For Le’Veon Bell, there is no doubt.
The Spartans will make a bowl game, and he won’t be convinced otherwise.
As the MSU football team (5-5 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) prepares for its home finale against Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) on Saturday (noon, ESPN2), it will look to extend its bowl streak to six consecutive seasons.
The Spartans have made a bowl game in each of head coach Mark Dantonio’s previous five seasons and will need to win one of the team’s final two regular-season games to become bowl-eligible.
“We’ll go to a bowl game. We’ll go to a bowl game,” Bell said emphatically.
“We just want to finish out the season the right way. We want to execute, we want to play hard (and) we’ve just got to do what we planned to do at the beginning of the season, which is go out and win games.
“We were a young team at the beginning of the season. These guys got a lot of reps under their belt now, so guys are ready, and these past couple weeks have been really good weeks, especially for the wideouts because they’ve been young out there. (Junior quarterback Andrew) Maxwell has grown over the season, and guys are getting better, so we’re getting better as a team and we’re going to keep moving forward.”
Maxwell said it’s important for the team to get the bowl eligibility-clinching victory Saturday and avoid putting it off to the season’s final week because of the immense benefits the entire community experiences with a bowl.
“It’s very important. … We’d like to get our sixth win this week and not have to make next week essentially a playoff game for us,” Maxwell said.
“I think everybody that’s been to a bowl game can tell you how good of an experience it is, not only for the team, but for the whole program and for the university and for everybody that gets to be a part of that trip, it’s an awesome experience. It’s something that I’ve really enjoyed in my time, and for the people who haven’t experienced it, obviously we want them to be able to.”
The key to nabbing that final win will be the Spartans’ continued effort, which Dantonio said he’s been proud of, especially considering this season’s close losses and significant adversity.
“I see a football team that plays extremely hard, that gets ready to play every week, that comes with a great motor, and it’s one play away in a number of games,” Dantonio said.
“(I’m) very proud of the way our players handled things because a lot of people would not be able to sustain after a Michigan game and play the way we did at Wisconsin and win in the end. A lot of people wouldn’t be able to sustain the following week after an emotional victory or the letdown going into the Iowa week. So we’ve come out ready to play every week, and that is the trademark of what we’ve been able to accomplish here, and we want to continue to be able to do that.”
It’s that relentlessness that Dantonio hopes will help his team get over the top in the season’s final stretch.
“We’ve got two weeks left that are guaranteed for us,” he said.
“We need to make the best of those and come out of here 7-5 and go into a bowl game and have that feel-good feeling about this football team.”