The Michigan State Spartans (2-3) took down the No. 8 Northwestern Wildcats (5-1) in Big Ten action Saturday in East Lansing. Here are our takeaways from the Spartans’ victory:

Michigan State’s defense clamped down for a big upset victory

Michigan State  — a 13.5-point underdog — completely shut down the Northwestern running game, limiting the Wildcats to 63 yards on 37 carries (1.7 AVG). Northwestern’s longest run was eight yards. The Spartans, on the other hand, ran for 195 yards on 47 carries (4.1 AVG).

The Wildcats’ passing game wasn’t much better, with Peyton Ramsey completing 21-of-43 passes for 210 yards (4.9 AVG), zero touchdowns, and two interceptions.

The final play of the game summarized how it went for the Northwestern offense and Michigan State defense in this one:

But this is a huge win for the Spartans, and especially for Mel Tucker in his first year as Michigan State head coach. The Spartans entered this game 1-3, and were outscored in their previous two games — at Iowa and vs Indiana — by a combined score of 73-7.

The Spartans actually led 17-0

Not only did the Spartans pull off the upset, but it also appeared that they may win in blowout fashion. In the second quarter, Michigan State took a 17-0 lead.

Well, Northwestern proceeded to go on a 20-0 run, taking a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter.

But the Spartans came back to tie the game and take the lead on a pair of Matt Coghlin field goals. His go-ahead kick was a 48-yarder with 3:35 remaining.

A massive blow to Northwestern’s CFP chances

Entering this game, ESPN’s Playoff Predictor gave Northwestern an 81% chance to reach the College Football Playoff if they were to win out. But a loss to a Michigan State team that entered with a 1-3 record is quite bad for the résumé, and especially with so little room for error in this tiny season. Northwestern surely had to win out- or at least only lose to a team like Ohio State in the Big Ten title game (the Wildcats are still in first place in the Big Ten West, at least).

And Northwestern’s next scheduled game may not even happen, due to a huge COVID-19 outbreak out at Minnesota.

About Matt Clapp

Matt is an editor at The Comeback. He attended Colorado State University, wishes he was Saved by the Bell's Zack Morris, and idolizes Larry David. And loves pizza and dogs because obviously.

He can be followed on Twitter at @Matt2Clapp (also @TheBlogfines for Cubs/MLB tweets and @DaBearNecess for Bears/NFL tweets), and can be reached by email at