Chris Solari, Shawn Windsor and Graham Couch break down MSU’s 48-3 loss at Ohio State on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio.
Jamie Samuelsen, co-host of the “Jamie and Stoney” show at 6 a.m. weekdays on WXYT-FM (97.1), blogs for freep.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Detroit Free Press nor its writers. You can reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jamiesamuelsen.
Does Michigan State’s blowout loss at Ohio State spoil the wins over Iowa, Michigan and Penn State or was it just a bad day at the office?
Michigan State entered the second weekend in November with a legitimate chance to win the Big Ten and an outside chance to make the College Football Playoff. Based on where they were last season and what the forecast was for this season, that is a success, no matter how you slice it. Mark Dantonio, his staff and his players should be proud of what they’ve accomplished this season and still have a chance to finish strong and head someplace warm for a bowl game.
Those are facts.
Here are some more.
Saturday’s loss to Ohio State was brutal. It was the worst loss of Dantonio’s career and was over before many fans had a chance to plop down on their couches to watch. It was a stark reminder that Ohio State is way ahead of MSU at this point and that any playoff talk was foolhardy.
Only Dantonio knows what this means to him and to his team. He’ll address that in the days to come. But the reaction among Spartan fans that I know has been curious. Some are angry, frustrated, but still pleased overall because the Spartans bounced back and have nice wins over Penn State, Michigan and Iowa. Others are frustrated because they think the Spartans are a top-flight program and losses like Saturday’s should be unacceptable. After all, Alabama never has a good season just because they beat Auburn. USC never has a good season just because they beat UCLA.
It’s a simple question – are you a national power that plans to contend annually for the
conference title and occasionally make a run at a national title. Or are you a good program which beats it’s rival but occasionally gets outclassed by superior competition?
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Because you can’t be both. There are no awards or accolades for “bouncing back” or “competing hard” or pulling off an upset or two. The best teams don’t get outclassed as badly as the Spartans were on Saturday.
Last season was a painful reminder of just how difficult it is to compete in this sport every year. Unless you’re a football factory like Alabama or Ohio State with elite coaches at the helm and five-stars falling off the recruiting trees, there are going to be some bumps along the way. Ask Notre Dame, which finished 4-8 last season, or Florida State, which is going through a nightmarish 2017 at 3-6 after starting the season ranked third in the country.
Michigan State has taken a step back into the limelight with their success this season, but the Ohio State game is a harsh reminder of how far they fell and how high they
still need to climb.
Sometimes blowouts happen – just ask the Buckeyes after what they went through two
Saturdays ago in Iowa. Their response was swift and focused and angry and the Spartans felt the brunt of it. Why? Because losses like that aren’t acceptable at Ohio State. No Buckeye fan said, “Hey at least we beat Penn State and we still have a chance to beat Michigan, so all in all, this was a solid season.” Their goal each year is to win the conference championship and compete for the title.
Dantonio set that as Michigan State’s expectations prior to last year’s collapse. It’s great that MSU has rebounded from the depths of a 3-9. But now they need to get back to where they used to be. Or they run the risk of turning into a school like Northwestern or Iowa. A school that wins a lot of games, takes some bad losses and is content to play in Tampa or Orlando on New Year’s Day. When you lose like you did on Saturday, thoughts of Pasadena seem like a long way away.
Again, I’m sure Dantonio is feeling all of these same emotions. He isn’t the kind of coach
who accepts moral victories or steps in the right direction. He set the standard at MSU and that standard got knocked down a few pegs over the past two years. All he has to do is look across Shaw Lane to the Breslin Center to see how a true national power handles things.
Tom Izzo is as good as it gets in college basketball. The problem with that is that nothing
less than a Final Four satisfies the critics and this season is pretty much national championship or bust.
Beating rivals is nice and is part of the goal each and every season. The great teams always strive for more. MSU strove for more after beating its rival. Now it has to make
sure that a game like Saturday never happens again. It shouldn’t happen when you’re one of the top programs in the country – somewhere the Spartans were before and hope to someday be again.