans would be rolling into Indy for the Big Ten Championship game at 10-2 and undoubtedly ranked in the top 8 in the country.
This is where the Big Ten West comes into play. The obvious choice to play in that game is Wisconsin. If MSU is able to hand the Badgers their first loss of the season you would have an 11-2 Big Ten champion with wins over Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Iowa. That has a shot to get into the playoff any year. The loss to Northwestern is going to haunt the Spartans more than the loss to Notre Dame, but the more the Wildcats win the better that loss looks so root for Northwestern to win big over Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois these next few weeks.
This one is actually pretty simple as well. The best way to make sure there is a clear favorite here is for Miami to win out. While Miami has been playing down the last few weeks this weekend’s 28-10 win over a top 15 Virginia Tech team showed me two things: that defense is not to be messed with (seriously, Va Tech QB Josh Jackson looked like Devin Gardner in the 2013 matchup vs MSU. BEAT UP) and the offensive struggles of the Hurricanes could be a thing of the past.
If Miami is able to handedly beat Notre Dame this weekend than it gives the Spartans a little closer to even playing field with the Irish when it comes to the committee and the lack of a title for the Irish might be the thing that keeps them out. Miami winning out would also mean that they would be undefeated ACC champs and Clemson has two losses and no title, keeping them out as well. Throw up the U and get yourself a turnover chain because Miami is your new favorite ACC team.
So this seems like the conference that could end spoiling a few different conferences chances of getting in if Georgia and Alabama continue dominating and then play a close game in
the space ship Mercedes-Benz_Stadium for the SEC championship game. That could mean that the committee will put the winner of that game as the number 1 team in the country with the loser finding a backdoor in at number 4 if you have a 2 loss ND team plus two 2-loss conference champions. That being said, you can hope for one of two scenarios:
- A blowout loss by either team in the SEC championship.
- Either Bama or Georgia to lose one game before the SEC championship.
The odds of number one happening are pretty low seeing as these two teams are winning big every weekend but if it were to happen I would bet Alabama would be the one to do it seeing as they are always good thanks to a deal with the devil and Nick Saban never losses to his former assistants. As a matter of fact, the last team to beat Alabama by more than 17 points was…Nick Saban. His LSU Tigers won 27-3 in Tuscaloosa with Will Muschamp and Jimbo Fisher as his coordinators. Seeing as I have high moral standards and will never root for Alabama, I am rooting for the second option: SEC losses for either the Bulldogs or the Tide. Auburn plays Georgia this weekend and then faces Alabama in the Iron Bowl on November 25th. If Auburn somehow wins out that also makes them a 2-loss conference champion with wins over Georgia, Alabama and Georgia again. War Eagle.
Right now, it is looking like Oklahoma is once again in the driver’s seat in this conference. While there are no divisions in this conference (top two teams play in the championship game) it is looking like it is going to be Oklahoma in the championship game facing either a 2 loss TCU team or maybe even an Oklahoma State team that wins out. Oklahoma winning out would not be the worst thing to happen to Michigan State if Notre Dame does take one more loss if the Spartans win out as the Spartans and the Sooners would have a win over a Buckeye team that would then have 3 losses and not boost OU’s stock as much as it would if they were to win the Big Ten.
This is a conference where upsets would be wonderful. Let’s say that TCU loses this weekend and ends up getting revenge in the Big 12 Title game you would have another 2 loss conference champ and the more of those, the better. The Big 12 has got the short end of the stick 3 of the last 4 years when looking at the playoff and I am fine with this happening again. Root for chaos here folks.
So, I live in Seattle and typing these words might have a target on my back if not for all the recreational habits of my fellow PNW inhabitants but we want another loss for Washington. It could be this weekend vs Stanford. Maybe it comes on the 25th in the Apple Cup vs Mike Leach and the Cougs. Perhaps the loss is delivered by the Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship game but a two loss Pac-12 champion is going to be left out of the playoffs. No one is trumpeting the Song of Disrespekt like the Pac-12 this year but a second loss to the Huskies is what the committee is looking for to eliminate this conference for good this season. Personally, of all the teams you CAN root for here, I would pick the Washington State Cougars. Mike Leach is a soundbite king and with Luke Falk is on he is ON.
So, there you go. This is your go to guide for the Spartans making the playoffs. Granted this is all useless if they don’t win this weekend but everyone loves a good sweat and a little chaos every now and then, don’t they?