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MICHIGAN STATE 16, IOWA 13: AS TOUGH AS IT GETS

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Iowa's Big Ten Championship dreams falter in the closing seconds.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It was every bit as epic as you'd have asked for. Two leviathan forces in opposition, never a decisive edge, 60 minutes of struggle. Of course it came down to the goal line. Of course it did.

In the end, it took a superhuman effort from LJ Scott to reach the ball across the plane, Iowa forcing the Spartans to run 22 plays before finally finding the end zone. Bless those boys on defense; their clips were empty by the end of that drive.

The worst fear was that Iowa would be outclassed, "exposed" as weirdo pundits like to say, and that simply didn't happen. These teams were equals, and Michigan State's linemen proved to be just better enough to turn the tide in the second half. Shilique Calhoun is going to be a very rich man in the NFL.

But man, the defense held Connor Cook to a 93.9 QB efficiency rating. It held MSU to under four yards per carry. It held Sparty out of the end zone for 59 minutes. And when Tevaun Smith broke free for that touchdown to give Iowa the lead, you had to believe, right? You had to.

It's a time for commiseration, but you've got to be so proud of these guys. It's been an amazing season. And if you're going to lose, if you must, that's the way to do it: fighting until the end, tough as god-damned nails. Iowa wasn't punching above its weight; this is its weight.

And hopefully C.J. Beathard and the rest of the guys watched that celebration ceremony and imagined themselves on that stage in 2016. The road starts here.

Go Iowa Awesome.