Spartans want to play Buckeyes’ best

EAST LANSING, MICH. — If you thought that the Michigan State Spartans cared if the Ohio State Buckeyes involved in the fight at Michigan were suspended, you’d be wrong.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said that he did not plan to suspend starting right guard Marcus Hall and kick returner/backup running back Dontre Wilson and another unidentified player, but said they would be punished internally.

The Big Ten publicly reprimanded Hall and the OSU coaching staff but elected not to suspend anyone.

“First of all, I’m excited that no one is suspended,” Spartans senior linebacker Max Bullough said at Tuesday’s press conference. “I hope no one does get suspended. I want to play their best. I think if we were in that same situation they’d say the same. I think you always want to play the best.

“Like I said, we want to put ourselves in the biggest games against the best players against the best offense against the best defense, so that’s something I’m looking forward to.”

Some people compared the incident to the one in which MSU defensive end Will Gholston was suspended by the Big Ten for punching Michigan’s Taylor Lewan in 2011, which happened later in the game.

Meyer said his players were ejected early enough in the game that they missed the game they were required to miss for fighting.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said it was up to Meyer, not him, to address the situation.

“First of all, I’ve been in that situation before, as we all know,” Dantonio said. “And secondly, the only person that should be commenting on that would be the person involved in that situation, which I commented on it at that time. So I’m not in that arena.

“I chose to side with my player because I knew my player. That’s what I felt the right thing to do was. I’m not qualified to speak on that. There are other people paid to do that job. 

“It’s of no consequence to me. That’s a distraction. That’s a distraction for me to even think about that. We’re going to play their best. That’s what matters to me. We’re not backing into any football game. We’re going to play their best, so let’s go.”

Dantonio has mentioned the three goals the Spartans had coming into the season, the first being to reach the Big Ten championship game.

“You can’t go to the Rose Bowl unless you get to this football game,” Dantonio said. “Goal number two was to get to the Rose Bowl. Goal number three was to win our bowl game and to finish and to complete our circle. That’s our circle.”

That circle could get a little wider if certain things fall into place. With Alabama’s loss to Auburn last Saturday, it opened up the possibility that a one-loss team could play in the national championship game.

“If we’re 12‑1 at the end of the week, why not us?” Dantonio said. “If certain scenarios take place, which obviously last week you saw a lot of scenarios take place. There are no givens in college football.

“Anybody can rise up and beat somebody else. That ball bounces a lot of different ways. The fact of the matter is we’re 11‑1 right now, we’re competing in a championship environment, and we’ll move from there. So don’t limit yourself. Dream big. That’s what I tell our football team.”

Dantonio’s players were on board with that line of thinking.

“Absolutely if we win that game we should be talked about,” Bullough said. “Not saying we should be in the national championship if something doesn’t happen, I’m saying we should be talked about among all those groups.”

But the Spartans have done a good job this season of not looking past the task at hand, which at this point is to beat the Buckeyes and get to the school’s first Rose Bowl since 1988.

“I can’t put it into words, but it means a lot,” senior linebacker Denicos Allen said. “It’s bigger than anything or anybody in this program. It’s a part of history. If we go, we’ll be a part of school history forever, not being there in forever.

“You know, to do it in this season with all the accomplishments we had this season, it’d be the perfect ending. It would be the perfect ending for a historical team.”

To the victors go the spoils and the 11-1 Spartans are starting to amass their share of awards and nominations for awards.

Late Tuesday, Dantonio won the Hayes-Schembechler Big Ten Coach of the Year award for the second time in four seasons. That award is voted on by the coaches.

Sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun was named the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year, senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard was named Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year.

“It’s a blessing just to be even mentioned with those guys, other guys in the Big 10, and then being the one nominated to be the best defensive back in the Big 10 is an honor, is a privilege, but I give the honor to God,” Dennard said. “And I was watching it yesterday, a lot of guys I was watching at the training table, everybody was pretty excited.”

Calhoun, Dennard and Bullough were All-Big Ten first team selections by the media. Junior safety Kurtis Drummond, senior safety Isaiah Lewis and junior punter Mike Sadler were named first team All-Big Ten by the coaches.

Allen and senior offensive guard Blake Treadwell were named to the second team by coaches and media. Quarterback Connor Cook was named second team by the coaches. Sophomore center Jack Allen was named second team by the media.

Senior right tackle Fou Fonoti, senior offensive tackle Dan France, junior running back Jeremy Langford, junior defensive end Marcus Rush and sophomore cornerback Trae Waynes received honorable mentions from the coaches and media. Allen received an honorable mention from the coaches. Cook, Lewis and kicker Michael Geiger were honorable mentions from the media.

“First of all, I owe it all to my teammates, definitely my offensive line for protecting me the whole season, doing an exceptional job of just keeping me protected and making me go through my read progression, reading the defense downfield, and especially my receivers coming up big this year, making plays when I needed to be, and then J‑Lang running hard,” Cook said. “I owe it to my teammates and the coaches for voting, too. But it just shows with hard work you can accomplish a lot of things.”

Dennard is also one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation’s top defensive back and one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for the nation’s top defensive player.

Fonoti is clearly not the superstitious sort. But he is festive.

Fonoti came to Tuesday’s press conference in a white polo shirt with a Spartans logo and bright red pajama pants.

Red, even though the Buckeyes’ main color is red? OK, scarlet.

“I’m a festive guy,” Fonoti said. “I love Christmas. And being a thing that comes final time, I like to dress myself in things that bring positive vibes. This is my last week of class. I was feeling good with these PJ pants.”

While the reporters let that go, Fonoti’s teammate, Sadler, decided to have a little fun with it.

Sadler also came in wearing pajama pants, but they were plaid, not red.

“When I was walking over I was just refreshing my Twitter feed and I saw Fou had his on, and every day I wear pajama pants under my sweats,” Sadler said. “I don’t get too creative with it. “Yeah, but playing with it a little bit, wearing pajama pants. They’re not red, though. They’re not red this week for me.”