Unlike any other week, Michigan Week is different for the coaches, players and fans of Michigan State. While Mark Dantonio has learned to embrace the rivalry with the “team down the road”, he knows this game is a chance for those who cheer, play and work for the Green and White to all come together with Spartan Pride and carry themselves with an extra bounce to their step.
“For me, personally, and probably a lot of people, a lot of players there are certain games that you measure,” said Dantonio. “I’ve said this before, that you measure yourself against the past. You sorta keep track of what’s your record against these particular teams as you move through it whether it’s when you play someplace or whether it’s where you coached that particular year, and it doesn’t have to be the Michigan/Michigan State game. It could be a different game at a different university, you tend to keep track of them.
“Not to say that the other games aren’t important but you just sort of put a little bit more emphasis on this so, yeah, it’s exciting.”
With news of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier retiring from his alma mater, Dantonio was quickly asked about any interest in returning to his roots. However, in Dantonio fashion, he quickly turned the question in a different direction.
“Coach Spurrier has had an outstanding career there; it’s my alma mater, and we’re here to talk about Michigan,” he said.
With media always looking for a locker room quote, Dantonio made sure to keep things positive when the subject of Michigan and Jim Harbaugh was brought up.
“I think these games are played one at a time,” he said. “I got tremendous amount of respect for Coach Harbaugh, what he’s accomplished in his career, and what he’s accomplishing now, but these games are played one at a time.
“All I can tell you is every play, every single play of every single game means something; it has its own life, I guess is what I would try and say, and as long as you keep it in that perspective, you’ve got a chance to win that one particular play.”
One of the changes Dantonio is seeing from the Wolverines is a style of play much like he’s installed at MSU.
“It’s old school, if you want to say that, or like I tend to say, things go in cycles, and you always see things cycled back through, and then it becomes very, very prominent.” he continued. “They give the ball more to the fullback sometimes, they’re moving their tight end around in all different types of formations, two tight end formations, they’ve used four different tight ends, they’ve used for or five different running backs.
“They get an assortment of wide receivers in there, so they’re doing a lot of good things, and they’re difficult to prepare for, so they have their own dimension that is difficult to prepare for, and I think they’re playing -- they’re playing good football, so it will be a challenge.”
“They’ve definitely gotten back into old fashion ball lining up in pretty heavy sets, running the ball, power, a lot of power,” said Harris. “Things you see in a lot of old school football so they’ve definitely gotten back to that.”
“Believe it or not they use their fullbacks as they hand the ball off to them,” explained Bullough. “So it’s going to be a little bit different for us. But I think the big thing is controlling the line of scrimmage and our D-line is going to play a huge role in this game like they do every game. But this one more so as they get in heavy sets and try and run the ball at you so it’s going to be important to control the point and to play fast and play down hill.”