October 22, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Bob Wojnowski: Pigskin Picks

These are strange days indeed for MSU and its fans

Chris Norman and the Spartans are No. 7 in the BCS standings, one of only 10 unbeatens in the country. (Dale G. Young/The Detroit News)

We've waited long enough. It's time to actually, legitimately, under the influence of no controlled substances, discuss something few ever thought we'd discuss.

Yes, it's time to put the words "Michigan State" and "undefeated" and "championship possibilities" and "juggernaut" in the same sentence. This once was considered as likely as stringing together the words "tofu," "Wojo" and "exercise bike."

But something strange and fascinating is happening, ever since Mark Dantonio duped poor Notre Dame with that fake field goal. The Spartans haven't lost and haven't blinked. Their lower lips don't quiver when reminded of their history. They have a big can of destiny in their hands, and don't seem inclined to crush it against their foreheads.

Now that Ohio State blessedly has stepped out of the way, Michigan State is in control, 7-0 and venturing into truly uncharted territory. The Spartans also are venturing out of state for the first time this season to play Northwestern, which has been a tricky egg-headed opponent for a while, since it started requiring its players to run faster and lift weights.

This is when it gets really interesting. And darn the Spartans' luck, too. They're finally in position to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1987 season, and instead, they might be forced to play in the BCS championship game in Glendale, Ariz.

Am I overreacting a little? Uh, not really. Have you watched the top teams crumble this season? Have you seen Michigan State sneer at adversity and be all physical and mean?

For many years, the Spartans couldn't spell BCS if you spotted them the B and the S. But they're No. 7 in the standings, one of only 10 unbeatens in the country. And at least two will fall this week because LSU plays Auburn and Oklahoma plays Missouri. Naturally, unbeaten Boise State gets the weekend off to rest up for its Tuesday night showdown against Louisiana Tech, which reportedly began car-pooling to Idaho early this morning.

If you're keeping track, Oklahoma is No. 1 in the BCS, Oregon is No. 1 in the polls, Boise State is No. 1 in the hearts, and as far as I'm concerned, one-loss Alabama is still No. 1 in the minds. But if Michigan State somehow handles Northwestern and Iowa back-to-back, watch out, because the rest of the schedule — Minnesota and Purdue at home, Joe Pa in Nappin' Valley — isn't daunting.

Of course, if Dantonio heard me talking like this, he'd thump me in the back of the head. But hey, why not have some fun? The Spartans last weekend even hosted actor Gerard Butler, who starred in that movie "300" with all those burly, bearded guys in sandals. He played King Leonidas, who went into a big battle against Persia with only 300 Spartans, which would far exceed today's scholarship limits.

It should be noted Michigan tried this a few years ago with actor Russell Crowe, and it worked for a while. In their current state of nervousness, perhaps the Wolverines should bring in George Costanza. Actually, Michigan is on a bye and thus unlikely to surrender a 61-yard TD run this week, although I wouldn't rule it out.

Back to the BCS, which remains the most-confusing, volatile issue in America today, except for the Brett Favre issue and the "Jersey Shore" issue. I went to the BCS website (www.gibberish.com) and investigated how the formula works.

In a nutshell: The BCS uses a combination of six computer rankings, the USA Today coaches poll, the Harris Interactive poll, various lunar cycles and — I thought this was odd — Beano Cook's cholesterol number. Add 'em up, divide by pi and make sure TCU, Utah and Ohio State are outside the top two.

It's complicated and controversial, and basically has divided college football into two distinct camps. There are those who despise the BCS and want a playoff that ends the bowl system and creates an injury-riddled march to a true champion, preferably from the SEC.

And there are those who believe college football is pretty entertaining right now. (We meet on the third Thursday of every month: "Hi, my name is (your name) and I don't totally hate the BCS. I apologize.")

Michigan State has many challenges ahead before this fanciful notion takes shape. First, there's the danger of guzzling excess praise. There's also that nasty trip to Iowa. Oh, and the Spartans' bus still has to make it to Chicago this weekend without players gagging on fumes as they pass Gary, Ind.

The funky Northwestern offense presents a test, and it's up to Kirk "Tied Shoelaces" Cousins to direct the Spartans. They're venturing into big-boy territory now, further evidenced by the announcement they're adding Miami (not Ohio) to the schedule in the year 2525, or something like that. If the Spartans win the next two, it'll really be time to gird the loins, Spartan-warrior-style.

Pick: Michigan State 38, Northwestern 27

Wisconsin at Iowa: This one will feature more flab-flopping and grunting than your average heartland pig farm. The Hawkeyes don't have the time — or the need, really — to celebrate their win in Ann Arbor. Pick: Iowa, 23-20.

Purdue at Ohio State : The Badgers removed the Buckeyes from the BCS race, thankfully. But the only thing worse than a rancid Buckeye is a riled Buckeye. Ohio State hasn't lost back-to-back Big Ten games in six years. Pick: Ohio State, 37-10.

LSU at Auburn: Nobody can figure out how Les Miles keeps pulling out victories at LSU, despite a lame offense and a hat that sits too high on his head. What's he hiding under that thing? This is a BCS elimination game, and Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton might be the best in the country. Pick: Auburn, 27-24.


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