Mark Dantonio asked a pretty interesting question during his press conference on Tuesday:
"Why not us?"
Many of the current scenarios being discussed when it comes to which teams will square off in the national championship game don't include the Spartans, and when they do, it's simply touching on the effect a Michigan State win in Saturday's Big Ten title game would have on others. But Dantonio said it:
"Why not us?"
The Spartans have a perfectly good chance to win the conference title. They boast the nation's No. 1 defense and an offense that seems to get stronger by the week not to mention a spotless conference record. Few doubt the Spartans' upset potential when they take on undefeated No. 2 Ohio State for the conference championship. But what happens if Michigan State wins and moves to 12-1? Many see them going to the Rose Bowl, an awesome accomplishment and Dantonio's stated goal. But the head coach kind of surprised people when he suggested that perhaps the 10th-ranked Spartans should be in the national-championship conversation.
But he's got a point. Why not them?
"If certain scenarios take place. If certain scenarios take place, which obviously last week you saw a lot of scenarios take place. There are no givens in college football. I don't believe in that. There are no givens," Dantonio said. "Anybody can rise up and beat somebody else. That ball bounces a lot of different ways. The fact of the matter is we're 11-1 right now, we're competing in a championship environment, and we'll move from there. So don't limit yourself. Dream big. That's what I tell our football team."
It seems the only limiting is being done by observers rather than anyone who actually participates in the game on the field. It would seem downright crazy, given how the dialogue has flowed thus far, for the No. 10 team in the country to rise to one of the top two spots. But, as Dantonio pointed out, scenarios do exist. Some sort of college football insanity never seen before could turn everything upside down in the BCS' final season.
But it's unlikely.
What is vastly more likely is Ohio State playing in the national title bout. A win from the No. 2 Buckeyes would figure to give them a chance to play for the crystal football, and that's what everyone's talking about. The conversation has gone like this: An Ohio State win puts the Buckeyes in the title game, while a Michigan State win knocks the Buckeyes out.
But that's not what Dantonio and his team are concerned with. They want to get to Pasadena any way they can.
"It's about us. Absolutely, it's about us. It's not about them," Dantonio said. "We have to play them, and we'll confine our thoughts to who we are and what we're trying to do. We're going to try and go to the Rose Bowl. That's our goal No. 2. When we, or however you want to put this, if we're 12-1 at the end of the week, why not us? That's all I'll say, because we'll probably be No. 4 or 5, so why not us? So we'll let that stand at that point. That's how I'm going to approach it. I'm not going to sit there and worry about losing. We're going to play hard, and whoever is the best football team will probably win. Whoever executes the best, makes the least amount of mistakes will probably win the football game, and I do believe should Ohio State win that they should represent in the national championship game. I do believe that. I think that when you have an undefeated football team, that's the right thing to do.
"But with that said, that's my tip of a hat towards Ohio State and Columbus, Ohio, but with that being said, why not us. So we'll concern ourselves with us."
The truth is that no matter how much "respect" Michigan State is getting across the country, in Spartan circles, this team is doing exactly what it set out to do. Things are getting checked off the list.
"Goal No. 1 this year was for us to get to this football game because you can't go to the Rose Bowl unless you get to this football game. Goal No. 2 was to get to the Rose Bowl. Goal No. 3 was to win our bowl game and to finish and to complete our circle. That's our circle."
Win on Saturday, and it's two down, one to go.