Penn State’s next opponents, the Michigan State Spartans, currently rank around No. 10 or No. 11 in most polls. But are the Spartans really that good?
The dirty little secret in college football is that we never really know. A dozen games each year, typically including several easy ones, is never much of a sample size. Michigan State’s 10-1 record so far includes easy games against Western Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Northern Colorado and Minnesota. After that, the Spartans needed overtime to take down unranked Notre Dame, and needed to stage comebacks against Northwestern and lowly Purdue. They also got blown out badly at Iowa.
That leaves wins against Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. Beating the fifth-ranked Badgers was indeed a feat, but that’s the only win the Spartans have against a team that is currently ranked.
Michigan State wasn’t a highly-regarded team entering the season. The Spartans didn’t figure prominently in the Week 1 BlogPoll top 25, or Week 2, or Week 3.
So what changed? Well, they won a lot of games, and that got them into the top half of the top 25. That’s the way it should be, of course, but the blowout loss and the number of comeback wins and close wins suggests that the Spartans are vulnerable against Penn State, especially in Happy Valley.