Mark Dantonio Dismisses Michigan ‘Threat,’ Michigan State Remains Under Radar


Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is not shy about voicing his opinion, especially when it pertains to in-state rival Michigan. He succinctly, yet forcefully described the match-up after Sparty’s win last October.

Perhaps times have changed. Four straight wins speak volumes, as do consecutive appearances in the Capital One and Outback Bowls. But perhaps the message isn’t loud enough. Michigan won 11 games, the same number as MSU has reeled off in each of the past two campaigns. The Wolverines have considerable BCS buzz building for 2012. The Spartans don’t. Brady Hoke’s staff is praised for its ambition on the recruiting trail presently. Dantonio’s staff is barely registering a blip on the national radar.

Can you blame the MSU head coach for sounding off on UM once again? In an interview with reporter Brian Bennett, Dantonio asked simply “where’s the threat?”

Until the Wolverines defeat the Spartans, Dantonio has the right to run some smack. Ric Flair said it best: “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.”

More than bragging rights though, Dantonio is drawing much needed attention to the program. Despite its success, there remains perceptions that Michigan is the Football School; Michigan State is the Basketball School. MSU sees UM as a rival; Michigan’s rivals are Notre Dame and Ohio State. Eleven wins gets UM consideration as a preseason BCS and/or Rose Bowl frontrunner; 11 wins earns MSU an afterthought, if it’s lucky.

Losing B.J. Cunningham to the NFL Draft certainly stings the offense, as does Kirk Cousins’ graduation. Cunningham’s loss should resonate more, since he was the program’s career receiving leader. While astute, Cousins never produced jaw-dropping numbers. He was the consummate game manager though, a role that Andrew Maxwell (or Connor Cook) must duplicate.

But controlling the flow of the game is a much less demanding requirement of a quarterback than changing that. MSU is a ball control team, reliant on stout defense with an ability to methodically wear down its foes. Such was the strategy when MSU knocked off UM last season.

Stifling opponents with the No. 10 scoring defense in college football and hammering away with powerful Le’Veon Bell isn’t sexy. Even in the three-yards-in-a-cloud-of-dust Big Ten, Sparty is vanilla. If tooting its horn is Dantonio’s way of helping his program stand out, so be it.