A win sets table for Michigan State

A loss Saturday would leave MSU with the same conference record as UM and give the Wolverines the tie-breaker over State. It would also put UM back into the top-25 while dropping MSU out of the top-15 - a no-win situation. That's why MSU needs to take care of business and knock the Wolverines out of the race tomorrow.

DETROIT - A win by the Michigan State over crosstown rival Michigan in the state's annual "Backyard Brawl" could set the Spartans up for what could be a magical season.

MSU has not been to Pasadena for a Rose Bowl appearance since 1988 when George Perles led the Green-and-White to their only conference championship under his leadership.

That could all change if Michigan State can get a win over preseason conference favorite Michigan. The Spartans are a four point favorite in tomorrow's contest.

That would leave MSU at 5-0 and with a bye week to prepare for what would then shape up as their biggest remaining game of the season, a trip to the horseshoe to face the Buckeyes in Columbus, although the season finale against an uncommonly tough Penn State squad looms on the horizon.

In the meantime, this week shapes up as a time to separate contenders from pretenders in the conference.

No one has a tougher row to hoe than Minnesota , currently sitting at 4-0. The Golden Gophers hit the road for back-to-back road games against undefeated Penn State and smarting Michigan, before coming home to face undefeated Wisconsin and Ohio State. If they survive that test, they then have the Spartans two weeks later before finishing in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes.

Wisconsin has what appears to be the easiest road to Pasadena, hosting Indiana before traveling to Evanston, IL for Northwestern and to Minnesota. They next face a likely fading Purdue team at home before going to Illinois an untested Penn State squad. They close the Big Ten season at home against Iowa before taking the long flight to Hawaii.

Ohio State will have to do it the old fashioned way - earn it. The Buckeyes have a bye this week to prepare for Joe Pa and the Nittany Lions in prime time (7:45pm).

The Bucks then host our Spartans before a cupcake visit to Indiana and a trap game at Minnesota. They host Illinois and Northwestern before the always dangerous season finale against Michigan.

Suddenly, the Nittany Lions season opening win over South Florida looks a little bit more respectable (the Bulls upset previously ranked #9 Louisville last week) and we'll find out how good Paterno's crew is over the next few weeks.

Penn State has nearly as tough a run to the roses as does Minnesota, the only saving grace is they have most of their tough games at home. Still, back-to-back home contests vs. Minnesota and Ohio State won't be a picnic.

They follow those with road trips to Ann Arbor and to Illinois. They come back for homecoming against Purdue before taking a bye week. They then face a season defining home and away stretch for with Wisconsin and Michigan State.

So if the Spartans take care of business against Michigan, there is still some unfinished business down the road. While the Spartans can dream of Pasadena on New Year's Day, even if they stumble once, they could find themselves in a BCS bowl.

A loss Saturday would leave MSU with the same conference record as UM and give the Wolverines the tie-breaker over State and put them back into the top-25 while dropping MSU out of the top-15 - a no-win situation. That's why MSU needs to take care of business and knock the Wolverines out of the race tomorrow.

The Big Ten is loaded this year so the age-old adage for MSU must apply - take 'em one game at a time.

MSU's full schedule


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