Spartans defeat Ducks, increase chances of making College Football Playoff

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  • Michigan State's Connor Cook is tackled by Michigan's Delano Hill during first quarter action on Saturday, Oct. 25,2014 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 35-11. (Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

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By Dan Escalona

With Saturday’s statement victory over Oregon, Michigan State showed the nation why two Big Ten teams making the College Football Playoff (CFP) is now a legitimate reality.

In defeating the Ducks, the Spartans have already surpassed 2014’s stellar campaign in a significant way.

After blowing a nine-point lead last season, Michigan State finally shut the door on Oregon this time around, preserving its shot at the CFP. Though the team ended up winning the Cotton Bowl, its loss in last season’s match-up with Oregon put the Spartans largely out of the playoff conversation.

Things are now looking much brighter for the Big Ten power.

Some lingering questions about Michigan State were certainly answered Saturday night — especially in the running game.

Entering the season, the biggest mystery in East Lansing was who would step up to fill the void left by Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill. Both true freshman LJ Scott and redshirt freshman Madre London were considered talented, but unknown commodities at the position.

After Saturday, their contributions were evident, as well as providing continued optimism for solid ground production throughout the season.

Key to the Spartans’ balanced offensive attack were London’s 103 yards on the ground and Scott’s 76 yards and two scores — one of those scores an electrifying, momentum-shifting 38-yard touchdown run.

It appears as if Michigan State has a two-headed tandem at running back once again.

The defense was unsurprisingly solid again in keeping the Ducks from getting into a consistent rhythm — a difficult feat against an offense constantly pushing the pace. The unit stepped up in the clutch on a key fourth-down stop at the goal line in the second quarter.

Quarterback Connor Cook played another effective game under center, throwing for 192 yards and two touchdowns. It certainly was not his most efficient performance but he relied on familiarity with tight end Josiah Price and receiver Aaron Burbridge in leading the Spartans.

Even after losing a couple of big-time performers from 2014’s defense, the Spartans are still as elite as any defense in the country.

Of course, this version of Oregon is nowhere near as lethal as the version of the team headed by Marcus Mariota, but Michigan State protecting its home turf against the CFP hopeful is nonetheless a big deal.

Now, how does this fit in to the larger discussion surrounding the Big Ten and the playoff?

At this point, it is pretty clear to assume that both Michigan State and Ohio State will be undefeated when they meet on Nov. 21 in Columbus.

Though we are a long way from that match-up, it would not at all be irresponsible to briefly discuss the implications. Assuming both teams take care of business the rest of the way, the game will decide not only who wins the Big Ten East but also if the Big Ten can send two teams to the playoff.

Conventional logic, however, presupposes that the loser will automatically be eliminated from playoff contention.

Let’s say, though, either Michigan State or Ohio State lose in a competitive, nail-biting fashion. How would that change things?

Both teams would certainly have a legitimate argument to be included in the playoff, and a furious debate would rage as the selection committee weighs every argument.

A lot can happen before that time arrives, but it is certainly a no better indication of the reemergence of the Big Ten than to discuss the possibility of two teams representing the conference in college football’s final four.

Dan is senior in Media.
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