With Ohio State, Michigan and now with rise to power by Penn State, the Eastern Division of the Big 10 has become undoubtedly one of the toughest and competitive divisions in college football. If Michigan State wants to stay in the mix with those teams, some hard work has to be done to restore what was built during Coach Mark Dantonio’s helm. Something drastic had to happen this year. A program that went 36-5 the previous three years doesn’t suddenly fall to 3-9 without some internal issues. With that track record, Dantonio and his staff deserve the right to fix it.
The way this season is unfolding, it is very apparent that this is not the way the Michigan State football team and its fans thought it would be. After five games and their record is 2-3 with two conference losses, one of them to Indiana and two beat downs at home! Are you kidding me? The season hinges on a victory for the Spartans on homecoming weekend. A turnaround is needed starting Saturday to salvage the season. Looking at the remaining schedule, the best this team could get to is 7-5. This is a big drop from last years’ championship season!
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In watching Bryn Forbes drain 3 pointer after 3 pointer, I’m reminded of a commercial back in the day about a fictitious playground legend named ” Lamar Mundane” who prowess shooting long-range jumpers was so good, that every time he shot they called him “money” because it was like money in the bank. I found myself saying that thing watching the game against Rutgers when Forbes lit them up with 11 3-pointers, best in MSU basketball history. It’s going to be interesting watching the Spartans in the tournament and how teams are going to defend him because the whole nation knows about him now.
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The Spartans now have the look of the teams that Coach Izzo is used to having this time of year. A team that is peaking as we get near tournament time. The Spartans dismantled the Wisconsin Badgers, who came into the game riding a seven game winning streak, 69-57. The final score does not reflect the dominance of the Spartans in this game as they led by as much as 22 in the second half. Denzel Valentine once again led the Spartans, flirting with a triple-double with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 10 assists. Bryn Forbes and Eron Harris complimented Valentine with 17 and 10 points, respectively.
The Spartans are in position to get their due, all their due, even if they think it’s overdue. Amid all the quirky scenarios, one thing came into sharper focus Tuesday night when the playoff committee revealed its latest rankings. Michigan State moved up to No. 5, just behind No. 4 Iowa, which basically sets up the Big Ten championship game as a playoff play-in.
Everything is set up for the Spartans; all they have to do now is win out. First and foremost is taking care of business on Saturday at Spartan Stadium by beating Penn State. This will not be an easy game; the Nittany Lions are solid on defense and will poise a challenge for the Spartan offense, which may or may not have QB Connor Cook. It will be a game day decision whether he plays or not. If not, backup Tyler O’Connor will start with Damion Terry seeing action as well. The two managed last Saturday’s game perfectly in Columbus against the Buckeyes.
The Spartans should be plenty motivated, this being Senior Day as well the opportunity to become the Big Ten East Champion and a chance to play for the Big Ten Championship on December 5 against the Iowa Hawkeyes in Indianapolis. It will mark the third time in five years, the Spartans will have that honor. Winner of that game will most likely get one of the four slots for the college playoffs to determine the national champion.