By Ashley Dunkak
EAST LANSING (CBS DETROIT) – All year long, the Michigan State Spartans aimed to win the Big Ten and win the Rose Bowl. At 11-1 after the regular season, head coach Mark Dantonio believes even more is possible.
If No. 10 Michigan State can slay No. 2 Ohio State in the league championship game Saturday, Dantonio wants the Spartans in the national title conversation.
“If we’re 12-1 at the end of the week, why not us?” Dantonio said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. ” That’s all I’ll say. We’ll probably be number four or five. Why not us? So we’ll let that stand at that point.”
It would undoubtedly take a few dominoes falling around the nation before the Spartans would get serious consideration, but then again, upsets happen all the time.
“Last week you saw a lot of scenarios take place,” Dantonio said. “There are no givens in college football. I don’t believe in that. There are no givens. So anybody can rise up and beat somebody else. That ball bounces a lot of different ways, so fact of the matter is we’re 11-1 right now, we’re competing in a championship environment and we’ll go from there.
“So don’t limit yourself,” Dantonio added. “Dream big.”
The Spartans are 8-0 in Big Ten play, the same as the Buckeyes, who have won 24 straight games. Michigan State has defeated all its league opponents by double digits, and its defense is among the best in the country.
Defeating Ohio State would leave just one unbeaten team in the country, Florida State, and seemingly open up the other spot in the national title game for another one-loss team – a category that includes the Spartans.
Linebacker Max Bullough said Michigan State deserves that opportunity if indeed it can pull off the upset this weekend.
“We come out and win this Saturday, then why not? Why not talk about it?” Bullough said. “What have we not done that takes us out of the argument? We’ve won just as many games.
“We play in the Big Ten Conference – let’s not forget that,” Bullough added. “You talk about the SEC, ACC, whatever you want. We play in the Big Ten Conference with elite football players that go to the NFL every year, some of the best coaches in the country. We play some of the best offenses in the country – we just make them look bad sometimes so you may not think they’re that great. That’s the reality behind it.”
To the rest of the country, though, Michigan State looks like a long shot at best. That does not matter to the Spartans.
“I love being the underdog,” cornerback Darqueze Dennard said. “Count me out – It’ll just make me play even harder.
“We’re going to see who’s the best team,” he added.
On the line is a Rose Bowl berth – and maybe, just maybe, a whole lot more.