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Dallas — Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and Alabama coach Nick Saban met with the media for the final time before Thursday’s Cotton Bowl, and the questions, not surprisingly, tended to center around the relationship between the two.

Dantonio was loose, cracking a few jokes, while Saban was a bit more business-like.

However, it didn’t stop the former Michigan State coach from, once again, heaping praise on the current Michigan State coach.

“I think the world should recognize what a great job he’s done,” Saban said Wednesday.

Dantonio has not only won 11 games in five of the last six seasons, he now has No. 3 Michigan State a game away from playing for a national championship as it prepares to take on No. 2 Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Dantonio, of course, was the defensive backs coach at Michigan State under Saban from 1995-99, and when Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis called Saban back in 2006 to ask Saban’s opinion on Dantonio as a head coach, he endorsed his former assistant.

Dantonio was the head coach at Cincinnati at the time and would eventually be hired by the Spartan on Nov. 27, 2006.

“I thought Mark would be a really good candidate to be a head coach at Michigan State,” Saban said. “He had lots of ties there. He’d done a really good job everywhere he’d ever coached. He’d been in a position of responsibility and done an outstanding job in that. He certainly has the right kind of personal character and integrity to have the kind of leadership that I think is necessary to sustain a program with some kind of consistency and success because of the values and culture that you create.

“So that was my assessment of what I thought a good direction for Michigan State would be. And I would say that, sitting across from Mark right now, he sure hasn’t disappointed anybody.”

If Michigan State can get past Alabama, there certainly won’t be any disappointment.

“Great opportunity to be here today, but it will be a great challenge,” Dantonio said. “We’ll need to be at our best, play at our best because our best is going to be needed here.”

matt.charboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

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