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An Underdog Story: Michigan State Against a 20-Point Spread

It’s been a long time since Michigan State has been an underdog of this magnitude

The Bear from College Gameday really puts this weekend’s game against No. 2 ranked Michigan into perspective.

18 years ago a middle of the pack Spartans team that finished the year 6-6 and 4-4 in conference play entered Buckeye stadium a 27.5 point underdog. Ohio State who was No. 1 at the time entered being the heavy favorite for obvious reasons, before that game kicked off they had outscored their opponents 261 to 72 points on the season. This team was good in all aspects of the game.

The Buckeyes had a tremendous coach in John Cooper who compiled 111 wins while coaching at Ohio State, the second most wins in school history behind Woody Hayes (205 wins).

Let’s not forget who Michigan State’s head coach at the time was either, the man that most people think is currently the best coach in college football, Nick Saban. It was his 4th year as head coach at this point.

November 7th, 1998 was a date where the Spartans took away any national title aspirations that these Buckeyes had in mind. To this day it is thought of as one of the greatest upsets not only in Michigan State history but also College football history. Over 93,000 fans were in attendance that night and more than expected a win.

To start the game the Buckeyes looked like they were well on their way to another easy victory being up 17-3 after the first quarter. That was not the case as at halftime the Spartans had crawled their way back in with three field goals by Paul Edinger. The score read 17-9 at half, Ohio State’s lead.

It didn’t look to good to start the second half for our Spartans either as Damon Moore picked off Spartan Quarterback Bill Burke and took it to the house for a 73 yard score. The score now read 24-9 in favor of the Buckeyes.

Oh but the tide began to change rather quickly after that interception, later in the third quarter Ohio State botched a punt and the Spartans managed to get the ball at about midfield to start the drive.

A few plays later Bill Burke threw a 23 yard touchdown pass to Lavaile Richardson which made the game 24-15, still Buckeyes lead but the momentum had clearly started to shift at this point.

On Ohio State’s very next possession they ended up fumbling giving the Spartans the ball back yet again (the Buckeyes had five total turnovers in this game). The Spartans had to settle for 3 points as their drive sputtered out, they were consistently chipping away at that lead a point at a time. Now making the game 24-18, Ohio State lead.

The players began to rally, this game was in no way out of reach, thoughts began to creep in of actually taking down the No. 1 team in the nation that was Ohio State. On their next possession they drove down the field very convincingly for 92 yards and a touchdown, Sedrick Irvin ran it in from 3 yards out to give the Spartans their first lead of the game. 25-24.

Michigan State would not be denied as another costly Ohio State turnover, this time a fumble by Josh Shaw turned into another 3 points by Edinger to make the score 28-24. With a little over 3 minutes left in the game the Spartans were sitting pretty.

In those final 3 minutes Michigan State struggled to muster up any kind of drive and were relying heavily on their defense to win this game. With the clock winding down Ohio State Quarterback Joe Germaine looked to make all the right throws to win this game for the Buckeyes down the stretch. The Spartan defense was playing well and had the old defensive mentality of “bend but don’t break”.

Ohio State got to the 15 yard line in the final seconds of the game. A story book ending appeared to be in the making, headlines would certainly read “Close but not Close enough for Sparty”. That wasn’t going to happen this time around, the Spartan defense came up with three huge stops, before Germaine threw a interception to Renaldo Hill to seal a victory for Michigan State.

The 1998 Michigan State Spartans showed what they could truly do, they finished their season 6-6 but that didn't represent the heart this team had, the will of their players, and the outstanding coaching job by Saban. Entering the game a 27.5 point underdog didn’t scare this team, it inspired them. They stepped up and took down the No. 1 Buckeyes in their own backyard.

That is the exact message we want to leave you with this weekend, when you walk into Spartan Stadium this weekend keep your head held high, it doesn’t matter that the Wolverines are a three score favorite to win the game. This is hate week, this is rival week, and this is Michigan. They are planning on coming into our house and walking all over us. They want revenge for last year, and are we just gonna sit back and give it to them? No this group of guys will show up, they will be well coached by Mark Dantonio and they will play their hearts out. When they line up on the field this weekend and see all that Maize n Blue in the stands and across from them, i expect a fire will erupt within this team, they will fight, and they will do that to the very end. As should all of you.

Just a side note for all you die hard fans! Here is the entire Michigan State vs No. 1 Ohio State game. Please feel free to watch the entire thing to get you pumped up and motivated to beat Michigan this Saturday as we are a three score dog going into this one!