College Football Playoff preview from a Michigan State perspective

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Nov 8, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) is tackled by Michigan State Spartans safety RJ Williamson (26) during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten Conference

From a Spartan perspective, practically every game in the Big Ten season is important. Michigan State fans want Big Ten teams to win out of conference games to amplify the reputation of the conference.

Related: MSU Football: 5 reasons the Spartans will win it all

The stronger the perception of the conference, the better it is for MSU when the College Football Playoff committee is evaluating its resume. Once conference play starts it will be important to win every game and for the East Division to have a well-respected team to beat up on in the Big Ten Championship game.

Nov 29, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Corey Clement (6) during the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Number of institutions: 14

Conference reputation: Fair. Ohio State gave the conference a big boost by winning it all last year and Michigan State’s consistency over the last several years help to legitimize the conference as a whole.

Unfortunately, the conference is seen as a two-team league. While there is a slim chance for the Big Ten to get two teams into the CFP, the perceived lack of strength of the rest of the conference would count strongly against the second team.

Division format: East vs. West

Championship format: Championship game between division winners

Defending champ: Ohio State — made CFP and won national title last year

AP Top 25 teams: Ohio State (1), Michigan State (5), Wisconsin (20)

Key non-conference matchups: Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech (Sept. 7), TCU vs. Minnesota (Sept. 3), Alabama vs. Wisconsin (Sept. 5), Michigan State vs. Oregon (Sept. 12)

Key conference matchups: Wisconsin at Nebraska (Oct. 10), Michigan State at Michigan (Oct. 17), Michigan State at Nebraska (Nov. 7), Minnesota at Ohio State (Nov. 7), Michigan State at Ohio State (Nov. 21), Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 27), Wisconsin at Minnesota (Nov. 27)

Eight players to watch: J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State), Connor Cook (Michigan State), Joey Bosa (Ohio State), Christian Hackenberg (Penn State), Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State), Tommy Armstrong Jr. (Nebraska), Corey Clement (Wisconsin)

Projected winner: Ohio State followed by Michigan State

Michigan State fans will need to keep an eye on what’s happening around the country as the playoff picture starts to clear itself up and Spartan Avenue will be sure to point you in the right direction.

Next: Big Ten Football Power Rankings: Preseason edition