Nobody had a weirder October than the Michigan State Spartans.
They opened the Best Month on the Calendar (do not bother refuting this; you're wrong) by losing to eventual B1G West Champions Northwestern, who at the time was sporting an odious 1-3 record. The Wildcats' only win to date was at Purdue. Not exactly a resumé win, but let's not hurt ourselves talking about it.
Sparty followed its faceplant against the Nerds with a trip to State College to face the No.8 Penn State Nittany Lions, whose effort against the No.4 Ohio State Buckeyes the previous weekend concluded in thrilling heartbreak. They actually moved up one spot in the polls for losing in college football's most imposing environment, but then they lost at home to Sparty - for the second straight week - apparently still woozy from Terry McLauren winning a gang fight by himself.
Michigan State was back, baby! The Spartans triumphantly marched back to East Lansing to welcome Big Brother with renewed momentum and purpose, only to lose 21-7 to the team it hates losing to more than anyone or anything else *land grant fist bump*. That evening, Ohio State stumbled into Ross-Ade Stadium like an amateur drunk at the company holiday party and got itself fired from playoff consideration. Purdue isn't a resumé win, but hoo boy is it a resumé loss.
And then seven days later those same Spartans treated those same Boilermakers to a comprehensive beatdown. October produced four different Michigan State football teams! But its two improbable wins shared one common element: Their victims were coming off a game that was circled on the schedule going all the way back to winter workouts:
|OPPONENT||OSU SCORE||NEXT FBS GAME|
|OREGON STATE||W 77-31||L 35-37 @ NEVADA|
|RUTGERS||W 52-3||L 14-55 @ KANSAS|
|No.15 TEXAS CHRISTIAN||W 40-28||L 16-31 @ TEXAS|
|TULANE||W 49-6||W 40-24 MEMPHIS|
|@ NO.9 PENN STATE||W 27-26||L 17-21 SPARTY|
|INDIANA||W 49-26||L 16-42 IOWA|
|MINNESOTA||W 30-14||L 28-53 NEBRASKA|
|@ PURDUE||L 20-49||L 13-23 @ SPARTY|
|NEBRASKA||W 36-31||W 54-35 ILLINOIS|
|@ No.24 SPARTY||W 26-6||L 6-9 @ NEBRASKA|
|@ MARYLAND||W 52-51 (OT)||L 3-38 @ PENN STATE|
|NO.4 MICHIGAN||W 62-39||L 15-41 vs. FLORIDA|
|vs. NO. 20 NORTHWESTERN||W 45-24||W 30-21 vs. UTAH|
Michigan State was the recipient of two tenderized opponents that month, and it overwhelmed both of them. Teams in Sparty's position went 10-3 against the squads they faced that were coming off dates with the Buckeyes. But enough about the Spartans - wait until you notice where half of Nebraska's good Saturdays came from last season.
The Cornhuskers went 4-8 in Scott Frost's homecoming, but nobody beat Minnesota last season as badly as his team did the week after K.J. Hill packed its entire defense into a garbage can by himself. Sparty became their second victim, and they just happened to meet the week after the Buckeyes left East Lansing.
Nebraska's only other wins in 2018 came against Bethune-Cookman and Illinois, two FCS-level programs. Huh.
A 4-23 record against Ohio State and The Opponent After Ohio State is glaring enough to merit a peek at what 2019 brings to the Buckeye slate. Your favorite football program is entering a newish era with a high degree of continuity under Ryan Day while his hall of fame mentor looms in his shadow as an administrator and possible AD-in-waiting, but the roster is still loaded and their games are still going to be circled by exactly 12 teams.
At first glance, the blast radius from playing the Buckeyes looks better-contained in 2019.
|OPPONENT||OSU||NEXT FBS GAME|
Eleven home games! That's helpful, especially after going winless on the road last season.
Only Sparty has to play in its whites after facing Ohio State, as it attempts to have a slightly less weird October in 2019. To start, FAU leaves Columbus to play a UCF team that's 25-1 in its last 26 games, Miami welcomes Buffalo coming off its best season in school history and Indiana gets the worst FBS program in Bloomington. After that, the usual B1G grind.
The only two-time beneficiary of the Buckeye tenderization hypothesis, should it carry over into this season, is Iowa - which gets an @Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, @Northwestern, @Wisconsin stretch in the heart of its schedule.
So if anyone is hoping to benefit from another scarlet wave of destruction, it's the Hawkeyes, who would not play the Buckeyes unless they met in Indianapolis. Nobody had a weirder October than Michigan State last season, but if the trend from 2018 extends another season - the weirdest month of B1G play might end up being December.