It took them almost the entire game, but No. 5 Michigan State knocked off No. 4 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game by a score of 16-13 to win the conference title and also clinch what could be the fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff.
Michigan State combined for 174 rushing yards to Iowa’s 51, taking full advantage of star running back Jordan Canzeri suffering an ankle injury midway through the game. Even more impressive was quarterback Connor Cook engineering a 22-play, 84 yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that milked the clock for nine minutes and resulted in LJ Scott’s game-winning 1-yard touchdown run.
But Michigan State didn’t look so great for a majority of the game. Most of the time, this was a blue-collar defensive battle with each team refusing to bat an eye. The score was 6-3 Iowa at halftime after Spartans kicker Michael Geiger missed a long field goal as time expired, and the first touchdown was not scored until the start of the fourth quarter when Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard found receiver Tevaun Smith for an 85-yard touchdown.
But Michigan State was only further motivated after losing its 9-6 lead. Despite committing eight penalties for 80 yards, the team soon found its legs and continued to play strong defense before hitting clutch plays on the aforementioned winning drive, with Cook taking a risk and keeping the ball on a key 4th and 2 play inside the 10 yard line, running the ball to the 3 for a first down. Three plays later, Scott scored and the rest was gravy.
Iowa could not get a rally started after the ensuing kickoff as Beathard was sacked on the first play of the drive and with no timeouts left, Iowa was sunk. The team had three turnovers on the evening and was just 3 of 12 on third-down situations, while Michigan State was 10 of 20, including 5 of 5 on its game-winning drive.
Moreover, Iowa’s bread and butter is the running game and Michigan State’s defense didn’t give an inch.
Just the same, the Hawkeyes have a lot to be proud of regarding this season. Practically everyone thought them overrated and incapable of coming this far. Instead, Iowa took the Spartans to the brink, not losing the game until the very end. Next year, they’ll be quite the team to watch.
Meanwhile, Michigan State can likely look forward to a trip to the College Football Playoff and after this game, the team certainly deserves it.