Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio talks about the Spartans getting set to take on Wake Forest in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 in New York. The Detroit News
East Lansing — There will be no trip to the beach and no time to soak up the sun, but Michigan State still feels like it has landed itself a spot in bowl game that will provide a heck of an experience for its players.
The Spartans (6-6) accepted a bid on Sunday to play in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 against Wake Forest. The game kicks off at 3:20 p.m. from Yankee Stadium in New York. This will be the Spartans’ first appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl and the first time Michigan State has played Wake Forest (8-4), which tied for third in the Atlantic Division of the ACC.
And, quite notably, it meant Michigan State would not be playing in the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field in Detroit.
“We were going to make whatever experience we had an opportunity to make a great experience for our student-athletes, for our players,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Sunday night. “Regardless which bowl game we went to, we were going to embrace that and move forward. I think the main thing is what makes everybody happy is when you win the bowl game. We've been to California, we put our guys on the coast and let them walk into the Pacific, which a lot of guys have never done. Now we’ll have an opportunity to take our football team to New York City, and a lot of our guys have never been to New York City.
“So that'll be another experience that they'll remember for the rest of their life, and I think those are the type of things that, when you're in these bowl games, I think you have to bring that forward as well. So that'll be a great experience.”
Until the final playoff rankings were released Sunday afternoon and Penn State was placed in the Cotton Bowl, there was a distinct chance Michigan State would have played in the Quick Lane Bowl. Instead, every bowl-eligible team in the Big Ten essentially moved up a slot and the bowl played at Ford Field was left to fill without a Big Ten team.
That led to Michigan State heading to New York with the goal of building some momentum heading into next season. It’s what the Spartans wanted to do last season when it took on Oregon in the Redbox Bowl. After a 7-6 loss, however, it was Oregon that bounced back this season and is playing in the Rose Bowl while Michigan State looks to find the right combination this time around.
“I think you want to have momentum leaving your season,” Dantonio said. “We were able to do that in (2012) and it paid dividends to ’13. As far as this year, we look forward to doing that, and as I said before, we just sort of ride toward the horizon.
“I just know that 7-6 is better than 6-7 and it’s better than 6-6, and that's where we find ourselves right now. I don't like being there, but at the same time, we are where we're at, and so we need to be able to do something about that.”
By earning the Pinstripe Bowl bid, Dantonio has now led Michigan State to 12 bowl games in 13 seasons and has a 5-6 record in the first 11, including wins in five of the last seven bowl games. He holds the Michigan State record for most bowl wins (five) and bowl appearances (12), including a program-record four-game bowl winning streak with victories in the 2011 Outback Bowl over Georgia, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl over TCU, 2014 Rose Bowl against Stanford, and 2015 Cotton Bowl over Baylor.
The Spartans will be making their 29th all-time bowl appearance (12-16 record).
Michigan State overcame a five-game skid in the middle of the season by winning its final two games against Rutgers and Maryland to become bowl eligible.
“It’s tough to win,” Dantonio said. “We'll look forward to taking the next step and being 7-6. That's the best that we can do at this point in time.”
At this point, no players with the chance to go in next spring’s NFL Draft have said they won’t play in the bowl game. Last season, cornerback Justin Layne opted not to play in the Redbox Bowl before being drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, safety Khari Willis did play and he was selected in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts.
Dantonio, who has spent most of the week recruiting and putting the final touches on the 2020 class that will sign on Dec. 18, said he hasn’t had the chance to speak with any players contemplating not taking part in the bowl game.
“I’m just coming off the road, so I have not seen our football team,” Dantonio said. “I don't anticipate that, but you never know. So we'll deal with that as it comes.”
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
MICHIGAN STATE VS. WAKE FOREST
► Kickoff: Dec. 27, 3:20 p.m., Yankee Stadium, New York
► TV/radio: ESPN/760 AM
► Records: Michigan State 6-6, Wake Forest 8-4
► Tickets: Tickets can be requested online at www.msuspartans.com or by calling the MSU ticket office at 517-355-1610 or 1-800-GO-STATE.