MSU's Dantonio: Big Ten ‘warrants’ spot in CFP
East Lansing — When it comes to the College Football Playoff, everyone has an agenda to push.
Over in the Big 12, the fact a team from that conference hadn’t reached the four-team field in any of the first three seasons forced them to create a conference championship.
For those in the Southeastern Conference, it seems as if it’s assumed they’ll eventually get two teams in. The Pac-12 is scrambling to have a team in the mix this season while the Atlantic Coast Conference is close to SEC territory — closer, really — of getting two teams in as Miami and Clemson are in the top four with one week left in the regular season.
And then there’s the Big Ten. The champion got in the first two years — Ohio State in 2014 and Michigan State in 2015. Last year, the champion — Penn State — was left out while Ohio State got in despite not winning its division.
This year makes it even harder to figure out how the CFP committee sees the Big Ten. Wisconsin is undefeated but sits at No. 5 while two-loss Ohio State gets mentioned as much as the Badgers as a team that could crack the top four.
But would the committee really keep out an unbeaten Big Ten team? How about any Big Ten team? Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio isn’t so sure.
“Tough conference,” Dantonio said. “I would bet you, not a betting man, but I would bet you there’s a Big Ten team in the playoffs. I just think it warrants it. When you look across the college football scope of things, you’re always going to want somebody from the Midwest represented from this conference.”
Well, maybe. But with the committee tasked with putting the best four teams in, geography probably shouldn’t matter. In that sense, the Big Ten has a decent argument. While no team is currently in the top four, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State are all in the top 10, matched only by the SEC.
Michigan State, Northwestern and Michigan were also ranked last week, though Michigan was likely to fall out after the loss to Wisconsin. It all speaks to the quality of the Big Ten.
“If you look at this conference, it had three teams in the top 10 for the majority of the year on and off,” Dantonio said. “I think that’s a power conference. So, you want to be represented from that conference. You want somebody represented from down South or the East Coast or from the West Coast or far West. There’s five different areas, but you want people representing every area because it’s new.”
More importantly, Dantonio sees no benefit of two teams from the same conference making it under the current four-team format.
“What is the point if you have two teams from the same conference in who have already played themselves in the playoffs at this point?” Dantonio said. “That would just be me. Of course, that will raise a lot of speculation out there. That might be the biggest news coming out of here. But that’s just me. That’s just a guy sitting here.
“I think Big Ten Conference, you’re going to play against great teams, great coaches, great environments, great fan support every single week. There are teams in that conference that can play across the country with anybody. That’s been proven.”
No one alone
While it’s Thanksgiving week, that doesn’t mean the Spartans get to take a bunch of time off. They’ll get their work done Thursday before everyone on the team will be with someone for the holiday.
That means, even for the players from out of town, the team arranges it so no one is sitting alone on the holiday.
“We’ll practice very early. We’ll get them in early in the morning, they’ll be done by noon on Thanksgiving,” Dantonio said. “The majority of our team will go home or to a home, one of our players’ homes, within an hour from here. I think we have almost every player taken care of in that respect. No player will sit at their home. Some will go to coaches’ homes. We’re just going to take care of them.”
As for what will be on the dinner table at the Dantonio’s? The coach doesn’t care, just make sure it’s done.
“I don’t think about that stuff,” Dantonio said. “Just have it ready when I get there.”
Scott, Rison update
Cornerback Josiah Scott and wide receiver Hunter Rison did not play last week against Maryland because of undisclosed injuries. Dantonio said after the win each could have played if necessary and the decision was made just before kickoff to hold them out.
Scott and Rison, both freshmen, were on the depth chart for the regular-season finale at Rutgers. Scott was listed as the starter at one corner while Rison was No. 2 at flanker behind Darrell Stewart Jr.
Michigan State at Rutgers
Kickoff: 4 p.m. Saturday, High Points Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
Records: Michigan State 8-3, 6-2 Big Ten; Rutgers 4-7, 3-5
Line: Michigan State by 13