Michigan State needs to beat Penn State on Saturday to win the Big Ten East and lock up a spot in the conference championship game.
Whether it will play that game with quarterback Connor Cook remains to be seen.
“It’s a day-to-day type thing and it’s really how he advances in terms of his healing and that’s all I can say,” coach Mark Dantonio said Monday on the “Mike and Mike” show on ESPN radio. “I think he’s close. But I don’t really like to talk about injuries, but obviously he didn’t play this last week so we held him out. He’s got to have some velocity on the football and I think he’s very close to having that.”
Cook injured his right shoulder in the Maryland game and did not play Saturday in No. 6 Michigan State’s 17-14 victory over Ohio State. It snapped a string of 36 consecutive starts for Cook, the winningest quarterback in Michigan State history.
If Cook can’t go for the 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Spartan Stadium on Saturday, junior Tyler O’Connor likely will get his second start and get some help from sophomore Damion Terry.
“Our other two guys played well,” Dantonio said. “We’ve got good quarterbacks. Ohio State, credit them last year, they played with three different quarterbacks, basically. It can be done. We’ve got guys here on scholarship just waiting for the opportunities. It was a positive thing.”
Senior Day will provide Michigan State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) the opportunity to reach the Big Ten Championship game for the third time and strengthen its playoff resume.
With the new playoff rankings set to be revealed Tuesday, the challenge for the Spartans will be to avoid worrying about where they stand.
“They’re hearing about it I know that,” co-defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said Monday on WDFN 1130 with Matt Shepard. “They do understand that we’re in a situation right now where we have to beat Penn State. If we don’t beat Penn State, either Michigan or Ohio State are going to that championship. There is no side door for us, we have to win this one. And I think that helps them focus. It needs to help them focus, because if it doesn’t work out then all that is irrelevant.”
Added Dantonio, “If we win the East and we get in that championship game and can win that, everything works moving forward. That’s all we have to be concerned with. Don’t watch the big picture, concentrate and focus on the moment and we’ll be good.”