STATE COLLEGE , Pa. — It’s funny how college football can work sometimes. Expectations change, for the good and bad. Depending on who you talk to, on Saturday Michigan State went from a candidate for the Little Caesars Bowl to a Big Ten East contender.
“It shows a collective effort,” said senior captain Khari Wills. “This demonstrates the heart and character of our football team.”
MSU’s collective effort saw an improvement from their offensive line and secondary in State College, something that was not been seen in the past three weeks.
The Spartans rushed the ball for 146 yards and the interior of the offensive line looked to get a push for the first time this season. La’Darius Jefferson in the fourth quarter broke a 27-yard run, one of the longest runs from an MSU running back this season.
“We needed to simplify a little bit, and spread people out,” said head coach Mark Dantonio when asked about the run game against the Nittany Lions.
This is Dantonio’s 10th win against an AP top-10 team. Dantonio and his coaching staff showed again that they’re able to get the most out of their players in these big games.
“He’s a champion. He’s got championship DNA. We [have]to back him up.” said Willis.
After an emotional victory, it brings a certain confidence and swag around the Spartans that wasn’t there the first six weeks of the season. Dantonio slammed his fist on the table during his press conference showing the chip is back on the MSU’s shoulders.
Does that chip on the shoulder mean this Spartan team is a contender in the Big Ten East? There’s a chance, which is something nobody thought was possible after the slow death that was Northwestern.
After an embarrassing loss to a 1-3 Northwestern team it was hard to see a path for this Spartan team to get to Indianapolis, but after Saturday’s shocking outcome there’s a path for the Spartans to win the Big Ten East.
Michigan State gets Michigan and Ohio State in Spartan Stadium, the two toughest tests the Spartans are set to face the rest of the season. The Spartans may not have the talent that the Wolverines and Buckeyes do, but MSU didn’t have the talent in 2015 when they made the College Football Playoff but they had the chip.
That chip on the Spartans’ shoulder has proven time after time to be the most dangerous weapon in Dantonio’s repertoire. That’s the only logical reason to believe in these Spartans moving forward, because when this program has little expectations they succeed, plain and simple.
It makes little sense, MSU had plenty of reasons to lay down against PSU. The Spartans came in unranked and have no chance of making the College Football Playoff, and injuries all over the place, but for some reason, they had the mental edge in Happy Valley.
But Mark Dantonio’s success doesn’t make any sense, Michigan State was a doormat to programs like Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State for decades, but now the Spartans ruin these teams’ seasons. It’s easy to say the players have the chip back on the shoulder, but the biggest chip lies on Dantonio’s.
Nothing schematically points to the Spartans going 10-2, but with that chip on their shoulders, nothing is out of the question.