Michigan St revels in Rose Bowl bid
For Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, the Big Ten
championship game was a fitting conclusion to a run hardly anyone
”Nothing came easy throughout the season, and nothing came easy
throughout the game,” Hollis said.
The Spartans won the Big Ten with a 34-24 victory over Ohio
State on Saturday night, and now they’ll play in the Rose Bowl for
the first time since 1988.
It’s the culmination of a seven-year rise under coach Mark
Dantonio in which Michigan State went from national afterthought to
the top of the conference.
The wait for that elusive Rose Bowl berth could have been a bit
Michigan State tied for the Big Ten title in 2010 with Ohio
State and Wisconsin, but lost out on the trip west because of a
tiebreaker based on BCS rankings.
Then there was the heartbreaking 2011 conference title game,
when the Spartans lost in the final minutes to Wisconsin.
Ohio State came into Saturday’s game with a national title shot
on the line – but Michigan State never seemed any less
The Buckeyes may have been eager to play for a national
championship, regardless of the venue, but it’s hard to imagine
that they would have appreciated a trip to Pasadena any more than
the Spartans will.
”It’s going to be a special moment when we walk out on that
field,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.
”When you set down and write down your goals and think about
the goals in whatever job that you take or occupation, you’re going
to have some different things that you want to try to accomplish.
That was one of the things we were trying to accomplish.”
The fourth-ranked Spartans will take on fifth-ranked Stanford in
the Rose Bowl. Although its ranking is now high, there was almost
no national title talk surrounding Michigan State this season.
Michigan State went 7-6 last season, and a few key players left
early for the NFL draft.
The Spartans had four players in the mix at quarterback this
September, and the results were somewhat predictable. The defense
carried Michigan State, scoring four of the team’s first five
touchdowns before Dantonio eventually settled on Connor Cook as his
The Spartans looked nothing like a team that would roll through
nine straight Big Ten games, winning each by double digits. But
Cook and running back Jeremy Langford provided enough offense, and
Michigan State remained dominant on the defensive side of the
”Right now we have a Rose Bowl product, a Big Ten champion
product, which is tremendous,” Dantonio said. ”But the process to
me is the enjoyment of coaching and that’s how I measure it.”
A 29-6 win over Michigan in early November helped the Spartans
emerge as Legends Division champions, and not even Urban Meyer’s
unbeaten Buckeyes could stop Michigan State last weekend.
Now, the trip to the Rose Bowl awaits, and it’ll be as
anticipated as some of Michigan State’s other marquee sporting
events in recent years.
”Football drives athletic programs,” Hollis said. ”It’s going
to be like a Final Four experience – times whatever number you want
to put on it.”
There was an old-fashioned charm to Michigan State’s celebration
after the Spartans won the Big Ten title. The last time Michigan
State went to the Rose Bowl, there was no Bowl Championship Series.
The goal of every Big Ten team was to make it to Pasadena – and the
entire season was played with that objective in mind.
Perhaps at some point, the Spartans will compete for a national
championship – if the four-team playoff started this season, they
might very well have been included.
But in 2013, Michigan State finally earned a trip to the Rose
Bowl, where the Big Ten champion will face the Pac-12 champion in a
game both teams are thrilled to be a part of.
”To have a matchup where both teams earned their way in,”
Hollis said. ”I think it’s set up beautifully for the Rose