No change is good.
Michigan State did not have much to prove against Maryland and Rutgers, bottom-feeders of the Big Ten East, in the final two games of the regular season. All it could do is take care of what’s within its control.
That’s exactly what the Spartans did. They beat Maryland, 17-7, then took care of Rutgers, 40-7, in their largest margins of victory in Big Ten play this season. Then it was up to the rest of the teams in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Unfortunately for Michigan State, as many teams ranked below the Spartans won big games as teams above them lost. So the Spartans remained at No. 16 this week. But as long as they didn’t fall, all is well.
— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) November 29, 2017
Michigan State still ranks fourth among Big Ten teams, behind No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 8 Ohio State and No. 9 Penn State and ahead of No. 21 Northwestern. Michigan could have threatened to pass the Spartans with games against Wisconsin and Ohio State to finish out the regular season, but the Wolverines lost both of them.
Since Iowa and Michigan faltered, Michigan State’s wins haven’t looked quite as impressive, which made a drop in the rankings possible even without a loss in the final two games. So the Spartans should be content where they’re at.
Now the waiting game begins. Where will Michigan State land when bowl pairings are released on Sunday? Two New Year’s Day games in the Citrus Bowl and the Outback Bowl seem like the clearest possibilities. USA Today projects that the Spartans will play in the Citrus Bowl. ESPN has them in the Outback Bowl. Either way, they would head to Florida.
Michigan State’s landing spot will depend heavily on two teams: Northwestern and Notre Dame. Will Notre Dame receive a Citrus Bowl bid over the Spartans? Will Northwestern get precedence because of its head-to-head win over MSU? Sunday will answer those questions.
Coach Mark Dantonio doesn’t like to dwell on things outside his team’s control, but Michigan State fans can. And they should be rooting for Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. If the Badgers beat Ohio State, they will surely be in the College Football Playoff. If Ohio State wins, there’s a chance the Big Ten won’t have any teams in the playoff, and that could push Michigan State to a lesser bowl.
Regardless of which one, Michigan State will be invited to a bowl game, likely a very respectable one. That should be satisfactory.
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