EAST LANSING – The foundation of the Michigan State football program received structural reinforcement with its victory over Purdue.
The Spartan's sixth win makes them bowl eligible, something fans, players and coaches coveted in the preseason. Even if the Spartans were shut out of a bowl (10 teams are eligible in the Big Ten alone) the season might still be qualified as a success.
But now that they've buttressed their identity as bowl-worthy, getting a seventh win, and moving beyond .500 to a winning season, would not only guarantee a bowl but it would also give coaches ammunition in the recruiting wars.
"After this first season, we want to say, hey, we are a winning program. I'd really rather say that (to recruits) than say we're a .500 program right now," coach Mark Dantonio said.
Plus, a Green and White win over Penn State means the Spartans took care of their own business, a sign of a maturing team. Since the loss to Michigan, MSU has known they needed to string together wins to reach postseason play, like in college basketball with a conference tournament.
"Obviously, seven wins puts us for sure in a bowl-game situation, six puts us in a situation. We have to wait and see what happens and all that kind of stuff. But seven puts us in, and we can control our own destiny, and that's the positive thing that we want to do." Dantonio said.
He continued, "We don't have to wait on somebody else to do something; we can control our own destiny here this weekend, which is the way we want it to be. That's the main message. You don't want anything given to you, you need to take it."
And in the cut-throat world of recruiting, a seventh win could make all the difference. When Dantonio or Pat Narduzzi or Mark Staten or any other MSU coach speaks with a recruit, he'll be speaking as the coach of a winning program.
It might not seem like much, but that one word, winning, remedies a lot: It makes responding to negative recruiting, an unfortunate reality, much easier; it changes perception, an important factor to consider when dealing with anyone, let alone 17 year-olds; and it builds momentum, indicating to players and their families that the football program is on-track, moving forward and gaining steam.
Either way, after Saturday, when the never-ending second season of recruiting heats up, Dantonio and staff will put on their hard hats and pull out the blueprints as they work to attract top-tier talent.
"We're building, building a foundation," Dantonio said.
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