Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio led the Spartans to their best season ever at 13-1, which included Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
East Lansing — If only the college football playoff would have started this season.
It’s a phrase probably bouncing around in the minds of many folks in the Michigan State football program. The Spartans’ dream season ended last week with a 24-20 victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl, capping a 13-1 mark that was the best in school history.
And after Florida State rallied to beat Auburn in the BCS Championship Game on Monday, many were wondering what Michigan State’s chances might have been. Next season, with the playoff in place, the Spartans would have had a shot at the title. This season, they are left wondering.
“Yeah, me and Tony Lippett were talking about that,” running back Jeremy Langford said on Tuesday night at the Breslin Center. “If the playoff had been this year we’d have the chance to play for a national championship, which would have been amazing.”
But that will have to wait. In the meantime, the Spartans believe they could have measured up just fine if they did get a shot this season.
“Watching last night’s game you had the feeling like we could hang in there,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “You feel like the gap has closed a little bit in terms of the elite programs in the country. It was great to be one of the BCS teams competing and we felt like we belonged.”
The pollsters gave their opinion on Tuesday as Michigan State moved up to No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll but did not pass Auburn, which remained at No. 2 despite losing the title game to top-ranked Florida State. It marks Michigan State’s highest finish in the national polls since 1966 when the Spartans ranked No. 2 in the AP and United Press International Polls with a 9-0-1 record.
The Spartans were ranked in the AP and USA TODAY Polls for the final eight weeks of the 2013 season after not entering the AP Top 25 until Week 10 after its 42-3 win at Illinois.
“We weren’t worried about that,” defensive end Shilique Calhoun said. “Just like (this) year we weren’t highly ranked or anything and we needed to work our way up and play hard every game.”
Michigan State did just that, getting to its first Rose Bowl in 26 years. Now it will likely head into next season as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten.
“We strived to make this goal and it’s taken seven years to get here,” Dantonio said. “The next step is what we do with these opportunities. You just don’t stand still. Nobody ever stands still. This is an opportunity and you want to move forward from here, whether that’s go beyond that, which you never might have thought was possible here, or to re-attain these things and do things again and allow other people to have that same type of feeling. There’s no question that we’re still goal-oriented here and still moving forward.”
Report: Louisville interviews Narduzzi
Nothing has been confirmed from Michigan State, but ESPN reported that defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was interviewed by Louisville for its head coaching opening.
Narduzzi was among several interviewed, ESPN said, but the front-runner appears to be former Louisville coach and current Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino.
On Tuesday, Dantonio once again endorsed Narduzzi – who turned down Connecticut last month -- as a potential head coach.
“When you’re successful everybody’s going to have opportunities,” Dantonio said. “When there are good opportunities for your guys you want the best for them, so whatever’s going to be best for him as we go through this. But, it’s a win-win situation.”