Saturday night, Michigan State won a Big Ten championship. Sunday, the Spartans learned where and who they will play in the College Football Playoff.
Michigan State earned the No. 3 seed in the sport's final four Sunday when the field was announced. The Spartans will face No. 2 seed Alabama and former head coach Nick Saban in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Eve. The Spartans played in and won the Cotton Bowl last season.
No. 1 Clemson will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl in the other national semifinal.
Michigan State jumped up from the No. 5 seed in last week's College Football Playoff rankings after defeating No. 4 Iowa in Saturday night's Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Behind a terrific defensive effort and an incredible nine-minute touchdown drive to take the lead with 27 seconds remaining, the Spartans did enough to impress the committee and jump to the No. 3 spot.
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The Spartans' season looked doomed after an upset loss to Nebraska on Nov. 7. But Michigan State pulled off the biggest win of its regular season two weeks later, going into Columbus without quarterback Connor Cook and knocking off Ohio State with a walk-off field goal. Then came a pounding of Penn State to close the regular season, followed by a win over previously undefeated Iowa on Saturday night.
Michigan State finished with four superb wins over highly ranked opponents, beating Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa.
For the second straight season, the Big Ten champion is into the field of four, Michigan State following Ohio State from last season, when the Buckeyes went on to win the national championship.
And for the second straight season, the Big Ten champion gets Alabama in a national semifinal. The Buckeyes knocked off the Tide in last season's Sugar Bowl.