Mark Dantonio, Michigan State Focusing on the Wrong Things in Michigan Matchup

Big House BobSenior Analyst IISeptember 30, 2009

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26:  Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans watches as his team takes on the Wisconsin Badgers on September 26, 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Mark Dantonio is a good football coach, I think. He coached under "the Vest" at Ohio State and was the head football coach at Cincinnati before taking over the Spartans.

The reason I hesitate about whether he is a good coach or not is how he approaches the Michigan game.

It's too obvious to anyone that has eyes, ears, or can read that Dantonio hates Michigan. Maybe he lived in the state of Ohio too long, or maybe Mike Hart's "Little Brother" crack got to him, but either way he has failed when it comes to the Michigan game and being a head coach.

College head football coaches are supposed to be leaders of men, motivators, tacticians, pubic relations experts, psychologists, and basically the CEOs of the program.

It's a mistake for Dantonio to use the "we don't like them" card when it comes to Michigan, and it's wrong for him to get so upset the weeks prior to and the week after a loss to U of M. He should respect his opponent no matter who it is, prepare his team for a difficult football game, and not put so much pressure on his own players.

These kids don't hate each other. They have grown up playing against each other in high school football in Michigan, Ohio, and in other states. They most likely are friends off the field. Sure, they want to win this game, but they want to win every game. After it's over, no matter who wins and who loses, they go on texting and tweeting each other.

That's how sports are; someone wins and someone loses.

My guess is Dantonio has put so much emphasis on this game that his team overlooked CMU and wasn't fully prepared for Wisconsin last week. Comments like the following helped me come to that conclusion:

"This game is personal, and we need to win it," sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "And we better win it."

"Before the game last year, Coach D told us that if you haven't played Michigan, within 30 seconds you'll realize why we don't like them," defensive end Trevor Anderson said. "After about 15 seconds, I realized why I didn't like them. Just the total lack of respect that they have for our school in general. Not just the program, but the general lack of respect they have for us."

"The lack of respect they have, period," defensive end Trevor Anderson responded when asked about his dislike for Michigan. "It's sickening."

And from left tackle Rocco Cironi, an Ohio native, when asked if he grew up with a hatred for U-M: "Yeah, I think everybody has a hatred for Michigan."

"It would be a huge deal," junior linebacker Greg Jones said about beating U-M this year. "Forty-two years is a long time." (It's been 42 years since State beat Michigan in back-to-back seasons.)

"I know this is a very important game," Dantonio said. "I try and deal with the present right now. It's a critical game for us. It always will be, regardless of our record."

"As I said last week, you're either going to walk the streets or walk the alleys," Dantonio said. "It's a year-to-year thing. It'll always be like that. ... It's a game that we'll focus on—and always focus on here—and make it extremely important."

This is what they are saying to the media—you can only guess what is said behind closed doors in East Lansing.

You can be the judge of whether Mark Dantonio is a good coach or not, but his hatred for Michigan is putting a ton of pressure on his 1-3 Spartans against the Wolverines this Saturday. It's more than a football game this weekend—and that is where he fails.

If Michigan State wants respect, they need to earn it, and not by putting the weight of the entire season on this football game on Saturday. I guess that is why this game is on the Big Ten Network and not on ESPN or ABC like the Indiana game was last week.


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