clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dantonio Calls Oregon Game "A Progression" For Program

Seventh-ranked Spartans ready for challenge Heisman favorite Marcus Mariota and third-ranked Ducks will present come Saturday night in Eugene, Ore.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

With memories of Friday's 45-7, season-opening win over Jacksonville State starting to move to the background with Saturday's meeting out west with No. 3 Oregon looming, Mark Dantonio knows full well what the top-10 matchup means.

For Dantonio, the opportunity he and his team have Saturday night at Autzen Stadium is just another step in the process toward making Michigan State a national brand and not just one inside the 14-team Big Ten.

"It’s an exciting week for us this week, a lot of things that you are going to experience this week whether as a coach or as a player, these are things that you anticipate when you go play college football: Big football game on national TV," he said to begin his weekly presser on Tuesday. "I think we embrace those situations. We’ve played in big games before, so that’s not new to us.

"And this has been a progression for us, I think. If you look at our football program right now from when we’ve come in 2007, it was about trying to get to these moments where you have an opportunity to play across the nation and it has a sort of prominence to it or a prestige to it at this point.

"We’ll look forward to that opportunity. When you look at Oregon right now, outstanding football team, outstanding program, and great skilled players."

Up to sixth in the Amway Coaches' Poll while moving up a spot to seventh in the Associated Press Poll, Michigan State offers up a similar style in the eyes of many to a Pac-12 opponent that has given Oregon and its star quarterback Marcus Mariota fits over the last two years, Stanford.

While Dantonio acknowledged some similarities between his club and the Cardinal, responsible for upending the Ducks in each of the last two seasons and whom the Spartans beat 24-20 in the 2014 Rose Bowl back on Jan. 1, he's looking forward to seeing how his charges can deal and cope with "cutting edge."

"You look at Oregon, certainly you see what they’ve done offensively, and they are different from other spread teams," he said. "I think they’ve had so much success, a lot of people are taking some of the things and imitating them or not copying but using their concepts and trying to adapt it into their offenses.

"And then when you look at our defense, I think, again, it’s cutting edge. There’s not a lot of people who have played our defense in the past. I think people are moving towards it and doing some of the things that we’ve done, and we’ve had tremendous success with our defense in the last three, four ... really the last four years. That trend need to continues for us to be successful. It’s my belief you win championships are great defenses.

"But this is a football game, it’s not just against our offense, defense, it’s against how our offense is going to play and how we’re going to handle special teams. It’s all the components of a football game, and I think that’s what makes it such a great game."

Not going into specifics, citing his own policy, Dantonio did mention that he believes the three who left the Jacksonville State game with various ailments—Travis Jackson, Jeremy Langford and Macgarrett Kings, Jr.—will continue to practice throughout the week with an aim of being able to play Saturday.

Jackson left early in the second half with what was later described as back spasms while Langford went in and out a couple times in the first half after hobbling a bit and Kings was seen late walking on crutches.

To many, Saturday night against Oregon represents the biggest non-conference matchup in the program's history since the "Game of the Century" 10-10 tie with Notre Dame in 1966 that featured the top two teams in the country.

To the man who has been the biggest reason for the resurgence of the Michigan State program since arriving from Cincinnati before the 2007 season, it's just the next step.

"Our program has taken steps since coming here in 2007, and I sort of feel like whatever year it was when we decided to play Oregon home and home," Dantonio said, "when they asked me do you want to play them, I felt like we needed to be at this point in 2014 to be able to play a game like that, we needed to be able to take the steps to be able to get there to play in a game like this and have a certain ability of respect that’s attached to it to go and play.

<>"I think we’ve done that from a program perspective, and now this creates another opportunity. Every game we play, every game on a big stage we play creates another opportunity for Michigan State and our football program to make a statement."