The Big Ten started New Year's Day 1-2, and Michigan State went down 10-0 early to Stanford in the Rose Bowl—if you listened closely you could hear the eulogy of the Big Ten being typed out all over the country once again.
Instead, the Spartans found 17 unanswered points and took down No. 5 Stanford, 24-20, in the Rose Bowl.
Suddenly 2-2 on New Year's Day has a lot nicer of a ring to it than the typical 1-3 and an offseason of asking questions about the future of the Big Ten and where it is all going wrong for the conference.
Those who doubted it could happen can be forgiven; after all, we've been here plenty of times before—with the Big Ten starved of a win in the Rose Bowl for the majority of the past decade.
The Big Ten did hold a 1-9 record entering the 100th Rose Bowl this year, after all.
Following a quick 10-0 Stanford lead in the first quarter, the "here we go again" feelings seemed appropriate.
Cue the heartbreak and long offseason of Big Ten bashing. But then Michigan State woke up—or more appropriately, MSU quarterback Connor Cook woke up.
Cook, the sophomore quarterback who was overshadowed all month by the talk of Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, had the game of his young career for the Spartans.
He completed 22 of 36 passes for a career-high 332 yards and two touchdowns. The only blemish on his near-perfect night was an interception that ended up going for a 40-yard pick-six the other way, making it 17-7 Cardinal.
Like all good quarterbacks do, Cook put the mistake in the rearview mirror quickly and led his team to another victory over a supposedly better team.
For all that Cook did, perhaps the most fitting moment of New Year's Day across the Big Ten took place on the biggest play of the Rose Bowl.
With Max Bullough suspended, his replacement, Kyler Elsworth, would make the ultimate save.
Stanford faced a 4th-and-1 with under two minutes remaining, only to see a play to fullback Ryan Hewitt be stuffed short of the needed yardage by an airborne Elsworth.
With the win, Michigan State saved the Big Ten from becoming the brunt of all jokes, although some have found a way to rain on the parade already.
Somewhere Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is having the last laugh, popping champagne bottles and handing out high-fives—and he has Michigan State to thank for making New Year's Day a success instead of the usual dismal failure for his conference.
Now, perhaps the Big Ten can go forward and actually put up a winning record in the not-too-distant future.
Crazy idea, right?
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