Prior to becoming a head coach, Mark Dantonio was part of a National Championship team at Ohio State during the 2002 season. Much like that season, Dantonio has seen his 2015 Michigan State Spartans win in dramatic fashion to reach the Cotton Bowl where they’ll face Alabama with a trip to the National Championship game on the line.
In 2002, Ohio State earned victories over Cincinnati (23-19), Wisconsin (19-14), Penn State (13-7), Purdue (10-6) and Michigan (14-9) before their double overtime win over Miami for the National Championship.
For the Spartans their close calls came against Oregon (31-28), Purdue (24-21), Rutgers (31-24), Michigan (27-23), Ohio State (17-14) and Iowa (16-13) in the Big Ten Championship game.
Has Dantonio seen a resemblance in the two teams?
“I think there’s something to be said for when the game is on the line, you’ve got to make a play,” said Dantonio. “And if you’ve made plays before, when it’s on the line, then you get added confidence that you can do it; that you’ve seen it happen and it can be done.
“So I think there’s added to that -- would I rather win them by 21, and just smile on the sideline, walk up and down, yeah. I’d rather do that. But the nature of this game is there’s a lot of parity in college football and it makes games tight, and anybody can rise up and play with anybody else. We’ve seen that across the board, across this country.”
As for what Dantonio has seen of Alabama from this past season, he knows what his team must do.
“From a defensive standpoint, I know that you’ve got to pressure the quarterback, you’ve got to stop the run, go to play well on third down and you’ve got to win situations, tackle in space and all those different things,” he said. “Big challenge I think is creating those third down situations.”