With Ohio State's loss on the road at Wisconsin and Minnesota's heartbreaking 38-35 loss to Michigan, suddenly there are only two unbeaten teams in the Big Ten, those are the Wisconsin Badgers and the Spartans.
That fact was not lost on Spartans captain, guard Paul Harker.
"With how things played out last night with Minnesota getting beat, and a big game between Ohio State and Wisconsin tonight, the Big Ten is up for grabs right now. If we keep improving each week and stay focused, there's no reason why we can't have the dream of being Big Ten champs and going to a bowl game."
While there is a lot of football to be played and MSU approaching the toughest part of their schedule, the Spartans are at least at this point still alive to dream about what could be.
"You've got to have a dream," conceded Smith, who is desperately trying not to let expectations get away from his confident Spartans team, "but the dream is one day at a time, one game at a time and one play at a time. That dream is out there and everybody should have that dream."
The first order of business is taking on a very good Minnesota Golden Gophers team that fell apart late in a heartbreaking loss to Michigan. With a 35-14 lead, the Gophers allowed Michigan to score 24 unanswered points en route to a 38-35 win which caused tears to flow unabashedly in the Gophers post-game locker room.
"I don't think the tears are going to stop until Tuesday," admitted Minnesota quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq.
However, Michigan State can't be concerned about the wounded Gophers emotions. If they can handle the challenge of taking on a top-20 team on the road, MSU still has the backyard brawl at home against Michigan and then back-to-back trips on the road to Ohio State and Wisconsin before wrapping the season at home against Penn State.
With that murderer's row staring them in the face, MSU must at least split their next four and then finish with a win in the Land Grant Trophy game against Penn State to be a factor in the race.
Wisconsin (6-1) is very much in the driver's seat in the Big Ten. They do not face Michigan this season but need to avoid a letdown against a game Purdue (6-1) team that won six straight after a season-opening upset loss to Bowling Green. If the Badgers win that one, they still must pass three more tough test to pass, on the road at Minnesota and at home against the Spartans in what could be a showdown for the Big Ten championship then at home against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Speaking of Iowa (5-1), they have a date this Saturday with Ohio State. The loser has a tough row to hoe with two conference losses and at least three tough games left. The Spartans have already defeated the Hawkeyes handing them their lone loss of the season. After their date with the Buckeyes, Iowa has what appears to be back-to-back cupcake games with Penn State and Illinois, but then things toughen considerably as they must travel to East Lafayette (Purdue) and Madison (Wisconsin) with a home date against Minnesota sandwiched between the two.
The Michigan Wolverines (4-2) are not going away as they showed in their comeback win over the Gophers. Purdue has arguably the toughest schedule of any remaining contender with road games in Madison (Wisconsin), Ann Arbor (Michigan) and Columbus (Ohio St.) making them the longest shot to pull off a conference title. The Buckeye may have the most favorable schedule. While they still must face Iowa, Michigan St., Purdue and Michigan, they get them all at home.
The good thing for Michigan State is that they have shown they can win on the road, but will need to continue to do so as their schedule gets much tougher in the weeks to come.
While the weekend's contest were billed as "Separation Saturday" that appears to be more the case this weekend in the Big Ten. Some of losing teams are going to get slapped with the "pretender" label after the outcome of the Spartans and Gophers, Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, Badgers and Boilermakers games this Saturday.
While MSU can revel in their early success and dream of a conference championship and perhaps a trip to the Rose Bowl or a BCS game, it appears it's going to take at least a 10-2 season to have that dream come to fruition.