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Michigan State's Payton Thorne: 'We don't get a ton of respect' from Big Ten voters

The Spartans have that chip on their shoulder again in 2022...

When Mark Dantonio built Michigan State into a power in the Big Ten Conference in the 2010s, he did so by recruiting players that were overlooked by traditional powers like Ohio State and Michigan and playing upon the 'chip on your shoulder' mentality that those players naturally had.

The result spoke for itself — the Spartans won or shared three Big Ten championships over a six-year stretch, after having not won or shared a single league title in 20 years.

Current head coach Mel Tucker has brought a lot of new ideas and philosophies to East Lansing, but sprinklings of the Dantonio formula can still be seen or heard when observing the Spartans.

Coming off an 11-2 season in which Michigan State was the only Big Ten team to defeat the conference champion, the Spartans are projected to finish fourth in their own division in 2022. Cleveland.com's annual preseason Big Ten football poll projects Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State to finish ahead of MSU.

Tucker was sure to inform his Spartans of that projection when fall camp got underway last week.

“The guys know that we were picked to finish fourth in the East, because I showed them the graphic," Tucker said. "They know that. But we just have to work, you know? Work to get better and just focus on the process and then the outcome will take care of itself.”

Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne said he saw the Spartans' projection even before Tucker brought it up in a team meeting. The redshirt junior signal-caller then sarcastically pointed out how wrong projections of MSU were in 2021.

“A year ago, I don’t know who it was, but somebody projected us to be one of the five worst teams in the country," Thorne said, before the sarcasm kicked in. "So, that obviously panned out really well. That was correct.”

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It's true, Michigan State's projected win total heading into the 2021 season was 4.5 wins. Given that recent history, the Spartans aren't too concerned about the fact that their 2022 expected win total is set at 7.5 wins.

“It’s all talk preseason," Thorne said. "People are all over the place. I’ve seen teams my whole life who are consistently ranked in the Top 10 and then consistently finish the season unranked.”

While Thorne brushed off preseason polls, projections and rankings, that doesn't mean that the Spartans aren't motivated by them.

“People say, ‘Oh, you love to be the underdog’ and this and that," Thorne said. "That’s all fun and good, but at some point you want to get to the point where it’s, ‘No, we are projected up here every year’. So, that’s where we’re trying to get to.”

That 'chip on the shoulder' mentality, a cornerstone of the program that Dantonio built, is alive and well in East Lansing.

“It’s a ‘prove it’ every day proposition for us," Tucker said. "It’s not about talking about what we’re going to do, we just need to actually do it and focus on the process, day in and day out, and just kind of block out the noise on the outside.”

The head coach and the quarterback are on the same page.

“We do have a chip on our shoulder, we have something to prove, and we feel that every year," Thorne said. "It’s Michigan State. We don’t get a ton of respect. That’s how it is, that’s how it’s been. And so, we’ve got a chip on our shoulder and we’re excited to go out there and show the country what we’ve got.”