Now that the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans (1-0) have taken care of Jacksonville State on Friday night, winning handily, 45-7, it is now appropriate to take a look ahead at one the 2014 college football season’s marquee early season match ups.
“This is an opportunity to see where we are at as a program,” MSU head football head coach Mark Dantonio said in a teleconference Sunday night, who’s Spartans are set to take on the No. 3 Oregon Ducks (1-0) next Saturday in Eugene at 6:30 p.m. ET.
For Michigan State, they looked great in Friday night’s season opener, especially in the first half. Junior quarterback Connor Cook went 12 of 13 for 285 yards and three touchdowns as the Spartan defense one again looked stout, surrendering just 244 yards and forcing three turnovers.
And while Dantonio did acknowledge on the teleconference that Jacksonville State’s up-tempo offense was a good prep for a similarly fast paced Oregon attack, he also acknowledged that next Saturday night’s game will be a whole new challenge.
Make no mistake about it, Oregon’s offense can send defenses into a daze, much like they did in their first game against South Dakota, a game which they hung 673 yards of offense on the Coyotes en route to a crushing 62-13 victory.
As for what the Oregon game could mean for Dantonio, he’s completely transcended this Michigan State football program to all new levels in his eight years as head coach in East Lansing, and aside from last year’s Rose Bowl, next Saturday night’s game will without a doubt be the biggest non conference game Dantonio has ever been a part of.
“Win or lose, we still have a lot of football games ahead of us,” Dantonio said of the game… which is true.
But what’s also true is the fact that his Spartans are nearing the level of today’s elite programs, and the fact that the Oregon game is an opportunity for Michigan State to vault themselves onto the same pedestal as those teams.
Dantonio wants this one. His players want this one.
And the odds makers have put the Spartans exactly where they love to be – 11-point underdogs to the Ducks.