EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Connor Cook and Michigan State rolled into the Big Ten title game with their most emphatic win of the season.
Cook threw three touchdown passes in his return from a shoulder injury, and the sixth-ranked Spartans wrapped up a division title with a 55-16 rout of Penn State on Saturday. Michigan State will play unbeaten Iowa for the conference title next weekend, with the winner in good position to advance to college football’s playoff.
Michigan State (11-1, 7-1) is No. 5 in the selection committee’s ranking.
The Spartans finished tied atop the Big Ten East with Ohio State, and Michigan State upset the Buckeyes last weekend with Cook on the sideline. The senior came back Saturday and was brilliant against Penn State (7-5, 4-4). Cook went 19 of 26 for 248 yards.
Michigan State will play in the Big Ten title game for the third time in five seasons. The Spartans kept the Land-Grant Trophy with their most lopsided win in a series with Penn State that started in 1914. The final touchdown came on a 9-yard run by Michigan State center Jack Allen, who lined up in the backfield, took a handoff from Cook and capped his last home game in memorable fashion.
Ohio State, which easily beat Michigan earlier Saturday, was holding out hope that Penn State would spoil the regular season finale in East Lansing, but the Nittany Lions didn’t come close.
Penn State moved the ball well in the first half but two turnovers earned Michigan State a comfortable lead. Arjen Colquhoun intercepted a pass in the end zone on the game’s first drive, and the Spartans turned that takeaway into a touchdown when Cook threw a 29-yard pass to R.J. Shelton.
The extra point was no good, and Penn State kicked a short field goal early in the second quarter, but Michigan State went ahead 13-3 on a 6-yard touchdown run by Gerald Holmes. Then Demetrious Cox of the Spartans picked up a fumble and returned it 77 yards for another TD.
It was 20-10 at halftime, and the Spartans scored the only two touchdowns of the third quarter. Cook threw a 29-yard scoring pass to Aaron Burbridge to make it 27-10. Burbridge came back in from out of bounds, but officials ruled he was forced out. He caught the pass around the 10, bounced off one defender and spun past another before diving into the end zone.
It was 41-16 in the fourth when Malik McDowell intercepted a pass that had bounced off fellow defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun. McDowell ran it back 13 yards for a TD.
After a Penn State fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave the Spartans the ball at the 9, Cook took the field and started motioning for the crowd to get louder. He handed off to Allen and the Nittany Lions couldn’t stop the 296-pound lineman as he rumbled to the end zone.