Dantonio likes MSU over U-M again
Michigan State is expected to finish behind Michigan this season, at least if you believe the media polls.
Mark Dantonio doesn't.
The Spartans have beaten the Wolverines four straight times, and Dantonio doesn't care if anyone outside East Lansing thinks they can make it five in a row.
"I would say that they've been favored the last four years in a row, and they have been competitive games," Dantonio said at Thursday's Big Ten media days. "They do an outstanding job there, but it only matters if they are favored in our locker room.
"In our locker room, they are not favored. We'll start with that."
A fifth straight win over Michigan isn't the main goal for Dantonio. He wants, as always, a trip to Pasadena. Last season, the Spartans narrowly missed out on a Rose Bowl trip because of a heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin in the first Big Ten championship game.
"It has always been the conversation in our locker room to get to the Rose Bowl," he said. "That, to me, is our goal. You have to make goals, and you have to climb a ladder to get to those goals.
"You have to get to the championship game before you can get to the Rose Bowl. We did that last year. If you are fortunate enough to get to the Rose Bowl, then the discussion of a national championship is going to come into play."
Like every coach, though, Dantonio swears he's not looking past the season opener against Boise State.
"Our focus will be to play one game at a time, just like that old adage, and get ready to conquer that goal and move forward," he said. "Boise is a team that has gained national respect in terms of who they have played and who they have beaten.
"Coach Peterson is 73-6, and there aren't a lot of coaches out there who have only lost six games in their career. We have a deep amount of respect for them."
Before the Spartans take the field against Boise State, Dantonio has some work to do with his passing game. Not only was Kirk Cousins the unquestioned leader of the Spartans, he departed at the same time as receivers B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol.
"We knew that we were losing a lot of great receivers, and we tried to address that through recruiting," he said. "Our skill level at that position is going to be a challenge as we move forward."
Dantonio feels that Cousins' leadership role can be taken up by players at other positions, but the quarterback job will be in the hands of Andrew Maxwell. Maxwell missed the spring game with a knee injury but should be ready to go next week at the start of training camp.
Of course, Dantonio has a unique chance to look elsewhere for talent, whether it is at wide receiver or other positions. The NCAA sanctions against Penn State mean that the Spartans could try to poach a player or two from the Nittany Lions, but Dantonio said he would only consider that in limited circumstances.
"I would want to do this with respect to Penn State in any way that I can with integrity, but we have a job to do," he said. "We do have relationships with some players that have gone there because we recruited them, and if people contact us, we will follow through.
"But you have to have that bit of knowledge about them -- who they are as people. We just haven't gone off the deep end."
Like most of the coaches in the Legends Division, Dantonio isn't thrilled by the competitive imbalance between the conference's divisions. With Penn State and Ohio State both ineligible for postseason play, Wisconsin is an overwhelming favorite in the Leaders Division.
"One team is only dealing with four teams in terms of having an opportunity to play for the championship, and the other team has six," he said. "Obviously, this is an emergency situation that has happened, and that's probably for other people to talk about."