Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year for the second time in four seasons on Tuesday.
Big Ten Football's official Twitter account reported the news, and ESPN.com's official conference Twitter account noted the significance of Dantonio's achievement, which adds to his accolade from 2010:
Michigan State's Mark Dantonio has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year. Second time in four seasons for Dantonio.— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) December 3, 2013
Dantonio captured the Hayes-Schembechler award—named for coaching legends in Ohio State's Woody Hayes and Michigan's Bo Schembechler—thanks to leading the Spartans to an 11-1 record in 2013.
That allowed Michigan State to finish first in the Big Ten's Legends Division, setting up a date with the Buckeyes in Saturday's Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium.
Considering Urban Meyer has led Ohio State to a second straight 12-0 regular season, this is quite a compliment for Dantonio to receive this prestigious award voted on by the coaches.
Sparty has a chance to deny Ohio State of a BCS National Championship appearance with an upset victory, and it's within reach because of Dantonio's magnificent job at the helm.
Who will win the Big Ten championship?
The key to Michigan State's success has been defense, which is Dantonio's area of expertise. Per NCAA.com, the Spartans are No. 1 in total yards allowed per game (237.7 YPG) and give up a miniscule 3.77 yards per play. They also rank No. 4 in the nation in points allowed per game and have the top rushing defense in the country.
Although the talent at Dantonio's disposal is a major reason for the defense executing as well as it does, the coaching has been evidently splendid.
It will be interesting to see how Dantonio's defense fares against a high-octane OSU offense on Saturday, especially considering the 57-year-old coach served as the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator from 2001 through 2003.
No matter what happens in the conference title game, though, the season has still been a raging success for Dantonio, and the Spartans have a great chance at a BCS bowl bid even without a win over Ohio State.