MSU Facing Off with Penn State for Shot at Big Ten Championship


EAST LANSING – This Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans could shock the world, win the Big Ten East and move onto Indianapolis to play the already waiting Big Ten West champ, Iowa Hawkeyes.

However – this is exactly where head coach Mark Dantonio and his football team expected to be.

I think you’ve got to play until the last play of the game,” Dantonio said. “We’ve played certainly for that play this last week. We just keep playing. The game is not ever over until it’s done.”

Dantonio continued, “We find ways to win. I think it speaks to the foundation of the program. We know how to win. We understand how to win. Now you have to do that, but we do understand what it takes to win. We understand how to play until the end of the game.”

The top of the mountain is in sight. Now, the No. 5 Spartans must finish what they have started.

They beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl, following that with a win against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl – both in the opponent’s backyards nonetheless. The Spartans have been close to the top; now it is time to etch their name in college football lore – at the top.

“I think you have to dream big. I think you have to dream big as players and you also have to dream big as a coach,” Dantonio said. “When I first came here in November of 2006, I talked about how these moments were possible here. It’s exciting to see those things happen.”

The 7-4 Penn State Nittany Lions stand as the final roadblock between the Spartans and a trip to Indy.

“Penn State has a good football team. I am impressed with their defense – they have 44 sacks, which leads the Big Ten Conference. They are physical. Also – I think they have an outstanding quarterback in [Christian] Hackenberg,” Danotnio said.

Since the renewal of the meeting between the two schools in 1993, the winner of this game is awarded with the Land-Grant Trophy.

Both universities were founded in 1855, with ten days separating the birth of each school. The trophy honors the two universities for being the two pioneer land-grant schools in the country. Penn State has the edge since ‘93 with a 13-6 advantage, but the Spartans have won two straight.

This game marks the 30th meeting between the two schools with the series locked at 14-14-1, and this game is the first time Penn State will step into Spartan Stadium since 2009.

For the Spartans it is, ‘win and you’re in’. For the Nittany Lions, nothing would be better than to play the role of spoiler on senior day in East Lansing.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Spartan Stadium on ESPN.