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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

MSU Football Redefined

As we await posts from Spartman82 and guest authors SpartanDan and C-Mann79... I thought I would share this article by chUMp a Grad on the State of State:

Last Updated: October 26. 2011 1:00AM

Bob Wojnowski

Michigan State redefines itself as a Big 

Ten power

East Lansing -- They're here to stay. It's a point the Spartans keep hammering, a point that should stick by now.
Michigan State is in the formative stages of a defining new era. I think it's officially safe to call it that. The Spartans have won 17 of their last 20 games under Mark Dantonio, 10 of their last 11 in the Big Ten. They win games by a lot and by a few inches, as the Badgers discovered.
Dantonio smartly and steadfastly changed the culture here, then stamped it with a sneer. Not only is it different, it's capable of staying different. The Spartans no longer are measured by one game or season or play or player. It's a mentality combined with a talent upgrade, and although it won't be easy, it appears sustainable.
Michigan State (6-1) took a gigantic step toward
defending its share of the Big Ten title by stunning Wisconsin 37-31 on the 44-yard miracle from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol last weekend. Perhaps you've seen replays? You'll likely see it forever.
The next step beckons Saturday at Nebraska (6-1), where the winner seizes command of the Legends Division. If the Spartans prevail, another special season churns on, with the Big Ten Championship game in sight. And if they lose, nothing is necessarily wrecked.
They're in the midst of a ridiculous test, already beating Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin. Adding Nebraska's pelt to the wall would turn this four-game gauntlet into the loudest statement the program has made in decades. In fact, the 17-3 stretch over two seasons is the school's best since 1965-66, the true glory days.
Rosy outlook
Michigan State can call itself a Big Ten power again. Is it among the national elite? Not yet. As Dantonio rightly pointed out Tuesday, the Spartans need to win a bowl, preferably a big one. They're 39-20 in five seasons under him and 0-4 in bowls. But bowls are now a given expectation, and their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1988 is a legitimate expectation.
"The last (two) years, we have competed for the championship on the last day of the season, so we have changed that culture some," Dantonio said. "I always try to evaluate at the end of the season, so we don't know where this one is going right now. It's headed in the right direction. But you don't want to assume anything."
It's revealing to see what the Spartans can do, when they put their minds to it. The program always has attracted talent, and its excellent defense is packed with future NFL players. Did it help that Michigan collapsed under Rich Rodriguez? Yep. Does it help that Jim Tressel is gone and Ohio State will be sanctioned? Yep. When the Wolverines and Brady Hoke — and the Buckeyes and whomever — get done regrouping, there'll be some compelling collisions, on the field and in recruiting.
But this potential always has existed in East Lansing, where the Serene Green has become the Mean Green again. They sure put their minds to it last week. After all the controversy about the 13 penalties in the Michigan game, followed by the William Gholston suspension for a punch, the Spartans handled it.
Outwardly, they were miffed. Inwardly, they realized they had an issue. Wounded by nasty labels, they responded the best way possible. They committed zero penalties against Wisconsin, the first time a Michigan State team did that since 1975.
It used to be, the Spartans were content to be tough and occasionally dangerous. If a little undisciplined play cost them, or a big-game letdown staggered them, hey, it happened.
Now it's not just Pound Green Pound. It's Pound Green Rebound. College football can shift so suddenly, there has to be an emotional maturity, and that's what Dantonio has tried to instill. Naturally, he's wary of declaring the definitive arrival of anything, even after four straight victories over Michigan.
Staying a Spartan
But if we don't know for sure how high this program can climb, I'll say this: It's here to stay. Dantonio, 55, isn't going anywhere, and in case murmurs about the Ohio State job surfaced, Michigan State recently sweetened his contract (maintaining a five-year rollover) and plans to do the same for his assistants.
Some might have thought the Spartans would be going away by now. I bet the Badgers weren't the only ones thinking it when they led 14-0.
Some might have thought they were going away after the crushing losses to Iowa (37-6) and Alabama (49-7) last season. For perceptions' sake, Michigan State does need to avoid a similar road fate against Nebraska. But in between, Michigan State grabbed its share of the Big Ten title by winning at Penn State, and the persistent scrapping continues.
You might even assume the Spartans will slip when they lose six senior offensive starters after this season, including Cousins, the winningest quarterback in school history. Cousins sets a phenomenal example of perseverance and leadership, a true program player.
But the defense under coordinator Pat Narduzzi doesn't figure to lose its snarl. It's second in the nation in total defense and the starting unit features two seniors. There are numerous underclass stars and potential stars, including Gholston, Jerel Worthy, Isaiah Lewis, Chris Norman, Marcus Rush, Denicos Allen and Max Bullough.
Oh, they'll be tested by the big ol' Cornhuskers, who have a uniquely formidable combination in shifty quarterback Taylor Martinez and punishing runner Rex Burkhead. I don't know if the Spartans will pull off a fourth consecutive emotional victory, but you can say with growing confidence, they should be ready. Perhaps even ready for anything.

From The Detroit News:

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