Michigan State survives scare, remains in contention for Big Ten title

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Mark Dell  of the Michigan State Spartans scores a touchdown in front of Justan Vaughn  of the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It took a fat-guy fumble recovery in the endzone to do it (yes, technically the touchdown was given to Kirk Cousins, but my way is more fun), but Michigan State survived a surprising scare from Purdue today to remain alongside Wisconsin and (for the moment) Ohio State as the only one-loss teams in the Big Ten.

The Spartans fell behind 28-13 and 31-20 in this one before making a fourth-quarter comeback. It was aided by an ugly Rob Henry interception and a blocked punt, but it still counts.

Michigan State now goes into next week’s game at Penn State looking to lock up a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since 1988. If Ohio State loses today or at Michigan, the Spartans would have the tie-breaker in the conference over Wisconsin (head-to-head) and get the Big Ten’s automatic bid to a BCS game. If all three teams win out, the team with the highest ranking in the BCS will get the bid. It’s dumb, but that’s how the conference’s rule works.

What makes it even more dumb is that unlike in 2008, when Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech were had all beaten each other and needed the BCS to sort out the Big 12 South, this year, Michigan State doesn’t have a loss to one of the other two.

The Spartans beat Wisconsin by 10 early in the season, and their one loss is to Iowa, who is not involved in this mess. Ohio State, meanwhile, lost to Wisconsin. So technically, head-to-head should go Michigan State’s way, right? Considering they don’t have a head-to-head loss like the other two.

I’m not saying the Spartans are the most deserving, necessarily, as I think it’s pretty clear that Wisconsin is playing the best football in the Big Ten right now. But those two did meet on the field, and Michigan State did win that game.

Should it shake out with all three teams winning out, it should make for a fun debate on Dec. 5 when all of this is decided.

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