Spartans’ Shoulder Chip May Be The Intangible Difference
There's no doubt that MSU Football Coach Mark Dantonio brought a new mindset with him when he walked onto campus in November of 2006. With more action, but some words, the Spartan Football program has emerged from the Midwestern shadows of the historically mighty likes of Michigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. Three 11 win seasons in the last four, with a Rose Bowl win, and a thrilling Cotton Bowl win during that timespan, for most programs, would put them at the forefront as media darlings. But, not in East Lansing. As Coach D will tell you, some programs are selling hope, MSU is selling results. And, so far it's been quiet.
Ohio State capped off an impressive run to the last season's National Championship. Those results are hard to ignore. Meanwhile, Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh...in case you haven't heard, to try and resurrect that legacy. And, boy has the media ever taken note of that! Last month, during Dantonio's ESPN media carousel, his name was mispronounced...one anchor even called him Mike D'Antoni, former NBA coach in Phoenix and New York. He was asked questions during every interview about Harbaugh's arrival to the Big Ten. And, this, of course, on the heels of the same questions asked ad nauseum at the Big Ten Football Media Days. And, I trust that Dantonio has put his staff and team on high notice of such disregard for the spartans' own recent accomplishments. "Us-against-the-world", if you will.
Part of me feels that a lot of this is by ingenious design. There has been a chip firmly planted on the shoulders of Sparty that is plain as day for all to see. This chip is plainly visible to all that bother to look. MSU has proven that they have the coaches, players, and talent to perform at an ultra-high level in college football. And any added vim or vigor that can be instilled in this team may be the intangible difference needed to propel this year's squad to unknown success seethed for by fans, alumni, and players alike. And, Dantonio may have added some fuel to that fire this week.
After winning the starting quarterback job in 2013, leading his team to a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl Championship, and having the full faith of his teammates during the 2013 season, Connor Cook was not elected a team captain in 2014, much to his chagrin. But, he stepped up his game on and off the field last season, and drew high accolades from NFL scouts and national media members...not just for game performance, but for his moxie as well. MSU didn't win another conference title, but came damn close to beating Ohio State, now a precursor for MSU to get to the B1G Championship Game. An impressive comeback win against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl, led by Cook, put the nation on notice...for a few days.
Now, this week, Cook once again was not named a team captain. A cruel slight by teammates and coaches?? I think not. I see it as just another fueling of that belly fire in Cook and the rest of the team. And, frankly, when you're probably not quite the most talented team, on paper, in your conference, it's intangibles like this that can propel a team to even more greatness...the greatness yearned for in these parts for 5 decades.