Bill Marklevits

 

Mark Dantonio's promise and dream of a Big Ten Title came true.  Photo courtesy of author.
Mark Dantonio's promise and dream of a Big Ten Title came true. Photo courtesy of author.

East Lansing - Last August when the Michigan State football team assembled for fall camp coach Mark Dantonio told the team the goal is to become Big Ten champions. Dantonio huddled the team as coaches do and shouted “WE WILL BE CHAMPIONS” and on two the players all put their hands together and yelled back “WE WILL BE CHAMPIONS”.  Almost four months later after a magical 11-1 regular season Dantonio said “time stood still” for him when he faced his team in the locker room at Penn State and told them “WE ARE BIG TEN  CHAMPS”.  For Dantonio who had to overcome his own health issues this season telling his team that they had accomplished their hard earned goal  was a moment of extreme content that he and his team will remember for the rest of their lives.  

Becoming Big Ten champions was a goal that Dantonio and the Spartans had some direct control over.  Unfortunately their bowl fate is now totally in the hands of outsiders.  Under previous Big Ten Conference tie breaker procedures Michigan State would be this years Big Ten representative to the Rose Bowl.  MSU would have gone due to their head to head victory over Wisconsin, and passed by Ohio State who has no victories over either the Badgers or MSU. Another test formerly used would also have favored MSU who has the longer drought of not having played in a Rose Bowl game.   At their annual spring meeting the Big Ten football coaches voted 10 – 1 to change the tie breaker procedure adopting BCS rankings as the method of determining the Rose Bowl representative in the case of a three way tie. The one coach who voted against the change was Mark Dantonio.

 

Dantonio said “important decisions should stay within the family” and “I didn’t want the selection of the Rose Bowl representative taken away from the Big Ten and put in the hands of outsiders.”

Michigan State has valid arguments why they should be a BCS bowl team. They have the convincing 34 – 24 victory over Wisconsin, they have the best record against bowl eligible teams, and they played the toughest schedule of the three teams. Dantonio also made point that “We came the farthest!”, Ohio State and Wisconsin were pre-season Big Ten favorites and ranked in the top ten while MSU was picked #7 pre-season in the Big Ten and not ranked in the top 25.  

Working against MSU in the minds of pollsters is the timing of Wisconsin’s victory over then #1 ranked Ohio State being two weeks after their victory over the Badgers and the loss to Iowa on October 30 being the latest of the three team’s losses.  With the Big Ten tiebreaker rule that only Dantonio voted against in place, and the Big Ten season concluded, Wisconsin by virtue of their higher BCS ranking will be the conference Rose Bowl representative.  For the remaining possible Big Ten BCS at large berth Michigan State is in a beauty contest with Ohio State.  The Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta bowls do not have to go by BCS rankings after the first four BCS ranked teams are slotted.  

Today Mark Dantonio made his appeal “Why not Michigan State?”  You can be sure that Mark Hollis is working behind the scenes communicating with the BCS bowls and doing what he can to promote Michigan State as a worthy and attractive bowl candidate.  Both Dantonio and Hollis well know that at this point in time MSU football cannot win a beauty contest against Ohio State.  Jim Tressel has the Buckeyes riding an unprecedented era of Big Ten football dominance.  Ohio State has won a share of the Big Ten football title for six straight seasons and the Buckeyes have played in more (8) BCS bowl games than any team in the country.

Dantonio who mentioned that Ohio State leads the Big Ten in most statistical categories this season, well knows from his days as Jim Tressel’s defensive coordinator the fan base, marketing clout and tradition of Ohio State football. Dantonio who loves the history of his game is making his appeal of “Why not MSU”, not so much for this year but for the future.   College football polls have always been subjective and MSU is a new comer to BCS discussions.   Dantonio knows he is bringing in quality recruits and will have MSU positioned for future football glory.  The 2010 Big Ten champion Spartans led by senior two time All-American LB Greg Jones, and junior QB Kirk Cousins have put MSU on the map of big time college football and he will do everything in his power to make sure that is recognized.

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