Last season, Michigan State faced Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl and earned a tough overtime victory by a score of 33-30. On Friday, Spartans’ head coach Mark Dantonio told a local East Lansing radio show that because of that win, he truly feels his team is close to greatness.
This season, the Georgia Bulldogs faced Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and had they won, they would have been selected to play in the BCS National Championship. The Bulldogs ended up losing that game to the Tide in a tight match up, but somehow, Georgia’s success equates to Michigan State’s imminent success in coach Dantonio’s mind, or rather, that his Spartans’ just-barely missed opportunity.
“I told our guys before the SEC Championship Game, I said, `Do you guys realize that we beat Georgia last year in the Outback Bowl, and now they are one game away from playing for the national championship?’
“We’re not that far away form having that kind of success.”
Whether or not you agree with Dantonio’s logic, it’s painfully clear that Georgia and Michigan State are two very different teams this time around.
Since 2007, MSU has beaten Notre Dame three times and the Fighting Irish have beaten the Spartans three times; does that make these two programs equal? Not by a long shot. Still, Dantonio spoke of his team’s near-successes this year and drew upon them as missed-opportunities for what might have been.
“We attempted 31 field goals, and that’s a ton, it means you need to score more touchdowns when you’re in the red zone,” Dantonio said. “There a lot of stats you look at; usually when you win the time of possession (MSU led the conference), you win a lot of football games.
“But we were even in turnovers, I think the first year we weren’t plus in that category, and we need to be better with our passing efficiency.”
Dantonio also spoke of what the computers and numbers might have said about his team’s progress over the season as it related to what he saw on the field with his own two eyes.
“That (passing efficiency) is a team thing, it’s not one person,” Dantonio said. “It’s the passing attack as a whole, and what you’re able to do on third downs. There are a lot of numbers thrown into that computer rating.”
Overall, Dantonio knows as well as anyone else that this 6-6 season isn’t at all what anyone had hoped for concerning the Spartans’ goals, but still, the coach is holding onto hope that many of the positive aspects he saw on the field might translate to a much-brighter future before anyone might expect it.
“It’s sort of a difficult year to comprehend,” said Dantonio. “When you lose close games, it hinges on one or two things each time. It’s a game of inches, and you’ve got to find those inches, some how, some way.”
“And then sooner or later, you catch fire, like Notre Dame did this year. They won some close games and they gained confidence that whenever the game got close, they believed they would win them.”
You can follow MSU Examiner, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.