Here is a recap of what Michigan State
head coach Mark Dantonio had to say about the Big Ten Championship Game and opponent Ohio State
Dantonio said it is good to be back in Indianapolis, where Michigan State lost a last-second decision to Wisconsin two years ago. They are treating this like any other away game, but he is happy they have been here before and have some familiarity with the process and the site.
Ohio State offers a tremendous challenge in all facets
Told that defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi had called Ohio State the best defense they have seen and said the passing numbers the Buckeyes have allowed are a bit misleading, Dantonio agreed. Dantonio attributed Ohio State's stats to some broken plays and yards gained on screens and things like that. The Buckeyes have good personnel and are well-coached, and they have a culture of successful defense that was built a long time ago. He is familiar with a lot of their players because of recruiting them.
They can take some things from the 2012 matchup with OSU because the concepts are siilar, but a lot has changed in terms of players. "A lot of the players we saw last year are a year older and a year more experienced int their system but it is their system in terms of what they're doing."
This is what Big Ten was looking for when they created the game. "I think it's a very exciting format. I found that last time we came in here. You feel the electricity in the atmosphere… I think we are a BCS team but time will tell on that."
Dantonio knew his team's offense would find an identity eventually. The team was one-dimensional last year, and that is why all the games were close even though they couldn't score.This year because of balance those close games had widened. MSU found a featured back, has an experienced offensive line, wide receivers making tough catches ("50/50 catches"), the quarterback has created some plays, the Spartans haven't turned ball over much and they have possessed ball.
This team is not a finished product, but it is at a point it can do something special. "It's our time. We've earned that right to be here, and I'm very happy for our football players and our families because this is a special moment."
Asked about defending Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, Dantonio said, Miller "is a magician, a guy with a sixth sense who can turn a bad play into a good play…" Conceptually you can be right on top of what Ohio State is doing and do what you do to stop it and he can create the big play, so we have to defend those loose plays." … "Hyde is a bull of a runner. He's not just tough he's fast, so we've got to be able to control him."
Offense has to focus on being consistent, not beat selves. A fast start for MSU is not essential but would be nice. You can't simulate the speed of game, so that will be different than practice on both sides of the ball and they have to adapt as they move forward.
Damion Terry and Trey Kilgore played Miller this week. Miller "is more like a tailback than a Denard Robinson-type. He's a more physical type. He's a break tackles type of runner."
Asked about his memories of the 1998 Michigan State upset of Ohio State, Dantonio recalled at the beginning OSU did what it wanted but then the Spartans started to figure out could play at that level. They chipped away in the second half, became more confident as game progressed and then went ahead. He hasn't thought about that in terms of this game
MSU "pushed the envelope" in terms of practicing live Tuesday and Wednesday, and he hopes that prepared them well for this game.
"No question in my mind Braxton Miller is the most physical quarterback we've played this year in terms of taking hits and running with power."
Dantonio said Jim Bollman "is a great team person, a great guy to have on your staff. Extremely loyal, extremely intelligent." He has been a coordinator at the highest level and weathered criticism. Mark Staten is the offensive line coach, but he is a Bollman guy and Bollman has brought some things to the offense that helped form an identity. He's like a brother to Dantonio, "a foxhole guy" who "has been there through thick and thin."
Dantonio talks to Tressel from time to time to settle himself as a person. He is a great friend and mentor. Dantonio also hears from Saban a little bit, too. "I like to think (Tressel) is sitting back and watching. I don't know if he's got green on or not tomorrow night but maybe."
Before Ohio State and Michigan State square off tomorrow for the Big Ten championship, the head coaches of the teams met with reporters in Indianapolis. Here's a look at what Dantonio had to say.