The timing of Michigan State’s showdown with Ohio State was pretty ironic.
As of this writing, the Spartans just beat the Buckeyes on a walk-off field goal – winning what’s become the de facto Big Ten title game the last few seasons.
The teams have now alternated their head-to-head meetings the last five seasons, with Michigan State taking the odd years (2011, 2013, 2015) and Ohio State winning the even ones (2012, 2014).
With the teams meeting again Saturday in a massive Top-10 matchup, Big Ten Network has been airing replays of their recent games over the past week.
I caught a bit of the 2014 replay, and the first thing to stick out was Michigan State’s star running back, Jeremy Langford.
A little over a year later, Langford has broken out with the Bears – putting up big numbers on national TV against the Chargers two weeks ago before terrorizing the Rams last Sunday.
It’s only been two starts, but it certainly looks like the Bears got a steal snagging Langford early in the 4th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Especially considering three of the eight running backs taken ahead of Langford – Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah and Tevin Coleman – were his counterparts in the Big Ten.
Gordon’s nearly 2,800 all-purpose yards and 29 touchdowns were good enough to make him a Heisman finalist, and Coleman/Abdullah got plenty of recognition for also breaking 2,000 all-purpose yards on the year.
Only Langford and Abdullah (22 total touchdowns) approached Gordon’s ridiculous mark of 32 – but they both did it on 75 less offensive touches.
Now, after eleven weeks of the NFL season, Langford has twice as many touchdowns (6) as Abdullah, Coleman and Gordon combined (3). The first-rounder Gordon leads Langford in total yards (531 to 435) – but he’s received nearly double the touches as the Chargers’ primary starter.
Langford, only given his opportunity due to a Matt Forte injury, has already made the case to be the long-term replacement in Chicago for Forte – who will likely move on in free agency this offseason.
Similar to his time at Michigan State, when top draft prospect Connor Cook got most of the attention at quarterback, Langford flew under the radar in the NFL Draft last April. And after being new Bears GM Ryan Pace’s fourth draft selection, Langford wasn’t necessarily viewed as a rookie who would instantly make an impact for John Fox and Adam Gase.
But with the Bears still alive for a playoff spot – primarily thanks to Langford stepping up in Forte’s absence – the former Michigan State star is looking like he might be the most talented guy in Pace’s initial draft class.
And coinciding with a massive victory from his alma mater, the timing couldn’t be better for Jeremy Langford to receive his due as the best rookie running back from the Big Ten.