Right now, the math is pretty simple for both Rutgers and Michigan State.
Each team is 4-5 going into a noon kickoff on Saturday at Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., so the Scarlet Knights and Spartans know it will take two wins in their last three games to gain bowl eligibility.
The loser on Saturday will have to win its last two games to become bowl-eligible, so the incentive will be great for each squad despite their place at or near the bottom of the Big Ten East standings.
Host Michigan State is coming off its best performance of the year, where it earned a 23-15 win at then-No. 16 Illinois.
It was a resilient performance given the Spartans suspended eight players following a fight in the tunnel after a 29-7 loss to Michigan the week before and had to rely on more youngsters than desired to fill key roles.
The win gave a jolt to a Michigan State team that had lost five of six games following a 2-0 start, but Spartans coach Mel Tucker wasn’t in the mood to talk about bowl eligibility on Monday.
“We don’t need to talk about winning out and bowl eligibility and things like that,” Tucker said. “We need to focus on what it takes to prepare to be in a position to win games.”
On the other side, Rutgers comes in reeling following a 52-17 home loss to Michigan, a game that saw the Scarlet Knights outscored 38-0 in the second half after leading 17-14 at halftime.
Rutgers started off the year 3-0 but has since lost five of six games.
But Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said after the Michigan game that he sees progress.
“We couldn’t have done what we did in the first half back in September,” Schiano said. “We’ve definitely gotten better. Just not good enough to beat that team. But we’re getting better. There’s no doubt about that.”
Rutgers will continue to start Gavin Wimsatt at quarterback after he went 14 of 29 for 166 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions against Michigan. He has a 43.5 percent completion rate this season with two touchdowns and six picks.
The Spartans are led by Payton Thorne, who has completed 64.4 percent of his throws for 1,896 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Michigan State won last year’s meeting at Rutgers, 31-13.
–Field Level Media