The Michigan State Spartans are on the threshold of their first ever Big Ten Legends division title and a trip to Indianapolis to take on the winner of the Leaders division for a conference championship and berth in the 2014 Rose Bowl. The Spartans haven’t won a Big Ten title outright and gone to the Rose Bowl since 1987, so it could be said that this is one of the biggest games for Michigan State in decades. It could also be a trap.
The Spartans are visiting Evanston, IL to take on a Northwestern Wildcats squad that has lost six games in a row and is winless in Big Ten play. However, this is a Wildcats team that with a few bounces of the ball going differently could be in a very different place. All of Northwestern’s last four games were decided by eight points or less, and two of them went into overtime.
Michigan State is coming off a big win at Nebraska last week which put the Spartans in this position to possibly clinch the division title today. Michigan State knows that with either a win or a Minnesota loss their ticket for Lucas Oil Stadium will be punched today, and the Golden Gophers are hosting Wisconsin. A meeting with Ohio State or Wisconsin for the roses could be creeping into their minds.
The Wildcats are also fighting for bowl eligibility today. If Northwestern wins its final two games, it will get to the magic number of six wins. The strengths of these Wildcats are red zone efficiency — their 97.4 percent conversion rate is second in all of FBS — and they don’t beat themselves with penalties, tied for 19th fewest penalties per game in the nation.
Michigan State is just 60 minutes away from Indianapolis, but it must execute today in Evanston to get there. If the Spartans don’t take the Wildcats seriously and Minnesota pulls off the upset over Wisconsin they would be in a winner-take-all situation against the Golden Gophers next week.