Much like Ohio State, MSU looks to bounce back following brutal loss
Between the Spartans and Buckeyes, going into their marquee, top-15 matchup, there were a number of similarities. For one, the records were the same. A 7-2 overall mark, 5-1 in the Big Ten, a chance at the Big Ten East crown for the conference foes.
Each team had an ugly loss to a top-10 team at home; Notre Dame for MSU, Oklahoma for Ohio State. A startling loss on the road to a Big Ten West opponent were on both their resumes.
But still, the differences going into the game were striking.
In one corner, Ohio State limped into its home bout, a 31-point loss to Iowa spoiling its once-coveted resume. For all the aspirations of a College Football Playoff berth, those dreams died one Hawkeye touchdown after another.
Then there was MSU, a young team on the upswing, eying a return to Indianapolis. And of course, it helps the Spartans were coming off a season-defining win over Penn State, a walk-off, celebration-filled victory that shot them up the rankings, even past Ohio State in the College Football playoff poll.
But week-to-week momentum in college football is fool’s gold. Now, head coach Mark Dantonio’s worst loss at MSU is a fresh memory, not one from a distant bowl loss.
“These are life moments for all of us,” Dantonio said. “Life isn’t always going to be the best or the greatest. You’re going to have disappointments in your life and you’re going to have to handle it.”
Left in the dust, the Spartans are in the exact same situation as the Buckeyes, just a week later. They’re looking to bounce back from a deflating, season-crushing loss.
Very little went right for MSU within the confines of Ohio Stadium, a season-worst loss, in other words. Though the Raising Cane’s post-game meal had a few players a little happy.
But after losing to Iowa by 31 points, the Buckeyes were in the same predicament as the Spartans. Then they exploded back to national relevance, unfortunately for the MSU faithful.
“I believe if you look for things, there’s always value in any experience that you’ve had,” Dantonio said. “No matter how negative it can become, there’s going to be value in that and you’re going to learn from it."
MSU now no longer controls its own destiny. The Buckeyes must lose their last two contests for the green and white to have a chance for a trip to Indianapolis, far from a guarantee.
Dantonio said before the game, MSU had a lot to lose in reference to the conference. And with a shot at a Big Ten title lost, the Spartans are scrambling to find answers.
“It is pretty frustrating,” quarterback Brian Lewerke said. “We had a great opportunity ahead of us. We had a great chance to do big things. Obviously they’re still some work to do left.”
But for a young team, the last two games of the season still have some worth in playing.
Senior center Brian Allen said there were still some things MSU can take away from the loss, pointing at the magnitude of the game and the implications surrounding it.
“Playing in a tough environment, playing (No.) 12 versus (No.) 13 or whatever it was today,” Allen said of some takeaways. “Big game, big environment, just get used to playing teams like that.”
The Spartans, now No. 22 in the latest AP poll, have the chance to finish strong. They’re 7-3, facing Maryland and Rutgers to close out the regular season.
A chance to finish 9-3 — a complete flip from their 3-9 record last year — is a very real possibility. And there’s an opportunity for a decent bowl game down the stretch.
“I still think we have a good football team,” Dantonio said. “We’re going to find a little bit more about ourselves next week. We just need to regroup.”