Friday, November 16, 2012

Is a win for MSU on Saturday worth celebrating?

As Michigan still fights for a potential spot in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday against Iowa, Michigan State finds itself with an important game as well, though the rewards are not nearly as sweet.
A win over Northwestern at home on Senior Day will make the Spartans bowl eligible.
I think it is fair to say that few expected it to take to Game 11 for Michigan State to get bowl eligible this year.
Coming into the season, expectations were high for the Spartans. Whether it be a Big Ten Championship or a 10-win season, few saw MSU doing all it could to have winning record at the end of the year.
Saturday will be telling for Michigan State for a few reasons.
The first will be if the Spartans can beat an above-average Northwestern team.
The Wildcats proved last week that they aren’t to be overlooked and certainly Michigan State hasn’t proven it can look past anyone. If you can’t beat Iowa at home, you can’t just step on the field at Spartan Stadium and expect to walk through Northwestern.
However, if Michigan State wants to remain a program that has some high expectations, it has to win this game.
The second reason this game will be telling is on how the Spartans (players and fans) celebrate if they do win.
Is getting bowl eligible a big enough accomplishment for the program?
Mark Dantonio has led MSU to a bowl in each of his five seasons as coach. That is an accomplishment to be proud of given the Spartans were shutout of the bowl season three straight years before his arrival.
However, Dantonio had been building Michigan State into something more than just a bowl team, as MSU had been at the forefront of the Big Ten title picture the last two seasons.
As an outsider, I consider this to be a disappointing season for Michigan State. The Spartans should have expected more and shouldn’t be satisfied with a 6-or-7-win season.
When you consider the talent on the defensive side of the ball, this was a prime opportunity for Michigan State to contend for the Big Ten title.
Ohio State is unable to contend for the title and Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin have all arguably played below expectations.
You can also expect all four of those teams to keep getting better, which may leave the Spartans as the odd team out in the Big Ten picture for the future.
It’s not crazy to think most of the top talent on MSU’s team this year could be gone next year. Le’Veon Bell and William Gholston have to consider moving on to the NFL when you think of the injury risks that come with going through another season.
Should Spartan fans just be happy with making a bowl game year-in and year-out, or should it expect to win a Big Ten Championship and play in the Rose Bowl once every handful of years?
MSU needs to define its expectations and decide if it wants to be an average program or if it wants to be a force in the Big Ten.
Last year when the Detroit Lions made the playoffs, head coach Jim Schwartz said “There's going to come a time when we don't celebrate going to the playoffs, or getting into the playoffs. It's not going to be tonight.”
Tomorrow (if MSU wins) will not be a time for celebrating. If the Spartans really want to be considered in the same discussion as Michigan as a football program, you don’t celebrate just making a bowl.
Making a bowl should be the first in a long list of goals and expectations each year if you are going to be a great program.
The Wolverines have already locked up a bowl win, but their fan base is still largely upset with the season because Michigan doesn’t control its own destiny in the Big Ten race with two games left.
I know this comes off like a Michigan fan belittling Michigan State, but it’s not.
The Wolverines were awful during the Rich Rodriguez era and I wasn’t sure Michigan’s expectations would ever get back to where they were when Lloyd Carr was coach.
But, Brady Hoke arrived, won 11 games last year and is in contention to win 10 this season if it wins out.
Hoke has essentially created his own monster because now Michigan fans won’t tolerate a letdown season. He must get to nine wins or more each year, and even some won’t accept that.
So, to get back to my point, will MSU fans accept this season? Is it okay for Mark Dantonio to have this team win just six or seven games? Should he feel some pressure going into next season if he can’t get MSU back to 8-to-10 wins?
It’s a thin line, but what side you stand on in this argument defines your expectations for what the MSU program should be.

Is becoming bowl eligible an accomplishment in college football

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