The year's first BCS rankings came out yesterday and, as always, there was controversy. I don't think they'll ever get this thing right. The one good thing? Neither Boise State or TCU were in the top 2. Thank you, computers, for not driving some Americans to harm themselves.
But I digress. My beloved Michigan State Spartans have started this year's BCS ranked number 7. This is, obviously, the highest MSU has ever been ranked in the BCS. A number of students are in a state of euphoria over this feat. While this is completely understandable and acceptable, I'm here to be a voice of reason. Don't get me wrong, I want the Spartans to continue on their undefeated march just as much as the next person, but some people are going a little overboard.
First, let's face it. We probably won't end up in the National Championship game. We need a lot....LOT of help to do so. The biggest help would have to come from both Oregon and Oklahoma. I'll be real honest here and say that I do not see Oregon losing this year. They are a dirty (in a good way, for those who may get confused and not recognize this bro-ism over teh intrawebz) squad. I love Oregon as a team and I would absolutely hate to run into them in the title game. Oklahoma has a better chance of losing since they still have to go through the Big-12 championship game. After those two, Boise State and TCU are the newest darlings. Those two would have to lose, as well, unless our strength-of-schedule propels us over them in the rankings (which is possible, seeing as both teams have entirely cupcake schedules). Bottom line, the BCS National Title game is still a pipe dream.
Next, the Spartans still have to get through their schedule. Our schedule rounds out like this:
@ Northwestern (5-1)
@ Iowa (6-1)
vs. Minnesota (1-6)
vs. Purdue (4-2)
@ Penn State (3-3)
Northwestern comes in as a team that is basically a fraud. They are not as good as their 5-1 record may let on. They have played 1 team with a winning record (for you sticklers out there, I'm not counting Illinois State because they're not a real football team), Purdue, and lost that game. They beat 2-4 Vanderbilt by only 2 points, 2-5 Central Michigan by only 5 points, and 1-6 Minnesota by only 1 point. I wasn't real worried before I found out all this, I'm not worried now.
Iowa will be the biggest test we face. They have a physical defense, something that stifled the Spartans' offense when they played Illinois. They also have the best offense of any team we will face down the road and they will surely test our secondary with standout WR Darrell Johnson-Koulianos, who will be the first Hawkeye to lead the team in receiving yards 4 years in a row. A loss here could be acceptable so long as Ohio State beats the Hawkeyes three weeks later. A win at Kinnick Stadium would be even better.
The Spartans then come home for two games against Minnesota and Purdue. Minnesota is in shambles, having just fired coach Tim Brewster after their abysmal start. I would say that this could possibly be a trap game, but the Spartans have a bye week following this game so there's no reason for them to not stomp all over the Gophers. Payback should also be on their minds because of last year's joke of a game in Minneapolis. Purdue is not real good. Their star transfer QB, Robert Marve, is out for the season. They started their season with a loss to Notre Dame and lost to Toledo three weeks ago. The one thing Purdue has going for them is their running game. They've gained at least 200 yards rushing in five straight games. Good news here: the Spartans run defense is awesome. Ask Denard Robinson. Being a home game will help, and the crowd should be amped as this will be the last game to see a hopefully undefeated Spartans squad at home. Chalk up the W.
The last game of the regular season is at Happy Valley against Penn State. They are clearly not the Nittany Lions of old. In the 3 games in which they've played good college football teams, they've been spanked - outscored 81-19. All three of those teams - Alabama, Iowa, and Illinois, have something the Spartans also have: a good running game. Statistically, the Spartans actually have the best running game of those four teams, having run for 200+ yards in 6 of 7 games. Happy Valley has not been nice to the Spartans, as they have not won at Penn State since the Land Grant trophy started being contested for back in 1993. This would be a great year to buck that trend. Illinois had their way with Penn St., and I think the Spartans will, too. I just have this feeling that this is a special season.
So what does this all mean? Well, it means that in order to get to where they want to be, the Spartans need to take it, as the cliche goes, one week at a time. They've done all the right things up to now, they need to keep doing the right things from now on. I'm not smelling roses yet, but with each passing week, I'm getting closer to it. Even if we do end up undefeated at the end of the year, I don't think we'll be playing for a National Championship. But a Rose Bowl, what would be the team's first since 1988, would be a great consolation prize. Go Green!