COLUMBUS – It is a motivational tool which success probably has made outdated, but Michigan State continues to use it.
Even as MSU has become part of the discussion of who should be included on the list of the top football programs in the country, the Spartans insist that they have not always been appreciated.
In the last six seasons, Michigan State has won 62 games and, barring a total collapse late this season, will have won 10 games or more five times in those six seasons.
Those 62 wins compare favorably with Oregon (67 wins), Ohio State (66), Florida State (66), LSU 59, Clemson (58) and Notre Dame (54). And MSU has won the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl in the last two seasons.
Despite that success, Michigan State talks about playing with a chip on its shoulder.
At the Big Ten football media days last summer, Michigan State Connor Cook said, “I think that’s why we’ve been so successful. We’ve had a chip on our shoulder.
“It adds more fuel to the fire and gets us motivated when people are not talking about us or giving us the respect we deserve. We can win a Rose Bowl, we can win a Cotton Bowl but you see that guys want more. We want to win the Big Ten and get into the playoff,” he said.
When Michigan State (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) plays at Ohio State (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) on Saturday, it will be the third year in a row the game has been one of the biggest of the season in the Big Ten.
Two years ago, No. 10 Michigan State came into the Big Ten championship game as the underdog with one loss and upset undefeated No. 1 Ohio State 34-24. Last year, Ohio State beat the Spartans 49-37 in a game that helped launch the Buckeyes toward their national championship.
Depending on who you ask, revenge and playing with a chip on their shoulder played a role in those games or it didn’t.
On Monday, Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash said, “I think there were a lot of players in this program, they might not say it, who wanted a little revenge from the Big Ten championship game a year ago. So there was a little extra incentive last year.”
But OSU head coach Urban Meyer downplayed the idea that the team with the most to prove has come out ahead in this series recently.
“I don’t really look at it that way. I don’t buy the chip on the shoulder thing,” Meyer said on the Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday.
Michigan State has won four games by a touchdown or less and its one loss was by one point to Nebraska on a controversial play where a Cornhuskers receiver went out of bounds and returned to the field to catch the winning touchdown. MSU beat Oregon by three points, Purdue by three points, Michigan by four points and Rutgers by seven points.
“Our football team has done a great job in terms of winning close games. They’ve done a great job of handling adversity when people went down,” Dantonio said on the Big Ten teleconference.
“The bottom line is we’re 9-1 because we’ve found a way to win nine times. We’re not perfect because we didn’t find a way one week, but we are in a position to move ourselves forward. Our expectations remain extremely high,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.