Spartans say matchup against OSU has 'championship game' feel
It may not be the postseason yet, but to MSU, the Spartans’ rivalry contest against Ohio State this weekend has the feeling of a championship game.
With both teams currently holding a 7-2 overall record and a 5-1 conference record, the winner on Saturday will propel to the top of the Big Ten East Division standings.
“It’s like a championship game; winner of this game controls their destiny, so it’s something we’re preaching,” linebacker Joe Bachie said. “We control our destiny throughout this whole month of November. So this is the next game, we got to go 1-0 this week.”
While head coach Mark Dantonio is quick to admit that MSU has yet to play its best game, he believes the Spartans are right where they want to be.
“Where we're at right now is pretty much where we wanted to be — in control of our own situation, our destiny, I guess,” Dantonio said. “We at least can control some things. That's where you want to be in November. We'll see where it all shakes out ... ."
MSU enters Saturday coming off an upset victory over Penn State, who was ranked No. 7 at the time, while the Buckeyes are looking to avenge their blowout loss to Iowa last weekend.
For MSU to pull out a win this Saturday, safety David Dowell said the Spartans need to play fast, physical and aggressive.
“That’s been our mentality the whole year,” he said. “That doesn’t really change regardless of who we play. Obviously, Ohio State’s a good team, so we got to bring it.”
Quarterback Brian Lewerke said the team definitely feels the tension that comes from this upcoming game and realizes what a win in Columbus would mean for the rest of the year.
The loser of Saturday’s game still has a chance to get a berth to the Big Ten title game, but it will be difficult.
Following this weekend, the Spartans will face off against Rutgers on the road and then will face Maryland at home. MSU is expected to be highly favored to win in both of those contests, making it hard for OSU to sneak into the title game if the Buckeyes lose on Saturday.
OSU's remaining schedule after Saturday consists of a home game against Illinois and a road game against Michigan to conclude the regular season. Similar to MSU, the Buckeyes should be favored to win in both matchups.
Although the Spartans can’t help but look into the future and come to an understanding that if they win out, MSU will be heading to Indy, the Spartans have to take it one game at a time.
“Well, first, both of us got three more games — or two more after this (weekend) ... but we just want to take it one week at a time,” Dowell said. “Our mindset is we got this tremendous opportunity down there in Columbus versus a great opponent, a very worthy opponent, great coaching staff, great players … so we’re just looking forward to it. We’re looking forward to the showdown more than anything.”