Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 6, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS — Eighty-two yards stood between Michigan State and the Big Ten title. It had to look like 82 miles for a Spartan offense that hadn?t reached the end zone all night and couldn?t get on the rails vs. Iowa in the Big Ten title game.

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Nothing was clicking for Michigan State?s attack, especially star quarterback Connor Cook, who misfired time and again. But then Cook started to feed the ball to LJ Scott. And the offense got rolling. A six-yard run ? a 4-yard run ? a 5-yard run. And on it went for Scott. By the time it was over, Scott had carried 14 times for 40 yards, stretching one last yard over the goal line with 27 seconds left as he was being tugged and pulled back by the Hawkeyes.


?We knew we had to execute each play,? said Scott. ?You know, we knew each play was big and that we had to stay with the ball. I was just trying to make a play for my brothers. We knew what we had at stake.?

The momentous 22-play drive will go down in Spartan lore, as it drained 9:04 off the clock while draining the dreams of the Hawkeyes who tasted defeat for the first time this season.

?Credit to Michigan State,? said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. ?They played a great football game.?

The 16-13 comeback victory gave Michigan State its third Big Ten championship under Mark Dantonio. Even better: The win likely sewed up a spot in the College Football Playoffs. Michigan State is expected to be joined by Clemson, Alabama and Oklahoma in the postseason, with games taking place on December 31 in the Cotton and Orange Bowls. The matchups will be announced on Sunday. The championship game is on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz.

?It?s unreal,? said MSU offensive tackle Donavon Clark. ?I never would?ve thought I?d be going to the college football playoff my last year as a senior. I?m just very happy.?

A trip to the playoffs-in their second season of existence-would be yet another brick in the formidable wall that Dantonio has built in East Lansing since arriving in 2007. And this march to the summit in 2015 has to be especially sweet for Dantonio.

When the season dawned, all of the pundits yammered about the arrival of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. Did you see the tweet Harbaugh sent? Did you see the photo of Harbaugh? Did you hear what Harbaugh said?

If it wasn?t Harbaugh who was catching the fancy of pundits, it was Ohio State and its glorious run to an improbable 2014 national title. With many key Buckeyes back, Ohio State was a national darling to repeat as champ. Who was gonna beat Urban Meyer?s mighty Buckeyes?

What about Michigan State?

The Spartans somehow were forgotten amid the boy-band love that enveloped Harbaugh and the glowing promise that surrounded Ohio State. It seemed America had forgotten Michigan State had won 11 or more games four times in five years. It seemed pundits blanked out on the fact the Spartans won Big Ten crowns in 2010 and 2013. It seemed experts forgot about the Rose and Cotton Bowl triumphs for this program.

Shame on all of us.

Tonight, Michigan State reminded everyone of why it is one of the nation?s best programs-and arguably the best in the Big Ten.

This 16-13 win was filled with the type of grit that has come to define the 2015 Spartans: Rarely pretty, rarely flashy but always productive. And resilient. Very resilient. Tonight, this team scored the winning points with 27 seconds left after earlier this season beating Michigan and Ohio State on the final play of the game.

Victories like that are a summation of the fortitude and unflinching mind-set of this blue-collar bunch that has mastered the ugly win. Michigan State couldn?t have capped tonight any more perfectly, winning the Big Ten title game for a second time.

?We are a tough unit and throughout the year, nothing has been easy for us,? said MSU center Jack Allen.

Michigan State had just nine points through three quarters, complements of three Michael Geiger field goals in what was a 9-6 Spartan lead. Then, Iowa struck for an 85-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the fourth quarter to take a 13-9 lead. Could Michigan State answer?

Cook was off his game, finishing 16-of-32 for 191 yards with a pick. But the running game gained steam in the fourth quarter behind the 6-0, 233-pound true freshman Scott, who finished with 73 yards on 22 carries. Redshirt freshman Madre London also did his share, carrying 12 times for 60 yards. It was more than enough to compensate for Cook, who still won game MVP honors despite his off night.

The Spartan defense also deserves kudos, holding Iowa to one touchdown and 268 yards. The Hawkeye running game was stuffed, notching 52 yards on 24 carries (2.2 ypc).

Time and again in 2015, Michigan State had its wins nit-picked. Why couldn?t MSU put away Rutgers? (31-24 win) Why did the Spartans flounder vs. Purdue (24-21)? Then there was the miracle win at Michigan that caused others to scoff and say that Michigan State was lucky. On it went all season, as many were slow to embrace this team.

Now, doubters have no choice but to hail the Michigan State Spartans, Big Ten champs–again.

"We live for moments like this," Scott said.