‘Black Saturday’ likely has eliminated Michigan State, entire Big Ten from title talk

Terry Foster

Rockford, Ill. — Wild applause broke out in the dining area of the GreenFire restaurant as Michigan State marched to a 24-18 halftime lead against Oregon.

This is Big Ten country, and the folks were rooting for their conference even though they normally root for Illinois and Northwestern to beat the Spartans.

But the restaurant grew silent as the game progressed. The waves from the Ducks kept coming as the Spartans were outscored 28-3 in the second half during a lopsided 46-27 nonconference loss that was billed by the Ducks as a statement game.

Other waves of devastation kept rolling all night.

Black Saturday

This day turned into Black Saturday for the Big Ten. Several tidal waves not only embarrassed the conference but quite possibly knocked every team out of consideration for the first wave of semifinal games to decide a national championship.

This was a costly day for the Spartans (1-1) and the Big Ten. Even if Michigan State runs the table, wins a Big Ten title and finishes 11-1 it is unlikely MSU will get in with one loss. The Big Ten is No. 5 among the big five conferences.

It would be difficult to leapfrog any one-loss Southeastern Conference, Big 12 or Pac-10 team. Toss Florida State into the mix and likely the Big Ten checkmated itself during one afternoon.

It was buried under several tsunamis ...

■ In Columbus where Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech;

■ In South Bend, Ind., where Notre Dame crushed Michigan, 31-0;

■ And the walls even came tumbling down in West Lafayette, Ind., where Purdue lost to Central Michigan of the Mid-American Conference.

■ Northwestern lost to Northern Illinois and fellow MAC member Ball State blew a 10-point lead in the final 3:30 of its game at Iowa.

■ Nebraska scored in the final 20 seconds to beat McNeese State, a school that produced Joe Dumars but little else in sports.

Lacking athletes

We’ve already heard whispers the Big Ten is down — again. Now it will turn into an outright roar.

Despite a beatdown at Oregon, the battered Spartans emerged as the favorites to win the Big Ten. That is a testament to the conference’s weakness.

There are not enough athletes to keep up with schools that get most of their talent from California, Florida and Texas. That was quite evident against the Ducks.

For good chunks of the game the Spartans were strong, physical and made great defensive plays. But playing Oregon is like fighting Mike Tyson when he was on top of his game. The knockout blow can come at any moment.

Oregon is dangerous on every play and the Ducks cut the Spartans open with gash plays that left people wide open way too often.

The Ducks enjoyed scoring plays of 70, 24 and 37 yards.

The Spartans might have made a case for a semifinal berth even with a close loss if it runs the table but it is hard to make an argument to leapfrog Oregon following a 19-point loss. If you are rooting for a national title in the Big Ten, this might not be the year.

It will be almost impossible for the Big Ten to survive Black Saturday.