From the preseason to the kickoff of its game against Ohio State on Saturday afternoon, Michigan State has been overlooked in the Big Ten Eastern Division despite losing its only game on a controversial call, while the Buckeyes have enjoyed all the attention.
The script had flipped by Saturday evening, however, after Michael Geiger booted home the 41-yard field goal on the last play of the game that propelled the Spartans to a 17-14 victory over Ohio State in Columbus, breaking the Buckeyes' 23-game winning streak.
Now it's the sixth-ranked Spartans alone in the Big Ten spotlight. A victory over Penn State in the regular-season finale on Saturday in East Lansing will earn them the division title. A win over Iowa in the conference championship game more than likely would boost them into the College Football Playoff.
Coach Mark Dantonio, however, is taking it one day at a time. He said he isn't paying attention to the latest CFP poll to be released on Tuesday night.
"If we win the East and we get in that championship game and can win that, everything works [moving] forward," Dantonio said Monday in an interview on ESPN Radio. "That's all we have to be concerned with. Don't watch the big picture, concentrate and focus on the moment . . . we'll be good."
A Michigan State victory will tie the Spartans (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) for first place in the division with the winner of Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan game. But since the Spartans defeated both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines, they win the first tiebreaker - head-to-head result.
The Spartans defense dominated the Buckeyes, limiting them to five first downs and 132 yards. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook missed the game with a sprained right (throwing) shoulder, but backup Tyler O'Connor threw a touchdown pass and managed the game effectively.
Dantonio said Monday that Cook continued to be day-to-day.
The Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3) have lost back-to-back games to Northwestern and Michigan, both ranked teams.
Michigan State benefited from a miracle at Michigan, defeating the Wolverines, 27-23, when Jalen Watts-Jackson recovered a fumbled snap by punter Blake O'Neill and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the game.
The Spartans appeared to get a bad break three weeks later at Nebraska, losing, 39-38, to the Cornhuskers on a 30-yard touchdown pass with 17 seconds remaining. Receiver Brandon Reilly went out of bounds and came back in to make the catch, but officials ruled on replay that Reilly was forced out by the man defending him.
Dantonio called the result "disappointing" but did not dwell on it three days later at his weekly news conference.
"There's some things I can control and I've learned to deal with that, do my best," he said. "There's other things I have no control of. I've learned how to deal with that and let somebody else worry about that aspect of it."