ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit credits Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio for taking on the role of wanting to boost the Big Ten's national profile. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
This Rose Bowl victory was not only about Michigan State, it was about the Big Ten.
These are lean days for the Big Ten, which hasn’t done much in the postseason — let alone the nonconference — in recent years to boost its prestige in the national landscape.
Before Michigan State defeated Stanford in the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, the Big Ten was 1-3 in bowls this season, with Nebraska the only victory. Ohio State plays Clemson in the Orange Bowl tonight.
And before Michigan State beat Stanford, the Big Ten was 1-9 in the last 10 Rose Bowls, including three straight losses by Wisconsin.
And before Michigan State beat Stanford, it seemed like the same old Big Ten.
“I think there’s a statement that has to be made,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said before the game.
The Spartans clearly made a statement about their program and where they are going under Dantonio’s direction. And with its brand of suffocating defense and balanced offense, Michigan State also made clear the Big Ten has a pulse, and it’s not just Ohio State pumping the life into the conference.
A few days before the Rose Bowl, ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback, praised Dantonio for welcoming the responsibility of wanting to boost the Big Ten’s image.
“I think that’s a great attitude to have,” Herbstreit said. “More coaches need to talk about that with their players. I think it’s a group effort to try and dig (the conference) out of this hole and show people the Big Ten plays better football than is being advertised right now.”
In the last five years, the Big Ten was 12-25 in bowls, including 1-6 in 2008.
And with the exception of Ohio State’s victory over Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl, it hasn’t been roses for the Big Ten in that bowl in recent years.
That’s why what Michigan State did against a hard-nosed Stanford team was so impressive on so many levels.
The victory erased any remnants of the “same old Spartans” slogan that had plagued the program in the past, and while it didn’t completely erase the “same old Big Ten” slogan that’s been bandied about the last several years, it definitely gave it a push forward with the BCS bowl victory.
“It’s a big stage,” Herbstreit said. “The Rose Bowl is a game a lot of people watch. People like the tradition of the Big Ten and Pac 12. (But) a lot of people look at the Big Ten as almost second-class citizens to the Pac 12 in that game just because of the way the results have gone. Any time the Big Ten is in that bowl game, there is always a lot at stake and not just for that school.”
And that’s how Michigan State approached it.