Big Ten Notebook: Michigan State's Mark Dantonio Begins BCS Lobbying

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor INovember 26, 2013

Nov 23, 2013; Evanston, IL, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio after the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field. Michigan State won 30-6. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports
Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio isn't exactly known as one to mince words, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised when he answers a question bluntly. 

He did do it just this past weekend on his way to the locker room in Evanston: 

On Tuesday, Dantonio took to the mic for his weekly press conference and started lobbying for his team to make a BCS game over the Wisconsin Badgers. 

Now to be fair, he was asked directly about it, but his answer to a question about his statement during the Big Ten coaches teleconference was a bit more nuanced, shall we say. 

When Dantonio was asked about the possibility of having to campaign for the Rose Bowl with Wisconsin, he was signing a different tune to the national media. 

"Well, that would mean Ohio State would have to beat us," said Dantonio. "We'll worry about that next week if that's o.k.?" 

"Our focus has to be on Minnesota. I know that is very difficult because of the anticipation of this next week's game, but there aren't any givens in football."

The possibility of Wisconsin going to a BCS game over MSU is an interesting situation to talk about, and as Dantonio also pointed out on Tuesday during his press conference, Michigan State leads in 15 statistical categories in the conference. 

"I think that's very telling in terms of where we're at as a program right now and the success that we've had," he said. "You don't get there without doing good things. It's been a team effort in a lot of ways."

Nov 9, 2013; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Gary Andersen during warmups prior to the game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Dantonio's counterpart, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen, has taken a bit more of a diplomatic approach to a sticky situation, telling the media at his Monday press conference that he thought his team was deserving—while not taking a shot at any other team. 

"You know, the best thing I say about that is, if they can find a way to win this game against Penn State [on Saturday], do I think that they deserve that opportunity to play in a BCS bowl game? Absolutely, yes," Andersen said on Monday. "Again, I don't have a bunch of say in that, but I do believe that. I think that they've put themselves in the elite of the elite position in the Big Ten conference, and to do what they've done, if they can win on Saturday, then I believe they should be given that opportunity."

Of course, all of this could play itself out on the field and not in a "war of words" should both win their regular-season games and Ohio State win the Big Ten Championship game. 

The case for both Wisconsin and Michigan State is strong, but the Spartans do hold the keys to a BCS game in their own hands. Win the Big Ten Championship game and the Rose Bowl happens for them, simple as that. 



Should the Big Ten Give Thanksgiving Week Off Again? 

Believe it or not, up until 2010 the Big Ten never played games during Thanksgiving weekend. Four years later, questions about whether the conference should continue the practice have crept up. 

The old guard of coaches—Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald—have been around for both sides of the debate and made it clear they would like to see the break happen for the players' sake. 

Ferentz and Fitzgerald both talked about accepting that things weren't going to change though and finding ways to work around it. 

"I've warmed to it, mainly because I don't have a choice in the matter," said Ferentz during Tuesday's coaches teleconference. "It's just reality, so hey, embrace it."

"Personally, it used to be nice when the kids had a week to go home and get away from football and coaches, and get away from everything. But, you know that's changed...We've got gas powered cars, not horse and buggies, and it's just not going back, so you just try and embrace it." 

However, it still remains to be seen if the Hawkeyes and Huskers, who will play on Black Friday for the third straight year, will be able to make it a rivalry—something Ferentz also pointed out on Tuesday. 

With the way college football is structured and the coming College Football Playoff, there is just simply no way the Big Ten can allow all the other conferences to have an entire week at the end of the season all to themselves. 

It's bad for business, and it's bad for getting teams to stay nationally relevant too. 



Wisconsin's Sojourn Shelton Has Bright Future Ahead of Him

IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 2:  Wide receiver Damond Powell #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes is brought down during the third quarter by cornerback Sojourn Shelton #8 of the Wisconsin Badgers on November 2, 2013 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Wisconsin won 2
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

One of the biggest revelations this season has been the play of the Wisconsin Badgers secondary.

It was a unit that came into 2013 with a lot of question marks after losing three of its four starters and didn't have much expected of them coming into the season.

But, at this late stage in the season, they are one of the better statistical pass defenses in the Big Ten. Wisconsin ranks second in pass defense (179.4 yards a game), has given up the fewest passing touchdowns in the conference this season (eight) and is second in opposing quarterback completion percentage (49.6 percent). 

A lot of the credit has to go to a standout freshman, Sojourn Shelton, who came to Wisconsin as an early-entrant this January. 

Head coach Gary Andersen noted during Tuesday's conference call that not only is Shelton a key to the Badgers success this year but that he expects big things from him going forward. 

"He's done a tremendous, tremendous job for us as a freshman at a very difficult position to play," said Andersen. "He will be a tremendous leader and tremendous player as we move forward."

As for the recognition after the season is over? That could be well on it's way to happening, considering Shelton is tied for second in interceptions (four) and is the only freshman in the top 10 of passes defensed in the conference (11). 

Shelton has certainly set the bar high in his freshman season at Wisconsin. 



Hoke's 'Ohio' Blasts Never Get Old

When Brady Hoke was hired at Michigan, he refused to call Ohio State by its full name, instead choosing to go for just simply "Ohio." 

It has now become second nature to the coach and of course this week is "The Game" and the trash talk has already started on both sides. 

Hoke couldn't help but get off an "Ohio" blast nearly from the word go during Tuesday's coaches teleconference. 

There's just something about such a subtle, yet attention-grabbing, jab at your rivals that makes it funny to hear. 

In case you need to be reminded of just how serious Hoke is about "Ohio" and the rivalry between Michigan and "that school in Columbus," as he likes to refer to Ohio State as, check this interview out: 

In a week so filled with hype and hyperbole, it's nice to be reminded that you can smile and have some fun with this game of football too.

Of course the jabs and bulletin board material have already begun ahead of the 2013 game, and we've got a great tracker of it all for you as well. 


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. You can follow Andy on Twitter: @ andycoppens.  


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