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MSU in the Race for the Roses: Two Legs to Go

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Iowa's now-annual upset loss to Northwestern decomplexifies the outlook for MSU down the stretch.  This table is much simpler than the last one:

What We Want Why We Want It
MSU wins out (Purdue, @PSU) DUH
Ohio State loses a game (@Iowa, Michigan) The Granddaddy
of Them All
Wisconsin loses a game (@Michigan, NW) Nifty BCS Game
Consolation Prize


Yes, this means we want our friends in Ann Arbor to win the next two weeks.  Deal with it.  If ever there were a season in which we shouldn't care what Michigan's fate is, it's this one.  I'm more than happy to see them get bumped up from the Insight to the Gator or Outback Bowl if it means a trip to Pasadena (or Miami/New Orleans) for us.

Of course, if Iowa can harness its post-Evanston angst on Saturday and knock off the Buckeyes in Iowa City, then all we care about is MSU taking care of its own business.  The first piece of that business looks highly doable.  Despite Ryan Kerrigan's best efforts to single-handedly beat Michigan yesterday, Purdue simply doesn't have anything resembling a healthy Big Ten-level quarterback at this point.  The second piece of business continues to look more daunting than it once did.  Matt McGloin's second-half pick-six fest notwithstanding, he gives Penn State a legitimate passing threat to go with the Evan Royster-led running game.  McGloin looks mortal now, but he will severely test the MSU secondary in two weeks.

The early line is MSU by 23 this Saturday.  Sagarin currently says MSU should be a 5.5-point favorite going into Happy Valley. That goes down to 4 points if you use the PREDICTOR ratings.  I expect it'll end up in the 1-2 point range, which is basically pick 'em.

While the Iowa loss was to MSU's benefit, it only helped a little--basically meaning MSU can go to the Rose Bowl in the scenario where Iowa beats Ohio State and Wisconsin loses a game.  Overall, SpartanDan's projections now have MSU's Rose Bowl odds at 24%, down from 38% last week.  That's largely a function of being one week closer to the MSU-OSU-Wisconsin three-way tie/SHAFT scenario playing out.  The projections say MSU has a 13% chance of losing one of its last two games, a 10% chance of going to a non-Rose BCS game, and a 52% chance of SHAFT.  Those numbers, are unfortunately, a little on the optimistic side since Dan's ratings don't know that Penn State (1) has a different quarterback than it did a few weeks ago and (2) will be playing MSU in front of 100,000 screaming fans dressed in white (so make that a lot on the optimistic side, assuming you buy my point-spread thinking for the PSU game above).

Emotionally, we're in a bit of a football lull here.  By the time the team takes the field on Saturday, it will have been 28 days since the comeback win over Northwestern.  Since then, it's been: bad blowout, good blowout, bye week.  It's time to starting getting geeked back up about the 2010 Spartan football campaign (and this is coming from the in-house basketball geek).

Rose Bowl or bust.*

*The Orange/Sugar bowls are acceptable forms of "bust."  (The Fiesta Bowl is OK, too, but is both a less exotic and a less likely destination.)