Still, MSU has hopes for a post season bowl game, maybe, if things break just right, the Capital One in Orlando, FL. or the Outback Bowl in Tampa, FL.
The Spartans still even have an outside shot at the Big Ten title, but need help. They received some from an unlikely source when Michigan defeated Penn State on a controversial last second touchdown pass.
"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."
With five one-loss teams ahead of them in the standings, MSU absolutely cannot afford to overlook the Wildcats and the problems they pose to their talent-challenged defense.
Northwestern's spread offense is nearly a mirror image of Michigan State's and Basanez leads the Big Ten in passing yards (308.3 pg), completions (25.8 pg) total offense (350.2 pg), and ranks fourth in pass efficiency (145.3 rating).
The timing of facing Northwestern's potent attack couldn't be worse for the Spartans. Coach Smith admittted, he wished he had corner Irving Campbell, who is likely lost for the season, to at least push the struggling Jaren Hayes at corner.
"You're playing three guys (at corner) right now," Smith said. "And three will continue to play. If we felt that there were a guy better, we would be playing him."
Otis Wiley, a freshman, is his other option, but Wiley has more experience at safety than corner.
"I'm not so sure he's not a corner," Smith said of Wiley, "but at this point in time, you're only using him as a nickel, and you already have a role for him. And to stick him out on an island all of a sudden and say, 'Learn this, too,' that's too much for him to handle at this point."
For the Spartans, Saturday's homecoming game is as close to a "must-win" as they will have all season.
While the players are holding on to their hopes of a Big Ten championship, first things first - MSU needs to get two more wins to get bowl eligible, then attempt to climb the bowl ladder by making themselves more attractive to selection committees than likely rivals Penn State, Michigan and Iowa.