STATE COLLEGE — Michigan State-Penn State is about so much more than the Land Grant Trophy this year, at least for the Spartans.
A win would give No. 11 Michigan State (10-1, 6-1) a chance to claim at least a share of the school's first Big Ten title since 1990 and stay in contention for the conference's Rose Bowl berth.
Jockeying for bowl position atop the Big Ten with fellow one-loss teams Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Spartans' bowl scenarios range from a trip to Pasadena to another New Year's Day game — albeit a less prestigious, non-BCS contest — in Florida.
The BCS standings could factor in. Entering the weekend, Michigan State was 10th in those ratings, behind seventh-ranked Wisconsin and eighth-ranked Ohio State.
"We have plenty to be focused about just because of the Big Ten championship," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "We really do not care about the whole bowl situation because it's out of our hands."
It's a role reversal of sorts this weekend in Happy Valley.
Typically, coach Joe Paterno's crew is in the hunt for a Big Ten title or trying to make a statement to nail a BCS berth. But the Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3) were knocked out of contention weeks ago following a .500 start. They're 4-1 since then, and there's hope that a victory could boost the confidence of an injury-ravaged team that starts just eight seniors.
And a win is anything but automatic for the Spartans at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State has won eight straight at home against Michigan State, with the Spartans' last victory there coming in 1965 — the year before Paterno took over as head coach.
Paterno, though, says Spartans coach Mark D'Antonio's team has come a long way in his fourth season in East Lansing.