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Michigan State quietly puts itself in position for New Years Six bowl game

The Michigan State Spartans have played two huge games on the national stage, taking on Oregon and Ohio State while both were top 15 teams. Unfortunately, the Spartans got smoked when the clock read 0:00. So, it’s easy to see why there hasn’t been much talk about MSU since it’s Nov. 8 loss to Ohio State.

At that point, Michigan State’s hopes for postseason play appeared shot. The SEC West was just too strong, there were too many very good Pac-12 and Big 12 teams out there.

However, chaos and some really strong play in the last two weeks has given the Spartans a chance to get back in to the major national picture. That’s because with the latest College Football Playoff committee Top 25, Michigan State found itself sitting at No. 10 in the rankings.

That means there’s one heck of a chance for Michigan State to earn a bid to one of three bowl games that are in the New Years Six (just not the national semifinals). Michigan State could play in the Orange, Cotton, Fiesta or Peach bowls (because we refuse to give more free marketing to corporate sponsors).

Michigan State would enter the Orange Bowl only if it could jump the team right ahead of it in the current rankings, Georgia. That’s because the Orange Bowl will pit the highest-rated team not in the top 4 from the ACC against the highest ranked team from the pool of Notre Dame, the Big Ten and the SEC.

However, the rest of the bowls will have free reign for selection, with the exception of choosing the highest rated non-Power 5 team.

The question for the bowls doing the selections is if the Big Ten is going to be worthy of two teams in the New Years Six bowl games. After all, Ohio State is going to get one of those bids if it wins the Big Ten title game, as they sit at No. 6 for another week.

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College Football Playoff Top 10
RK TEAM RECORD
1 Alabama 10-1
2 Oregon 10-1
3 Florida State 11-0
4 Mississippi State 10-1
5 TCU 9-1
6 Ohio State 10-1
7 Baylor 9-1
8 UCLA 9-2
9 Georgia 9-2
10 Michigan State 9-2

[/quote_right]Should Ohio State take care of Wisconsin or Minnesota out of the West division, the Buckeyes will have eyes on one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff and as long as they aren’t on the outside looking in the Spartans should be good for a spot in the New Years Six.¬†There’s also the fact that Michigan State has been overlooked by big time bowls in the past, just look at what happened in 2011. On the positive side, there appears a good chance one of the five remaining spots (if everything holds to form) should be enough for the Spartans to make it.

On the other side, Michigan State’s resume doesn’t have a huge win on it (yes, that’s how bad Michigan has gotten). But, it does have one of the most impressive margin of victories in the Big Ten and the country. Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten and fourth nationally with +21.6 margin of victory.

That’s also a jump of just over a touchdown from the average scoring margin that the Spartans had last season. In Big Ten play the Spartans have an average margin of victory of +24.3 points per game, and have won all but one of its six victories in conference by double digits.

While margin of victory isn’t going to be a huge determining factor in selecting the four teams to make the College Football Playoff, it could be a factor in how some of the bowl games end up selecting at-large teams.

The question is, how do the Spartans stack up to some of their competition in terms of scoring margin.

Let’s compare the Spartans to the resume of No. 7 UCLA, who leads the pack of two-loss teams in the College Football Playoff rankings.

The Bruins have an average scoring margin of just +7.8 points per game, but have also played four games against ranked opponents versus the three for Michigan State.

However, UCLA also took one of its two losses to an unranked Utah (at the time of the game), who currently sits at 7-4 on the season. That’s a far cry from Michigan State, whose only losses have come to teams with a combined two losses on the season and both inside the top 6 of the rankings.

Of course, with a big week ahead and plenty of championship games to decide things the reality is Michigan State may not determine its own fate.

With games like Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Alabama vs. Auburn and Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss on the docket this final weekend of the regular season, there’s still plenty of chance for Michigan State to move up or even down in the rankings.

However, don’t be shocked to see the team nearly everyone picked to win the Big Ten end up in one of the big bowl games.

Now, how about winning another one and helping to make the conference look good once again?

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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