October 30, 2010
Iowa 37, Michigan State 6, Nebraska 31, Missouri 17. If someone had handed you a ballot in August with a list of reasons that dream seasons by Michigan State and/or Missouri would be eventually derailed, there wouldn't have been any shortage of worthy candidates. The Spartans looked like a team that couldn't run, couldn't stop the pass and struggled with turnovers. Missouri had a variety of problems on defense and occasionally struggled to protect the quarterback. Neither had a really significant road win under its current head coach. And as it turns out, every one of them was exactly right in the end.
That's not to say either of the simultaneous implosions was expected at the start of the day. In fact, both teams came into the critical Saturday of their seasons counting most of those would-be Achilles' heels as unexpected strengths of their undefeated starts. Michigan State was running for nearly 200 yards per game and ranked in the top 20 nationally in pass efficiency defense and turnover margin. Mizzou was sitting fifth nationally in scoring D and ninth in sacks allowed.
All of which worked just long enough today to get them past the opening kickoff. On the first play in Lincoln, Roy Helu ripped the touted Tiger defense for a 66-yard touchdown run on the first play to spark a 24-point first quarter by the Huskers. In Iowa, steady Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins was picked off twice in the first half, one of them run back for a touchdown en route to a 30-0 Hawkeye advantage at the half. The Spartans finished with all of 31 yards rushing, 162 below their season average. Nebraska sacked Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert six times. Helu alone set a school record with 307 on the ground, following up his introductory sprint with two more scoring runs covering 73 and 54 yards. Both games were over by the second quarter.
So: With a the stakes raised and the national spotlight on in their first significant road tests of the season, both of the midseason BCS interlopers revealed themselves as ... basically who we thought they were coming into the year. Barring a major upset over the next month, Missouri ceded the rights to the Big 12 North title back to the overwhelming preseason favorite. Michigan State descends into a four-way mosh pit at the top of the Big Ten. There's still a very nice bowl game waiting for both in a couple months. But there was probably never any reason to get worked up about anything beyond that.