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Athletic Director Mark Hollis has frequently stated that the goal of the football program is always to have MSU Spartan cleats step on the trimmed Pasadena natural turf in the Rose Bowl game. Only the most die-hard Spartans thought that a possibility going into this season but a favorable schedule, solid team improvement, and the “Little Giants” and “Mousetrap” great Dantonio play calls against Notre Dame and Northwestern have MSU in position to win either outright or share their first Big Ten Conference football championship since 1990.

In one of my all-time great Michigan State Sports moments watching George Perles Spartans pull out a thrilling 20 –17 Rose Bowl victory in 1988 over USC, I fully expected future Rose Bowl games would be something we could count on. In 1993 Penn State joined the Big Ten decreasing the probability of winning Big Ten championships and now 22 years have passed since Sparty was last seen inside the Rose Bowl.

With three weeks remaining in the Big Ten football season and the Spartans leading in the Big Ten standings, MSU has its best “chance” of making it to the Rose Bowl that they have had in two decades.  To make it to Pasadena first of all the Spartans must defeat Purdue at home which will give them ten wins for only the third time, allowing Mark Dantonio’s team to join a select group with Duffy Daugherty’s 1965 and Nick Saban/Bobby Williams 1999 Spartan ten victory winning teams.


Then much more dicey must defeat an improving Penn State team on their senior day in usually frigid Happy Valley on November 27.   For the record since Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, MSU has played eight games at Penn State never coming home with the Land Grant Trophy.  The combined score of those games has been 348–162, an average win for Joe Pa of over 23 points per game.  Not to lose faith, the Spartans should be 10-1 going into Happy Valley and with a Big Ten Championship on the line that doesn’t include Penn State, MSU will have a great chance of winning their 11th game for the first time ever in school history.

These Rose Bowl invites are never easy, and if winning those two games is not enough MSU still probably will need help before the Spartan Nation can make travel plans for Pasadena.  Now that the Rose Bowl game is part of the BCS, the final BCS rankings are the most important factor in bowl game slotting’s.  MSU fans will need to cheer for Iowa on November 20 so the Spartans can move up over Ohio State and hope that Wisconsin wins creating a three way tie for the conference championship.



W-L       OVERALL           BCS RANKING

MICHIGAN STATE               5-1            9-1                   11   .6180

OHIO STATE                        4-1            8-1                    9   .6613

WISCONSIN                         4-1            8-1                    7   .7349

IOWA                                   4-1            7-2                   13   .5223


Of the remaining games for the Big Ten title contenders Ohio State has the toughest road facing three teams with a 60% winning percentage in Big Ten play. MSU is next with two teams at a 50% winning percentage, followed by Iowa with three teams at 37.5% and Wisconsin has three teams with just a 26.7 winning percentage.


MICHIGAN STATE (5-1)   11/20 home with Purdue (2-3)

11/27 at Penn State (3-2)


OHIO STATE (4-1)        11/13 home with Penn State (3-2) the

Buckeyes are a 17.5 point favorite.

**11/20 at Iowa (4-1)**

11/27 home with Michigan (2-3)


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IOWA (4-1)                    11/13 at Northwestern (2-3)

Hawkeyes are a 10.5 point favorite.

**11/20 home with Ohio State (4-1)**

11/27 at Minnesota (0-6)


WISCONSIN (4-1)           11/13 home with Indiana (0-5)

Badgers are a 21.5 point favorite.

**11/20 at Michigan (2-3)**

11/27 home with Northwestern (2-3)


In three weeks if there is a tie for the Big Ten Championship then conference established tie breaking procedures kick in and at this point there are numerous hypothetical scenarios.


MSU-OHIO STATE: advantage Buckeyes because the two teams did not play, the final BCS ranking will determine who goes to the Rose Bowl.  If both teams win out the Buckeyes should maintain their BCS ranking lead over MSU and would get the Pasadena invite for the second year in a row.

MSU-IOWA: advantage Hawkeyes because of their head to head victory over MSU. A win over Ohio State will also propel them in the BCS standings.

MSU-WISCONSIN: advantage MSU because of their 34-24 victory on October 2. Here the Big Ten tie breaker will take precedent over BCS ranking in determining the Conference Rose Bowl representative.



MSU-OHIO STATE-WISCONSIN: All would have the same win percentage, so the team with highest BCS ranking would go to the Rose Bowl. This scenario could knock MSU out of a BCS game and send them to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando for the second time in three years.

MSU-IOWA-WISCONSIN: If MSU-IOWA-and WISCONSIN tie with 7-1 records the Hawkeyes would be eliminated from consideration with their worse overall record. MSU would get the Rose Bowl bid due to their head to head victory over Wisconsin.





This is an unlikely but still possible scenario. Here head to head games as of today have Iowa over Michigan State,  Wisconsin over Iowa, MSU over Wisconsin and Wisconsin over Ohio State. The lone game remaining among these contenders is the OSU at Iowa game.  For the four way tie to happen MSU and Wisconsin would need to lose a game, and the winner of the Ohio State/Iowa game would need to lose one of its other two games which appears to be a remote possibility.  Should it happen the four teams would tie for the conference championship with 6-2 records.  In this case it is likely that Iowa would be eliminated due to being the only team with a non-conference loss.  Then in the three way tie breaker between MSU-OSU-and WISCONSIN the BCS rankings would determine the bowl game pecking order.

For Michigan State to cap this magical season with a trip to the Rose Bowl the Spartans have to stay on task and win their final two games and hope that most likely Iowa, or possibly Penn State, or even Michigan can upset the Buckeyes.  There is still a lot of speculating that will take place over the next three weeks.   This week on ESPN.Com analyst Mark Schlabach predicts that MSU will play Boise State in the Rose Bowl, and Andrea Adelson also has the Spartans playing in the Rose Bowl against Stanford. This fact we do know, the possibility of Michigan State playing in the 2011 Rose Bowl game exists and is higher than it has been in two decades.

If Spartan fans haven’t suffered long enough the statistical chance of Michigan State and all conference teams playing in future Rose Bowl games will DECREASE starting next season with the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten Conference.