It's been a tough season for Michigan State, a shockingly uncharacteristic campaign for Mark Dantonio's program that has seen five losses, all coming in the last five contests.
The Spartans were projected during the preseason to once again compete for a conference and national championship after winning the Big Ten title last season and reaching the College Football Playoff, but neither of those things will happen this time around, with Michigan State experiencing its worst season under Dantonio since 2009. In all likelihood, it will be the worst season, record-wise, during his tenure.
But there's at least one man who doesn't think anyone should lose sight of what Dantonio's done in East Lansing and what has made this season such an aberration: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Michigan and Michigan State get together Saturday in the annual battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, a game that was supposed to be one of the key contests shaping this season's Playoff picture. Instead, the Wolverines enter as heavy favorites, undefeated through seven games while their in-state rivals sit at 2-5.
But Harbuagh praised Dantonio on Monday, telling reporters that what Dantonio has done in turning Michigan State into a perennial contender deserves recognition in the annals of college football history.
"He's done a great job," Harbaugh said. "One of the best college football coaching jobs in the history of the game. It's been at the highest level."
Certainly Harbaugh is right. Dantonio took over a program that between 1991 and 2006 had just one double-digit-win season, featured only four campaigns with seven or more wins and had eight seasons of five or fewer wins.
In his 10 seasons, Dantonio has turned in five double-digit-win seasons, all coming in the past seven years and featuring two wins in the Big Ten Championship Game, a win in the Rose Bowl, a win in the Cotton Bowl and a trip to the Playoff.
In true college football coach fashion, Harbaugh went on to say that despite the lack of success for the Spartans this season and the fact that the Wolverines have pounded pretty much every opponent into the ground, his team needs to be ready for a "championship" kind of game.
And while that cliche gets a little tired sometimes, Harbaugh made a good point considering the outcome last season, when Michigan State beat Michigan on that legendary fumbled punt returned for a touchdown as time expired in Ann Arbor.
"It doesn't matter what's happened before this week for us or for an opponent. It never does," he said. "It matters what happens on the gameday. We know the task in front of us, we know the challenge, and it's up to us to make sure we get prepared to play that game so we can go out there confident and execute and have a chance at being successful.
"They're a very good football team. We know we'll be tough to beat, we know they'll be tough to beat. In the meantime, we'll get prepared for the game."