The clock marched towards 0:00's in all too slow a cadence and the Bama fans in our section started saying all the right things. "Y'all had a good season." "Hey, you guys were still Big Ten Champs." "This was a dream season for you guys." The fans were saying these words with all of the sincerity they could muster, but, the words were hollow. Not because they were meant in a condescending way, but because Alabama fans know this disappointment. After all they were in these shoes a scant 364 days ago.
We're not just happy to be here anymore.
We're not the John L Smith Spartans who would show flashes of complete brilliance and then finish 1-7 in the Big Ten. The Dantonio progression has been steady with many steps forward with a few steps back sprinkled in there. The ship for "Happy to Be Here" sailed back on January 1st, 2014 when MSU beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl. For as long as I can remember in my MSU fandom getting to the Rose Bowl was the dream, I hadn't really stopped to consider what might happen if we won the damn thing. Then Dantonio gave an interview where he said "Why Not Us?"
Why not indeed? 2014 didn't work out when MSU lost to both National Title contenders. In 2015, Connor Cook came back for his senior year and MSU lined up to take their shot. And prior to the season starting pundit and fans really started talking about this team playing for the national title. And it felt real, because it is real. MSU belongs in that conversation now.
MSU still belongs even after this Cotton Bowl game. When MSU takes the field on September 3rd, three of their four losses in the last 1078 days will be to teams who played in the national title game. Half the players on that Alabama squad will play significant time in the NFL. MSU was undoubtedly outplayed in every element of that football game, but that's because Alabama was the better team.
Alabama is the better team because they aren't happy to win the SEC anymore. The only team that beats Alabama anymore is Alabama. Saying MSU should be proud and happy we won the Big Ten and that "MSU had a dream season" is a slap in the face from people who know better. MSU isn't happy to be here anymore, they're here to win the whole thing.
Michigan State played in a National Title game on New Year's Eve. Not the one that really matters, but it was a step forward and they'll be back for more.