One goal down: After winning Big Ten East, Michigan State eyes loftier prize
EAST LANSING, Mich.—R.J. Shelton said he knew all week that Connor Cook would play Saturday, and the thing is, Shelton didn’t really know. Even Cook, Michigan State’s star senior quarterback, didn’t know until Thursday, and he wasn’t 100% sure until Saturday. But Shelton believed, and sometimes belief is more powerful than knowledge.
Michigan State is 11–1 and heading to the Big Ten title game, which is basically a College Football Playoff quarterfinal, to face unbeaten Iowa. The Spartans may not be the best team in the country, but when they take the field, they think they are. Remember, Ohio State was not the best team in the country for most of last season. But the Buckeyes were the best in the end, and that’s what mattered.
“We’re playing our best football down the stretch,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said after his team dominated Penn State, 55–16. “If you look at last year’s Big Ten champion, that’s what they were able to do.”
Michigan State dominated Ohio State’s offense last week, and then dominated Penn State Saturday in the Big Ten game that mattered most. Dantonio was asked if he took joy in turning Ohio State-Michigan into the undercard. Dantonio often takes that bait—he’ll play the disrespect card, or he’ll tweak Michigan—but on this day he admitted he sometimes goes off “on tangents” but really he just focuses on his own program. That’s good. His own program is good enough: good enough for him, good enough to win the Big Ten East, and maybe even good enough to win the national championship.