Michigan Week: In MSU’s Biggest Game of the Season, It’s Do or Die in Ann Arbor

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Photo: Siobhan Findlay/Impact

Bradley T. Allen

The most important game of the season for MSU football is happening a month earlier than expected.

The potential No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown against Ohio State on November 21 has lost its luster. But Michigan State doesn’t have to wait to travel to Columbus to face OSU for its most marquee matchup of the season. The OSU game will now be the second-biggest game of the year for the Spartans, at best. The success of the 2015 season for Michigan State football will be determined by the outcome on October 17.

Michigan State will be underdogs in Ann Arbor, after masterfully evading disaster in two consecutive games.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]“A loss reinforces and confirms the notion that Michigan State had regressed while Michigan has become a college football powerhouse again.”[/su_pullquote]In late August, Michigan State had eyes on a National Championship season and Michigan was ready to begin rebuilding. The Spartans, then ranked No. 5 in the country, defeated Western Michigan while the Wolverines lost in its first game under head coach Jim Harbaugh. One week later, Michigan bounced back with a win against Oregon State. Meanwhile, the Spartans defeated No. 7 Oregon in East Lansing, seemingly solidifying themselves as an elite program.

Hold on a second though.

It turns out Oregon is actually not any good. Two weeks after losing to MSU, the Ducks were blown out by Utah, the team that handed the Wolverines their loss in the season opener. After losing to Utah, Oregon dropped out of the Top 25. And to make it worse, Oregon lost again at home 45-38 to Washington State in double-overtime this week. Now, a measly three-point win over mediocre Oregon looks bad for the Spartans.

Staying with the “wins that look super bad” category, Michigan State added the three-point win over Purdue and  seven-point win over Rutgers to its resume. On the brighter, the Spartans have certainly shown they can win close games.

[su_pullquote]“The Wolverines have been nothing short of dominant in their past three games.”[/su_pullquote]Michigan State has mastered the art of playing down to lesser opponents and winning in thrilling fashion. Playing not to lose, rather than playing to win, has kept MSU undefeated and ranked near the top for six weeks. However, the inevitable first loss of the season will sting MSU regardless of how its previous games were won.

For Michigan, the blemish against Utah does not harm the Wolverines at all. Utah is 5-0 and ranked in the top five. It’s okay to lose to Utah, if you’re Michigan. Also, the Wolverines have been nothing short of dominant in their past three games. They haven’t been scored on since September 19, and just shutout two ranked opponents in a row.

Forget Ohio State. Michigan is the new team to beat in the Big Ten. And the Wolverines are next up on the schedule for Michigan State.

ESPN College GameDay will set up shop in Ann Arbor for the Spartans’ game of the year. A win for MSU solidifies a successful season and builds momentum for a potential Big Ten title and College Football Playoff run. A loss reinforces and confirms the notion that Michigan State had regressed while Michigan has become a college football powerhouse again.

Time to grab some popcorn, it’s going to be one hell of a week.