Dantonio grumbles as double-bye has Michigan State playing once in three-week span

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Chicago — The double-bye is back, and Mark Dantonio is no fan.

OK, he might not care too much about having two off weeks in a season compared to one. However, he does take issue with how they fall in Michigan State’s schedule.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio

The Spartans play at Wisconsin on Oct. 12, capping a run of three road games in a four-week stretch. From there, though, Michigan State plays just once in a three-week stretch.

It has a bye the week of Saturday, Oct. 19 then plays at home on Oct. 26 against Penn State. Another bye follows that game before the Spartans get back to action Nov. 9 at home against Illinois.

“Yeah, I don’t know how that happens guys,” Dantonio said at Big Ten media days. “You might want to do a story. How does that happen?”

Why there are two bye weeks in the Big Ten is simple to assess. In most seasons, there are 13 Saturdays from two days before Labor Day to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, with Labor Day falling one day beyond the earliest possible date, there are a total of 14 weeks during the regular season.

That creates the need for two off weeks for every team.

But getting two weeks off in a three-week period? That one is unique to Michigan State and there is little explanation.

“Is there another team in American that has a bye then a game and a bye?” Dantonio wondered. “I don’t think there is. So that’s a whole different set of … I think that’s a lot of time off, especially when in front of that you play three of the four games away.

“So there’s a lot there to look at and say, ‘How did that happen?’ But that’s not for me to say, just to bring up. Be controversial.”

Whether another team in country has a similar scenario would take some time pouring over schedules, but in the Big Ten the answer is clear — Michigan State is the only team with one game between off weeks. Both Ohio State and Nebraska have two games in between bye weeks, but that’s it.

It’s nothing that can be changed now and as Dantonio said, he brings it up simply to bring it up. In other words, he’s annoyed with predicament.

However, he understands it’s something he and the Spartans will have to deal with.

“It’s a challenge,” Dantonio said. “How do you handle that week? You play one game in three weeks, so what’s the level of your conditioning? When you don’t play football you sort of get out of that. So how do you practice? How do you recruit? All these different things. So you have to make those changes.

“But we’ll embrace those, just like we embrace the away games. There’s not a place that we’ve played that we haven’t won in this conference. So we can go play and win at any stadium.”

Michigan State has, indeed, won at every stadium in the Big Ten. That will be tested in 2019 as the Spartans play at Michigan and Ohio State as well as Wisconsin and defending West Division champion Northwestern. They cap off their road schedule with a trip to Rutgers.

How the awkward off weeks affect Michigan State’s success on the road remains to be seen.

Dantonio, who usually separates the season into different phases, plans to do the same this season.

“We divide up or season into phases, so that will be one phase all in itself,” he said. “How do we handle that? So just like the phase before that with three of four games away and prior to that three straight home games. We’ll apply ourselves and get ready for each situation separately.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau

MSU 2019 football schedule

Aug. 30, Tulsa

Sept. 7, Western Michigan

Sept. 14, Arizona State

Sept. 21, at Northwestern

Sept. 28, Indiana

Oct. 5, at Ohio State

Oct. 12, at Wisconsin

Oct. 26, Penn State

Nov. 9, Illinois

Nov. 16, at Michigan

Nov. 23, at Rutgers

Nov. 30, Maryland