Michigan State after second title in three years

Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans are after their second Big Ten title in three years. (Leader file photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans are after their second Big Ten title in three years. (Leader file photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

For the second time in three years, the Michigan State Spartans are seeking a Big Ten championship.

The Spartans (11-1) will face Iowa (12-0) in the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Saturday night.

While Iowa, the West Division Big Ten champions is making its first appearance in the title game, Michigan State, champions of the East, is making its third appearance in the five-year history of the game.

The Spartans lost to Wisconsin 42-39 in the inaugural game in 2011. Two years later, Michigan State rallied to beat Ohio State 34-24 in 2013.

The Spartans have won nine Big Ten championships, while Iowa is seeking its 12th title.

The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series 23-20-2. Michigan State won the last meeting 26-14 in Iowa City in 2013.

Michigan State has now won 11 or more games for the fourth time in five years.

“Excited about this opportunity,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said during his weekly press conference. “These are things we work on all year long, really, from the beginning of February all the way through pretty much, like I said the other day.
So everything we do, recruiting, everything points in this direction to be able to play for a Big Ten championship with the hope that leads us to other things, great things down the line.”

Dantonio said he was impressed with the undefeated Hawkeyes. He thinks Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard is capable of making plays and has a lot of weapons on offense.

He has also been impressed by Desmond King, who is from Detroit.

“Defensively, Desmond King, right here from Detroit, still can’t believe he got away, but anyway, is an outstanding player, eight interceptions, kick returner, punt returner, has been a very good player for them,” he said.

Dantonio has never been shy about telling people what his expectations are and what the goals of his teams are. That has not changed this week.

“I just think people need to know what direction we’re going in, there is no secrets here,” he said. “We built this program to a point where those are our goals now. Initially our goals were to do other things but these — this is where we’re at now. This is why we’ve come here. We recruited to these goals, and the fact that we’ve reached to this point we’ve reached here, we’re at this point, gives credibility to what we talk about here.
“So that’s what we do. We paint a picture for our players, and I think every coach in America probably does that, they paint pictures for their players and their programs and then they try to color them in, I guess.”

Having played in three of the five Big Ten Championship Games, Dantonio says that his team will feel comfortable when it arrives at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“No, it’s the same field,” Dantonio said. “It’s inside; we have played inside before. So you walk in there, and you have the feel that, okay, we’re here. You see — you roll up on it in your bus, coming from the airport or wherever, and you see Lucas Oil and you know that this is one of the things that you shoot for. You shoot at the beginning of year. You shoot for that game. That’s all you can control is getting into that game.
When you see — when you roll up in the bus and you see that, you have a good feeling about it. You get excited. It’s exciting to play and that’s it is way I hope our players approach this. No stress, a little bit of pressure but play through it, have fun.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is proud of how his team has performed this season, but knows that the challenge the Hawkeyes face Saturday night is a tall one.

“Certainly last week was a good win for us,” Ferentz said. “It was great to get our fourth trophy, something we haven’t done yet, so that was very significant. And for the team to end up with 12-0 record is really a great accomplishment, great team accomplishment on their part.

“We’ve got a big challenge on our hands. We know that, and we’re working hard to get ready for that right at this point. Michigan State, needless to say, is an excellent football team. They’re very strong on offense. They’ve got a veteran quarterback who’s been very, very successful, very balanced, good offensive line, good running backs, excellent receivers.

“And then on the defensive side, like you’d expect from Michigan State, they’re very, very good defensively, and it starts up front. They’ve got an outstanding group of defensive linemen, got a lot of good players, but that group is extremely impressive.”

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