With a 5-5 record the Spartans will host Northwestern on Saturday looking to earn their sixth win of the season and stamp their ticket for a bowl berth. The outcome of the game could determine if the Spartans head to Florida or Arizona to enjoy the spoils of another successful season as wins the next two weeks could see the Gator Bowl looking to entertain the Spartans on New Year's Day.
Mark Dantonio knows the importance of having a bye week going into a game against the Wildcats.
"We started working on it last Tuesday," said Dantonio. "Got a little bit obviously got a little bit in advance on them in terms of what we've been able to do. So we have them broken down with the exception of the Michigan game, which, again, they always do something different. Regardless of who you play, they're going to have something different for you and you'll have to adapt. I think that's basically the way the game goes in general across the league.
"So we had an advantage in that respect, and I think we also healed up. Like I said last week, it gave us an opportunity to step back away from the game, which I think we needed to do that and refocus and regenerate our enthusiasm for this week. So we'll be ready to play."
One thing Dantonio knows about this weekend is the fact he'll be watching a few seniors play their final game in Spartan Stadium. How does he expect this group of seniors to handle the emotions of the day?
"Hopefully, very well," said Dantonio. "I think that one of the toughest things I think as a senior is if you come out flat your senior year and your last game if you come out flat. Everybody needs to get themselves ready to go. You can't be too saddened by the experience that you're not ready to play. I think it's an opportunity to showcase your talents one more time in Spartan Stadium in front of your family, your home crowd, and your friends. Our guys will be ready to play, no question."
Two seniors Dantonio will be sending off are Chris Norman and Larry Caper. While both players may have seen their roles reduced this season, Dantonio knows the value each brought to the Spartans program.
"Chris Norman and Larry are valuable members of this football team," said Dantonio. "They've had great careers here. I think right now Norman's a little hampered injury wise. Larry hasn't been on the field as much right now, because of Le'Veon Bell's success, but he's had a very, very successful career here. And I'll always remember Larry Caper for his freshman year, and what he's been able to do after.
"Sometimes it takes a big man to look at things and say, okay, I'm still part of this football team. I'm still successful, and I'm still a major contributor in this respect, even though he might not get as much pub or as much ink as maybe he had when he was a true freshman and he was the guy. So that's difficult.
"But at any point in time, he could make a play out on that football field, whether it's the Indiana game with the huge touchdown or whether it's another football game. I remember Minnesota last year with the big catches as well.
"But he's going to be on the field. He's going to be playing for us, and obviously looking for big plays from him. As far as with Chris, I still consider him a co starter on this football team. He's a team captain. He's going to be a major contributor in terms of what goes on here in the next two games and where we're at in the whole process.
"But it will be those guys, as you get to your last couple of games and your bowl opportunity and your senior year, you look at it, time is precious. For all of our seniors right now, you look at where they're at and their expectations and what they want to accomplish and their future. And so many of our players look at what have they done in the past? Where are they in the present? What is their goal and where they're going in the future? And that's tough to look at some times as a senior as you go down the end of your senior year.
"We've got two weeks left that are guaranteed for us. We need to make the best of those and come out of here 7 5 and go into a bowl game and have that feel good feeling about this football team."
Another senior dressing for his final game in Spartan Stadium is offensive lineman Chris McDonald who's been a rock this season as others beside him have gone down.
"Chris has been a staple in our offensive line this season," said Dantonio. "He's been the one guy that I think basically has remained intact. He's the one guy that's had a consistent start every game for us on the offensive line. He's done that really throughout the last three years. He's an extremely hard worker. He's been very consistent in everything that he's done for the past five years. Been really a role model for us on the field. He's taken a leadership approach with our offensive line really throughout the off season and during the season he's a quiet leader.
"He's been an outstanding contributor for us. He's a guy that to me is a foxhole guy. You want him with you whenever you have an opportunity to choose up people you want Chris McDonald with you. And that is a huge compliment from where I sit, people that you want with you at all times.