1) Welcome to the playoffs. Officially, the College Football Playoff begins on New Year's Eve with the semifinal games in the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl. Officially, the College Football Playoff teams will be announced on Sunday. Unofficially? This is a College Football Playoff quarterfinal game. The winner of this game is all but certain to be a lock for the College Football Playoff field when it's unveiled on Sunday, likely as the #4 seed. So that creates a situation for Iowa and Michigan State: want to have a shot to contend for a national championship? Win tomorrow night. The Playoff starts now.
2) This is the biggest game in Iowa history since _____? The 2010 Orange Bowl was a big game because it was a major bowl game and Iowa hadn't won a game of that caliber since 1958. But the stakes were really just for the right to be called "Iowa Hawkeyes, Orange Bowl champions." The 2009 Ohio State game was for a Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl -- pretty big stakes there. But the stakes here are even bigger -- an undisputed Big Ten championship, a spot in the College Football Playoff semifinals, and a chance to contend for a national championship. Iowa hasn't truly had a chance to contend for a national title since the Evashevkski teams in the 1950s. Even the hallowed 1985 team didn't really have a great chance to win a national title heading into the Rose Bowl that year.
3) Chips, meet shoulders. It's not often a team can go 12-0 in a Power 5 conference and be an underdog... but here we are. Experts far and wide are picking the Spartans to win tonight. And, sure, we get it -- Michigan State is a good team, they played a tougher schedule than Iowa, and they have some good wins on their resume. But still: it's more fuel on the fire for a team that's thrived all year on being counted out, disrespected, and told what they "couldn't" do. Not many undefeated teams get to play the "no one believed in us" card... but Iowa can. Go Hawks. Prove the world wrong -- just like you have all year long.
WHO: #5 Michigan State Spartans (11-1, 7-1 B1G)
WHEN: 7:17 PM Central; Saturday, December 5, 2015
WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis, IN
ONLINE: via Fox Sports Go (TV) and Tunein Radio (audio-only)
MOBILE: via Fox Sports Go (iOS and Android)
RADIO: via Hawkeye Radio Network, KRUI (89.7 FM), Sirius channel 135, XM channel 195
TV COMMENTATORS: Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt
ODDS: Michigan State -3.5