EAST LANSING - Despite a devastating overtime loss on the road at Iowa City, the game new coach Mark Dantonio has been pointing to since he was named head coach is imminent.
Dantonio made it a point of installing a countdown clock to the Michigan game and now, with just five days until the Big Game, MSU will attempt to circle the wagons and win a season defining game vs. the Wolverines in East Lansing on Saturday.
"It's not time to feel sorry for ourselves," said Dantonio immediately following MSU's overtime loss at Iowa. "
"We've got Michigan coming in next week, so the message is, put it behind us, move to the next challenge," Dantonio continued. "Either way it's a huge game for us next week and we can't hang our heads, we did some good things in this game."
The stakes are huge for MSU in this one.
First, a win over Michigan (7-2) would give MSU (5-4) it's sixth, making it bowl eligible and giving it a season defining win. The Spartans have come close against two top-10 teams (Wisconsin 37-34 and Ohio State 24-17) but have failed to make a splash when they had opportunities.
MSU has two bad losses (Northwestern and Iowa) against it and those will factor against the Spartans and their bowl chances.
Second, a win would also give MSU a leg up in recruiting. The Spartans are battling with the Wolverines for some key top prospects around the state including Detroit King's Nick Perry, arguably the best player in the state and one of the top players in the nation. Perry is expected to be in East Lansing this Saturday.
Some of the others both schools are battling for are running back Cameron Saddler, defensive end Chris Pantale of Wayne, NJ.,running back Sal Battles of Youngstown, OH., punter Scott Kovanda of Redford (MI) Catholic Central, strongside linebackers Alexander DiSanzo of Don Bosco Prep and AShton Burno of Susquehanna, PA, tight end John Lamb of Southfield (MI) and safety Philepae Phillips of Detroit Central among others.
Third, it could cause a shift in perceptions about the programs. With a stunning loss to Appalachian State and a surprising thumping at the hands of Oregon, rumors began to swirl about the potential firing of the coaching staff and a UM program on the downturn.
Michigan has managed to right the ship and win seven consecutive games, but a loss at the hands of rival MSU would be devasting to UM hopes of a restoring the luster on what can only be considered a disappointing season for a team that had National Championship aspirations.
Finally, an MSU win could restore some cache' to a rivalry that has become lopsided in recent years.
Michigan has won five straight including back-to-back overtime wins in 2004 and 2005. If UM wins Saturday it will be one of the longest droughts in the series dating back to the 80's when MSU lost seven straight to the Wolverines. The Spartans have not won back-to-back games against UM since the glory days of the 60s.
If Dantonio is really going to make this a rivalry, he needs a program defining win on Saturday.
MSU Prepares for Season Maker vs. Michigan
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