For Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio, Saturday not only gives his team a chance to win the Big Ten East, but also punch their ticket to the Big Ten title game and play Iowa for a shot at reaching the College Football Playoffs. It will also be a day to say goodbye to a special group of seniors that have forever left their mark on the Spartan football program.
"Got a large group of seniors and guys that we win one more fotball game, they tie the all-time record for the most win going back, I think, to the class last year and the class before it, actually. So added significance there," said Dantonio at his weekly press conference.
"I think it's exciting when they have it at home, it's also emotional. We have to take the emotional aspect out of it because we need to be ready to play this football game. So that's very, very critical to, I think us playing in this game. You've got to make sure that things are, as much as we can make it the same, you need to concentrate on the football game. It is an emotional aspect of it. I think it's exciting. Should have a great crowd. It's an exciting day. A chance to win a championship against a very good quality football team. Penn State, Michigan State, we've had great games in the past and that type of thing."
While the battle between the two teams may not be talked about as much as a match-up with Michigan or Ohio State, Dantonio knows there is history in the game.
"It started back with Coach Paterno and Coach Perles when Penn State entered the Big Ten Conference, I believe," he said. "They started playing that game at the end of the season. So there is a little history there to that. So it should be an exciting moment."
As for his seniors, Dantonio and his staff felt early on they had a special group on their hands.
"When we come in and have our freshmen come in and really look forward in our first days of August practice, what do our freshmen look like? I remember in 2011 when we were going through that Harlon Barnett said, we'll have four, five, six or seven pro players in this class, and that's what it's shaping up to be. High draft choices, and that's what it's shaping up to be.
"So we had high expectations for those guys from day one. Don't get into all the rankings and all that kind of stuff, because people grown and develop. Between 18 and 22, there is a huge difference in who they come as and who they leave as in terms of physical development, mental development, all those things, confidence, injuries, those types of things. So we've had some guys. These guys are good players as their record indicates."
2015 MICHIGAN STATE SENIORS
|JACK ALLEN *||DAMON KNOX *|
|SHILIQUE CALHOUN *||PAUL LANG *|
|DONAVON CLARK *||LAWRENCE THOMAS *|
|BRANDON CLEMONS *||RJ WILLIAMSON *|
|ARJEN COLQUHOUN *||AARON BURBRIDGE **|
|CONNOR COOK *||MACGARRETT KINGS JR **|
|ED DAVIS *||DEANTHONY ARNETT ***|
|DARIEN HARRIS *||CHRIS LANEAUX ****|
|JOEL HEATH *||TOMMY VENTO ****|
|MICHAEL TOPOLINSKI ***||AJ TROUP ****|
|PHILLIP-MICHAEL WILLIAMS ****||TREVON PENDLETON ****|
|TAYBOR PEPPER **|
KEY: * = CLASS 2011 / ** = CLASS 2012 / *** = TRANSFER / **** = WALK-ON
One surprise out of Dantonio's comments came about three of his seniors who may be back in 2016.
" Ed Davis intends to come back for a sixth year, and I think he qualifies for that," he said. "Brandon Clemons intended to come back for a sixth year, and he qualifies for that. I believe Damon Knox plans to come back for a sixth year, and I think he qualifies for that.
"Though Ed and Damon will go out for Senior Day to get double recognition, I guess. But their intentions, I think are to come back, and they're good players and that strengthens our football team.
"That's the plan, anyway. But obviously you have to submit all the paperwork and they have to graduate as well."