Dantonio Wants To Give Saban Loss

Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio may owe Alabama Coach Nick Saban a debt of gratitude, but what Dantonio wants to give Saban is Alabama's fourth loss of the season.

Alabama, 9-3, will meet Michigan State, 11-1, in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on January 1.

Michigan State is coached by Mark Dantonio, who first went to Michigan State as an assistant under Nick Saban in 1995. Dantonio coached defensive backs under Saban, whose area of expertise is coaching the secondary.

"I think one reason I'm in this position is the contacts I made," Dantonio said of his time under Saban (and also one year under Bobby Williams, who is now one of Saban's Bama assistants).

Dantonio said he learned a lot about football and about organization under Saban. "Every coach has a tree and if you look at the Mark Dantonio tree it's got a big Nick Saban branch," Dantonio said.

He said that Michigan State is pleased to be bringing an 11-1 team to meet Alabama. The Spartans were co-champions of the Big Ten, but passed over for a BCS Bowl. Dantonio said that he believes Michigan State is a BCS caliber team, but didn't get the reward because it was not a ranked team in the preseason. The Spartans are now ranked seventh in the nation.

"It is what it is," he said, something he may have heard from Saban, who uses the expression frequently.

Asked if his team would be disappointed to be playing an Alabama team with three losses, Dantonio said, "We don't worry about the three games they lost. We hope we can make it four. We're excited about playing Alabama."

He also said, "I have great respect for Coach Saban and the job he has done."

Dantonio said he is aware of Alabama having marquee players. He noted that Bama has a good quarterback (Greg McElroy), wide receiver (Julio Jones), and two tailbacks (Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson). "We'll see a balanced offense. They will be physical. Defensively, they will be multiple and a good tackling team. They'll put a premium on pass rush and stopping the run."

Dantonio said, "We know the difference between number one (Auburn) and number 15 (Alabama) is very small. We feel like we'll be playing a championship caliber team."

Dantonio recruited Alabama tailback Mark Ingram, who is from Flint, Mich., and who was an admitted Michigan State gan. "I remember he was coming to Michigan State," Dantonio said. He also said he was proud of Ingram going to Alabama and of his achievements. Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2009.

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