With the trio of Drew Stanton, Brian Hoyer and Kirk Cousins combining to account for the positive press for the Michigan State football program last weekend, the current edition of the Spartans are looking ahead to a Saturday date with an in-state Mid-American Conference foe, Eastern Michigan.
Still digesting the lessons learned in the 46-27 loss at No. 3 Oregon on Sept. 6, which saw the Ducks finish the game off by scoring the game's final 28 points to counter an unanswered 20-point run from Michigan State earlier in the game, No. 11 Michigan State returns to action Saturday as a massive favorite, with the spread sitting at just over 45 points.
Spartans' head coach Mark Dantonio, sporting a 9-1 record against MAC opponents as Michigan State's head coach, knows full well of the challenge Chris Creighton's charges from up the road in Ypsilanti, Mich. presents and is heeding a message to his players of being "ready to play" while trying to block out and not pay any attention to the large point spread.
"Eastern Michigan will come here, they have a lot of guys from the state of Michigan, usually when you play in-state you're going to up your game a little bit,'' he said at his weekly presser. "I think they put a premium on toughness in their program. They are building something there.
"I know they are going to play hard, and when you turn on the film, that's what you see, guys that play hard.''
Since losing to prime Heisman Trophy candidate in Ducks' QB Marcus Mariota and the rest of the Ducks' potent offense 10 days ago in Eugene, Ore., the ever-measured Dantonio and his team has had to hear all about how the Spartans' chances at making the inaugural College Football Playoff have gone by the boards, especially when coupled with the relative lackluster state the Big Ten, as a whole, currently finds itself in.
He readily admitted that he's not paying any attention to what the 13-person selection committee may or may not be thinking of his team after losing in an avalanche of Oregon points in the second half, which saw Michigan State hold a 27-18 lead with about five minutes left in the third quarter.
"We’re not going to run – we’re going to play to win the football game," Dantonio said. "End of story on that. We’re going to play to win, and after that is accomplished – in any game after that is accomplished – we’re going to try and get our younger players playing and develop experience and depth on this football team. That’s how we play it here.
"I’m not interested in taking a timeout before the end of the game to get another seven points. I’m interested in playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played and letting it go. But we will play hard, and we’ll come ready to play, and if we hand the ball off to somebody, I expect them to run hard and try and score a touchdown."
One thing that was made clear on Tuesday was that more players could see the field defensively starting Saturday as Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi look to fix what went wrong in the back end against Oregon and perhaps try to get more pressure on the quarterback.
A pair of true freshman on the defensive line in Malik McDowell and Craig Evans were named specifically by the eighth-year head coach, whose only loss to a MAC opponent while at Michigan State came on Sept. 12, 2009 in a 29-27 loss to Dan LeFevour and Central Michigan.
"We’re going to give players more opportunity to play," Dantonio said. "I’m not sure that they are going to be in the starting positions, but they are going to have opportunities to play more often. … But I anticipate younger players playing, some of our redshirt freshmen, some of our freshmen guys playing, especially on the defensive side of the ball."