CHICAGO – It often seems hard for Mark Dantonio to smile, but his signature scowl cracked at least twice last season.
First was after his Michigan State Spartans won the Big Ten championship and, in the process, knocked off mighty, undefeated Ohio State – previously the winners of 24-straight games under coach Urban Meyer.
After the game, Dantonio, a man as dry as they come, told the FOX Sports broadcasting team he was looking forward to partying with his team to rapper Rich Homie Quan’s “Some Type of Way” in the locker room at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The second smirk was after the Spartans took down Stanford in the Rose Bowl, their first win in Pasadena since 1988. Again, the typically stoic and unfazed coach was brimming with emotion while holding the game’s trophy up high in the air.
Of course, with great success comes great expectations. And Dantonio insists Michigan State is prepared to handle them.
"How do we handle success now, we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve done some special things," Dantonio said at Big Ten Media Days Monday.
"I think we’re a little bit more of the hunted. That’s a good place to be, but also a precarious place to be as well."
- Dantonio clarified that the Spartans are "one of the hunted, not the hunted." Most notably, Ohio State will compete with Michigan State for the league's crown this season. "We’ve always been about taking care of ourselves, not looking for entitlement. We’ll get what we earn, every game will be a challenge, it has to be earned ... Respectability can fly out the window and I understand that."
- The Spartans return 14 starters next season, but lost a sizable chunk of a defense that finished among the best in the nation last season. Dantonio said the goals will remain the same as any season.
- On the Big Ten East Division: "I think it’s going to be a tough division, there’s no doubt about that." He noted that it's good to have built-in rivalries with Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State.
- Dantonio dismissed the notion of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry cooling thanks to the Spartans' recent dominance: "I continue to live in Michigan, that ought to do it."
- Dantonio said "nutrition is the new frontier" of college athletics after the NCAA granted schools the ability to provide its athletes with unlimited snacks.