Big Ten In Focus: What’s up with Sparty? Could Ohio State be the B1G’s best when it’s all said and done?

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We all experience it. There’s that moment in a relationship, normally when you’re young, maybe out on a date, maybe just coming home for the evening and something feels wrong.

You can’t really put your finger on it, but something is off, and you’re not sure if you can salvage it in the end.

That’s how Michigan State feels right now, and not to get negative on the Spartans, but Ohio State feels like it might be the best team in the Big Ten on a weekend when the Buckeyes didn’t even play.

To wit, this is a compliment for the football Spartans. This shows that they’ve ascended into the level of elite when wins are met with skepticism and nitpicking, and every game they play is almost forced to have a story come out of it.

That was normally reserved for their hated in-state rivals to the south.

Michigan State knocked off Purdue 45-31 on a pick-six late, but it doesn’t totally stop the shade throwing on the fact that they’ve been outscored 33-7 in the fourth quarters of their last two games, and were outscored 14-0 by Oregon in their lone loss.

As for those seven points … they were scored on the aforementioned pick-six against a Purdue team still finding its way after tearing the entire program down to the skin and bones last week — think tabloid Lindsay Lohan circa 2009.

Part of the struggles are human nature as an athlete. When you get up by a bunch of points, you either tap the breaks on purpose to get out of Dodge, or you do it subconsciously, because the one thing you can’t practice or force is a sense of urgency.

Now, Michigan State, at full tilt, is without question a top-5 football team. The hardest part of success is always maintaining that razor sharp edge, and that’s where MSU is these days … the circled team on everyone’s schedule.

Like Ohio State.

November 8 suddenly looms large in the Midwest, in ways that after week two, we didn’t probably see as being possible.


Whatever Urban Meyer and his staff saw against Virginia Tech, they saw it quick, fast, and in a hurry. Then they fixed it. Ohio State’s defense is still a work in progress, but J.T. Barrett looks the Braxton Miller part, and just when you thought maybe … just maybe … you were going to see a year of Ohio State being a national non-factor, rest assured, you cannot.

Granted, Ohio State hasn’t necessarily seen Nebraska over the last few weeks like Sparty has, but the Buckeyes have a “she looks different” feel about them the way a girl does on Fall break that first time home since she went to college.

It could be much ado about nothing, of course. Last year, MSU needed a defensive touchdown and a trick play to best a miserable Purdue team 14-0, so this could just be a bad matchup and Nebraska could just be a really good team.

There’s no point in dispelling either of those narratives, because they could be true, and combined with the apathy of being up by a lot of points, it’s nothing but a “letdown stew” of sorts.

However, Michigan State will have to deal with being Michigan sooner rather than later, with the entire nation paying attention to the Spartans’ every move and nitpicking the failures … like their fourth-quarter struggles.

It’s hard to really say how or why they’re happening. Purdue’s offense called a brilliant game late, but it’s not as though the Boilermakers weren’t trying the first three quarters either. It was mostly the same stuff, only it was working better.

What it all shapes up to being in the end is hard to tell. After week two, even in the process of losing to Oregon, Michigan State looked vastly better than the remainder of the Big Ten and was set to only suffer through the perception of not beating every team by 30 in their conference as a sign of weakness.

Much changes from week one or week two to the remainder of the season.

The Spartans look like a team that can be lulled to sleep, while old reliable Ohio State looms in the darkness, ready to troll the rest of the nation with another run to the top of the polls.

This year is the CFB Playoff, and the way things are shaping up, suddenly November 8 looks like a playoff elimination game. A few weeks ago, it looked like another chance for MSU to flex muscle.

“First 3 quarters Sparty” needs to take “4th quarter Sparty” to dinner and talk things over. Preferably before November 8.