Spartans Prepping For Huge Weekend

By: AP
By: AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- At this time of the season, Rose Bowl bids and Big Ten titles are usually not an option for Michigan State.
The Spartans haven't earned even a share of the league title since 1990 and their last Rose Bowl appearance was 1988.
Both of those goals are still attainable for No. 17 Michigan State as it prepares for a trip to No. 7 Penn State on Saturday .
"We have an opportunity to do something that hasn't been done here in 18 years," coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. "That's a lifetime for a lot of people."
Many of Michigan State's current players were in diapers the last time the Spartans won a share of the Big Ten crown, a rare four-way tie with Michigan, Illinois and Iowa. Only Indiana and Minnesota, who were co-champions in 1967, have had longer Big Ten title droughts than Michigan State.
To break that drought, Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) will need to pull off a pretty big upset -- Penn State is a 14 1/2-point favorite -- and get some help from a hated rival.
A victory by the Spartans, combined with a Michigan victory against No. 10 Ohio State (9-2, 6-1) would give Michigan State the Big Ten title outright and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
But even if the Wolverines don't come through, a victory by Michigan State gets the Spartans a share of the title. The Buckeyes would win the tiebreaker and get the Big Ten's automatic BCS bid because of their 45-7 victory in East Lansing on Oct. 18. The Spartans would be in the mix for an at-large bid to another BCS game.
Regardless of what happens Saturday, Michigan State should be in good shape to get a non-BCS New Year's Day bowl bid -- the program's first since Jan. 1, 2000. That would be significant progress in Dantonio's second season.
The Spartans were 7-5 last year and played in the Champs Sports Bowl, losing to Boston College.
Michigan State took advantage of its bye week to rest banged-up players. Running back Javon Ringer, third in the nation at 140.7 rushing yards per game, was among the several Spartans playing with bumps and bruises the past several weeks.
"If anything, it's provided a little bit of an Adrenalin boost," Dantonio said of the bye week. "I don't think that we've lost anything."
Ringer will face a stiff challenge against a Penn State defense that has allowed only 101.5 yards rushing per game, 10th best in the nation and tops in the Big Ten.


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