Dantonio on BCS title: 'Why not us?'
“Why not us?”
That is indeed the question following Mark Dantonio’s weekly press conference with the media yesterday afternoon.
With only a few days before the No. 10 Spartans (11-1 overall, 8-0 Big Ten) travel to Indianapolis for a date with No. 2 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) in the Big Ten Championship Game, the MSU head coach briefly entertained a scenario that would send the Spartans to Pasadena — not for the Rose Bowl, but for the BCS National Championship Game.
And although the scenario is unlikely, as there are multiple hurdles in the way before it could even begin to come into play, Dantonio felt the question needed to be asked: “Why not us?”
“Anybody can rise up and beat somebody else. That balls bounces a lot of different ways,” Dantonio said. “The fact of the matter is we’re 11?1 right now, we’re competing in a championship environment, and we’ll move from there. So don’t limit yourself. Dream big. That’s what I tell our football team.”
High stakes abound, the Big Ten Championship Game kicks off Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (8:17 p.m., FOX).
The Spartans are one of six teams in the top 10 with a single loss, while there are two teams — Stanford and South Carolina — ahead of MSU with only two losses. If the Spartans are able to defeat the No. 2 Buckeyes, Dantonio said it’s possible the Spartans could “probably be No. 4 or 5” and be in the discussion to play for a championship.
“Why not us?” Well, there are a few reasons.
With No. 1 Florida State playing No. 20 Duke in the ACC Championship Game, a win guarantees the Seminoles a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Meanwhile, if MSU beats Ohio State while No. 3 Auburn beats No. 5 Missouri in the SEC Championship Game, it’s likely Auburn will get a title shot — especially after dethroning former No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl this past weekend.
If Missouri defeats Auburn, it’s possible they might move up into the national championship race, while also reopening the door for the Crimson Tide to be considered to defend their title.
Of course, if Ohio State defeats MSU, any other scenario won’t matter.
Perhaps Dantonio’s comment was on the issue of campaigning for a BCS bowl, knowing members of the national media were in the room, thus providing him a mouthpiece to reassert that the Spartans have lofty goals toward the end of a special season.
Whatever the case, senior linebacker Max Bullough said Dantonio’s attitude trickles down into the locker room, providing a distinctive confidence to push forward into the postseason.
“When you talk about swagger, to me swagger and confidence go hand in hand, and … that’s how we feel internally because of Coach D — because he’s brought players that are like that in here,” Bullough said, providing a press conference that drew praise for its genuine enthusiasm. “He’s instilled that in us every single day in team meetings. I’m very similar to Coach D in that aspect.
“Every time he comes up here and says something like that, it gives me chills.”
Senior tackle Fou Fonoti, dressed in a pair of festive reindeer pajama pants, told the media Tuesday that he’s aware of Dantonio’s comment, but knows the task at hand involves Ohio State, while all other scenarios — even ones that catapult the Spartans to a title shot — will work themselves out after that.
“That’s definitely something that I know many have thought about, and Coach D always talked about — we worked hard enough to be in the position we are today if things come out,” Fonoti said. “All I know is, we’ve got ourselves believing in the team and making our own work.
“Definitely excited about that, so just wait until Saturday.”