Smith: Big Ten championship still possible

"Realistically, you take a look at it and two (losses), you're going to struggle, mathematically I guess it's still a possibility." -- MSU head coach John L. Smith on his team's Big Ten championship hopes.

Michigan State (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) comes into their homecoming game on Saturday against Northwestern (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) barely hanging on to their national AP ranking at #22. After an error-plagued game against #14 Ohio State, the Spartans look to gain back some confidence and momentum against a Wildcat offense that nearly mirrors the MSU attack.

Monday's press conference at the football stadium featured a frustrated yet somewhat relaxed John L. Smith speaking about not only the Spartans' mistakes but about their standing in the Big Ten picture as well. Here are a few issues discussed by Smith:

John Goss remains the Spartans' kicker: After having two kicks blocked against the Buckeyes, including the wild frenzy to close the first half, John L. Smith will stick with his kicker…for now.

Freshman Matt Haughey, nicknamed "Chips Ahoy" by Smith, is listed second on the kicking depth chart. "Chips Ahoy is pressuring him (Goss); Chips Ahoy gets the ball out pretty consistently," said John L. Smith. It will be interesting to see if this week of practice may change Smith's choice of kickers.

Injuries: Senior offensive tackle Stefon Wheeler left the Ohio State game in the first half due to injury but he should be ready to go on Saturday, according to Smith. Sophomore cornerback Irving Campbell's status for the rest of the year is questionable. He has only played two games this season recording three tackles and according to Smith, "it doesn't look good at this point."

The injury to Campbell has proven to be huge, as cornerback Jaren Hayes has struggled as of late, giving up a touchdown to Buckeye receiver Santonio Holmes. Campbell was supposed to be Hayes' backup at cornerback, giving the Spartans more depth at that position but Hayes has had to play big against the opponents' top receivers.

Penn State's Loss to Michigan: #8 Penn State fell to Michigan last week to fall from the ranks of the undefeated. With every team in the Big Ten with at least one loss and heavy competition yet to come, it might be a team with two or three losses that might take the Big Ten title.

"Realistically, you take a look at it and two (losses), you're going to struggle," said Smith. "Mathematically I guess it's still a possibility."

The Big Ten title for the Spartans seems unlikely now because even if they do win out and finish in a conference tie with two losses, Ohio State has a head-to-head tiebreaker from last week's game.

The Spartans can still put themselves in good position for at least a bowl game with a few more wins to close the season. Their first test will come Saturday in East Lansing against the Northwestern Wildcats.

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