Don't look now, but the stodgy, stuffy Big Ten is about to put on one of the best shows of the week. The Big Ten's season is, of course, coming down to its last, biggest game of the year: the Big Ten Championship Game (8 p.m. ET, Fox) in Indianapolis.
This year's a dandy, with Ohio State playing for a spot in the BCS National Championship and the Michigan State Spartans eager to prove an entirely possible point: that they, not the Buckeyes, are the best team in the nation. The Spartans' rush defense is certainly the best in the nation, allowing a comically low 64.8 yards a game and 2.23 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Ohio State just so happens to lead the nation in yards per carry on offense, with 7.05 yards a pop. You know that cliche about the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object? Right here.
Rankings and records: Ohio State is 12-0, 8-0 in the Big Ten, No. 2 in the nation and a historical dominator of Michigan State, leading the all-time series 28-12 (including a 21-5 record since 1975). Meanwhile, Michigan State has climbed to No. 10 in the BCS standings at 11-1 (8-0) and is the first Big Ten team since the Big Ten was first called the Big Ten to win every single conference game by double digits.
Vegas: Michigan State opened as a 6.5-point underdog, per OddsShark.com.
Weather: The Big Ten Championship is mercifully set indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium, so weather's only going to be a factor in the fans' experience getting there and back. It may snow some on Friday, but Saturday looks cold and clear with the highs in the 20s.
Three names to know
Max Bullough is one of the best linebackers in the nation, and he's still flying a little under the radar despite being the point man and vocal leader of the nation's best defense. If anyone is capable of counteracting Carlos Hyde's bad intentions with the ball, it's Bullough. If not, god help us all.
There will be times when Michigan State has the ball too (and please forgive us for not mentioning that at all until right now) and when that happens expect a heavy dose of tailback Jeremy Langford. Langford emerged as MSU's workhorse on offense over the second half of the season, rushing for over 100 yards in each of the Spartans' last seven games and totaling 1,210 yards and 16 TDs on the season.
Last, in case you still don't know, Braxton Miller is an absolute magician at quarterback for Ohio State. His early-season knee injury has probably knocked him out of serious contention for winning the Heisman Trophy after he started the year as a favorite. Miller's stats are ludicrous for the 9.1 games he's participated in (he left SDSU very early and missed the next two games): 1,759 yards passing, 65.7 percent passing completion, 21 TDs passing, QB rating of 164.3, 891 yards rushing, 6.8 yards per carry and eight more TDs on the ground. He is an incinerator.
Two things at stake
For Ohio State, duh: a National Championship Game berth is close at hand. Ohio State is one of just two remaining undefeated teams in a major conference along with Florida State, and having an opponent as tough as Michigan State should help the Buckeyes keep ahead of whomever the SEC offers as a champion between No. 3 Auburn and No. 5 Missouri (and certainly ahead of now-idle No. 4 Alabama). We're also talking about Urban Meyer's 24-0 record at Ohio State on the line, and this is his and Ohio State's first opportunity to play in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Meanwhile for Michigan State, the odds are that the Spartans will play in the Rose Bowl no matter what; they're not rocketing into the BCS National Championship with a win, and a loss to Ohio State frees up the Rose Bowl for an at-large bid, which would almost certainly stay in the conference. So this isn't about January 1 for Sparty; it's about establishing who the best team in the Big Ten is, and for all we know, it is Michigan State.
How to witness
TV: The game is at 8:17 ET on Fox. This means Gus Johnson on the call (along with Charles Davis and sideline reporter Kristina Pink), so buckle up.
Radio: The mammoth Buckeye Radio Network's affiliates are listed here, and you can listen to Michigan State's call on the Spartan Sports Network on these stations. The national call will be on XM Radio channel 91 (College Sports Nation, they call it) as well.
Online streaming: Streaming isn't really Fox's thing.