EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) - A spot in the Big Ten championship game. A possible trip to the Rose Bowl.
It's all in sight for No. 13 Michigan State, as long as the Spartans don't stumble down the stretch.
Michigan State is one win from its second Big Ten title game in three seasons and two from the best conference record in school history heading into Saturday's matchup at Northwestern. The Spartans (9-1, 6-0 Big Ten) are also eyeing their first trip to the Rose Bowl in 26 years, but they still have some work to do.
"These two weeks are things that you work for really for your entire life," coach Mark Dantonio said. "You work to try and get in this situation where you're 9-1 and you're playing for a division championship, or next weekend you're playing for something else."
What they've been doing is impressive.
They have a school record 38 victories over the past four years and are closing in on their third 11-win season in that span, a first for the program in its 117 years.
Michigan State also leads the Big Ten with 33 conference wins since 2008 with Ohio State vacating seven of its 38 during that stretch and is closing in on the Legends Division title. All the Spartans have to do is win one of the next two games or hope Minnesota loses, with the Golden Gophers visiting next week.
It's a big improvement from last year, when a string of close losses left them with a 7-6 record.
Michigan State already has paid back Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska, and it would love nothing more than to do it to Northwestern and Ohio State in the conference title game - teams it lost to by a combined four points a year ago.
"We definitely went through a tough, tough streak last year," offensive tackle Fou Fonoti said. "But right now, we're just thankful for (the fact that) a lot of times things that didn't go our way last year are definitely playing into our favor."
Then again, they might have some sympathy for Northwestern (4-6, 0-6). After all, there are similarities between what the Wildcats are experiencing this season and what the Spartans went through in 2012.
"I don't know if there's another team in the country that can get socked in the gut the way these guys have and respond the way that they have," coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
Coming off a 10-win season, Northwestern won its first four games and was leading Ohio State by 10 at home before a national audience when the season derailed. They lost that game by 10, got blown out at Wisconsin and absorbed one body blow after another in recent weeks. They fell by three to Minnesota and lost in overtime to Iowa. Then, they lost to Nebraska in regulation on a desperation pass, and if that wasn't enough, there was the Michigan game last week. Northwestern fell 27-19 in triple-OT on a 5-yard run by Devin Gardner after the Wolverines' Brendan Gibbons sprinted onto the field for a tying 44-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
"We've got two games left," quarterback Kain Colter said. "You can't pout now."
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The lowest point of Iowa's disastrous 2012 season came at Michigan, where the Wolverines handed the Hawkeyes their biggest loss in five years. Iowa gets another shot at Michigan on Saturday and a chance to show the rest of the Big Ten how far it's come. The Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) can clinch at least a .500 record in league play and improve their bowl status if they beat Michigan for a third straight time in Iowa City. Michigan (7-3, 3-3) needed a late field goal and three overtimes to beat Northwestern 27-19 last week. The Wolverines rank next to last in the Big Ten in rushing offense and just seventh in scoring defense. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner had six touchdowns in a 42-17 blowout of Iowa last season. Kick off Saturday is at Noon.
DETROIT (AP) - Niklas Kronwall was credited with the tie-breaking goal in the third period, Gustav Nyquist had 2 goals and the Detroit Red Wings broke a seven-game game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. Henrik Zetterberg had two assists and Darren Helm added a goal for Detroit. Jonas Gustavsson made 24 saves. Andrej Sekera scored twice and Brett Bellemore got his first NHL goal for Carolina. Justin Peters stopped 43 shots. Kronwall was credited with the 5-on-3 power-play goal that broke a 2-2 tie 8:29 into the third period when Hurricanes' captain Eric Staal accidentally kicked the puck into his own net. The Red Wings are idle until Saturday when they host the Ottawa Senators at the Joe at 7 p.m.
DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Red Wings have taken a big hit on their blue line. Detroit defenseman Danny DeKeyser is expected to be out for at least three to four weeks with a separated left shoulder. The team doesn't expect him to need surgery. DeKeyser was hurt early in Tuesday night's 2-0 loss to the Nashville Predators when he checked into the boards by Predators forward Patric Hornqvist. DeKeyser ranks among rookie leaders with seven assists and has scored two goals. The Red Wings will host Carolina on Thursday night, hoping to snap a pair of skids. Detroit has gone eight games without a win at home, its longest drought since 1991. The Red Wings haven't won a game anywhere in seven games, their longest stretch since 2002.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) - The Detroit Lions say they've added tight end Dorin Dickerson to their active roster and running back Steven Miller to their practice squad. The team announced the signings Wednesday. Terms weren't disclosed. The Lions say they also placed running back Montell Owens on injured reserve and released tight end Martell Webb from the practice squad. Reggie Bush has become a pivotal player for the Detroit Lions. Bush has scored four times, run for at least 78 yards and averaged almost five receptions in Detroit's five wins. He is scoreless in four losses while being held to 50 or fewer yards rushing and an average of three catches. The speedy running back needs to bounce back Sunday at home against Tampa Bay after perhaps his worst game this year. Bush was replaced by Joique Bell and rookie Theo Riddick in last Sunday's setback on a soggy surface against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bush lost a fumble, ran for just 31 yards on 12 attempts and made a season-low two catches. Lions coach Jim Schwartz says Bush is better on a fast track. The 6-4 Lions entertain the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at Ford Field with kick off at 1 p.m. Pre-game at Noon on 97.7 WTGV-FM.
DETROIT (AP) - A person with knowledge of the deal says the Detroit Tigers and Texas have agreed to a blockbuster trade that would send slugger Prince Fielder to the Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday night because no announcement had been made. Fielder signed a $214 million, nine-year contract with the Tigers before the 2012 season that includes a limited no-trade provision, and the big first baseman was set to approve the deal. Kinsler just finished the first season of a $75 million, five-year contract. The deal was first reported by CBSSports.com.
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Branndais Agee scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as No. 21 Michigan State defeated Detroit 80-41 on Wednesday night. Klarissa Bell added 16 points and Tori Jankoska 12 for the Spartans, and marked the 14th-straight victory over Detroit. The Titans have not defeated Michigan State since 1994 when current coach Autumn Rademacher scored 20 as a Titan sophomore. Elisha Crosby was top scorer for Detroit with 13 points and Senee Shearer added nine. The Titans never led but had tied twice in the early going until Agee and Bell each hit 3-pointers as the Spartans broke away to lead by 20 at halftime. Agee also had three of Michigan State's eight blocked shots, and scored well above her season average of six points per game. The Spartans out-rebounded Detroit 49-31.
ATLANTA (AP) - Paul Millsap, signed in the offseason to replace Josh Smith, had 19 points to steal the spotlight in Smith's return to Atlanta, leading the Hawks to a 93-85 win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. Smith, who signed with Detroit after nine seasons with the Hawks, had 11 points while shooting 5 of 15 from the field. The Hawks pulled away after leading 66-64 through three quarters. Jeff Teague scored 18 points and DeMarre Carroll had 11 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks was ejected with 2:36 remaining after complaining to an official during a timeout. Brandon Jennings led Detroit with 21 points. Rodney Stuckey had 18 before fouling out in the fourth quarter. The Pistons entertain the Hawks at the Palace Friday with tip off at 7:30 p.m.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) - When Matthew Stafford and the Lions left the field at halftime, it looked like there was nothing the Pittsburgh Steelers could do to stop Detroit's offense. That's what made the last two quarters so surprising. After scoring 27 points in the second quarter, the Lions went scoreless the rest of the way in Sunday's 37-27 loss at Pittsburgh. Stafford threw for 327 yards in the first half - and only 35 in the second. Calvin Johnson caught six passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns, but that was all in the first half. The Lions may have some extra help this weekend against Tampa Bay. Receiver Nate Burleson, who has been out since late September after hurting his arm in a car accident, is optimistic about his chances to return.
DETROIT (AP) - The NHL's 2014 Winter Classic is officially sold out. NHL and Detroit Red Wings executives made the announcement Tuesday, saying some single tickets are available. The Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs are expected play in front of 107,000-plus people on New Year's Day at Michigan Stadium. In the same football stadium, Michigan and Michigan State set a hockey attendance of 104,173 in 2010.