Finishing with win would make ‘big difference’ to MSU

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Malik McDowell

East Lansing – Michigan State enters the final week of the regular season in a far different place than it was a year ago.

In 2015, the Spartans were preparing to host Penn State with a chance to lock up the East Division of the Big Ten, a win that led to the Big Ten title game and a spot in the playoffs.

Now, the roles are reversed heading into Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff. Michigan State (3-8, 1-7 Big Ten) is going to miss a bowl game for the first time under coach Mark Dantonio while Penn State is the No. 8 team in the country with a shot to reach the conference championship game.

“Last year we were No. 5 in the country and went into this football game playing for a Big Ten championship,” Dantonio said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. “This year the situation is reversed. Penn State is playing very well, a 9-2 team and playing for the opportunity to be a part of a championship and they should be congratulated for that.

“Our goals are to finish. You finish with a W and it makes a big difference in every football season. Last year when we were 12-1, that playoff game stung a little bit (38-0 loss to Alabama), as opposed to the four years previous when we won bowl games.”

Bowl-less Spartans can still make some noise

Whether or not Michigan State has junior defensive tackle Malik McDowell this week remains up in the air. McDowell has missed the last two games because of an ankle injury and he’ll have to determine whether or not he leaves for the NFL after this season.

“We’ll see whether he practices or not and make a decision as the week goes on,” Dantonio said. “As far as those type discussions (on the NFL), those are internal and we’ll wait and see how the season plays out.”