Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 1, 2014

It doesn?t get much bigger or better than this Saturday?s Nebraska at Michigan State game. The implications on the Big Ten race are many. But what are the implications on the Big Ten?s hopes to put a team in the new four-team playoff?

Whoever does prevail likely will need to run the table the rest of the way for a shot at a playoff spot.

?If there is an undefeated Big Ten team, it?s in the playoff,? Jerry Palm said. ?They won?t leave out a major conference team that is unbeaten.?

That bodes well for Nebraska, which at 5-0 is the lone Big Ten unbeaten team. But what about Michigan State, which has that one loss at Oregon (46-27)?


?Michigan State?s hopes are largely tied to Oregon,? said Palm. ?If Oregon is in the playoff, then 12-1 Michigan State has a chance. If Oregon falls off and doesn?t make the playoffs, it hurts Michigan State but it doesn?t necessarily mean they won?t make it with a 12-1 record. It just hurts them.?

Of course, so much will depend on what happens in other leagues. Will there be any unbeaten teams in the SEC? Pac-12? Big 12? ACC? Regardless, the winner of Nebraska at Michigan State can?t worry about that.

"We take care of the football, offense rolls," Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong said about the 8 p.m. showdown at No. 10 Michigan State (3-1).

"When we take care of the football we can do anything. So we're just going to go into this week and just make sure that we take care of the football."

The Spartans will be ready.

?Two competitive football teams, two teams that don't want to lose, don't like to lose nobody does but play with a lot of effort, play with a lot toughness, play with a lot of desire,? Michigan State Mark Dantonio said. ?And you see that on the field."

If Michigan State loses, its hopes for a playoff spot probably are finished.

?Yes, it?s probably out,? Palm said. ?A two-loss Big Ten team won?t make it. The league isn?t strong enough for a two-loss team to make it.?

But Nebraska may be able to withstand a loss on Saturday and still earn a playoff spot.

?Nebraska?s loss would be in the league at this point,? Palm said. ?But if they can get to 12-1 and meet Michigan State again in a rematch in the Big Ten championship game and win … Maybe they split with Michigan State and win the league.?

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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