Ohio State kept stringing together win after win after win, but each Buckeye exclamation point was viewed nationally as a question mark.
Was OSU really that good, or were they a product of a soft schedule?
In response, analysts have suggested that what the Scarlet and Gray needs, really needs, is for the Big Ten’s bellwethers to get back to their winning ways.
Penn State has to come out from under the shadow of punitive NCAA sanctions. Nebraska must be better than 8-4. And Michigan? Though, it might make Buckeye fans shudder, Michigan can’t be the type of team that ends up in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
That’s how the argument goes, anyway.
But what if a new power were to emerge?
What if turned out that Michigan State rose to the status of national power?
Undoubtedly, Mark Dantonio would argue that’s already the case. “We’re up there,” he said today while previewing the Rose Bowl, “and we want to show that we deserve to be up there.”
As proof, he could easily reference the interest in his defensive coordinator and Broyles Award winner Pat Narduzzi, who just recently turned down the UConn job. He could also point to the fact that his own name has come up in speculation about who Texas might hire as their next coach.
To be clear, though, it’s just speculation.
“I see Michigan State as the destination, not a stop,” Dantonio said. “That’s how I see it. Flattering, but that’s how I see it.”
He could cite senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard winning first-team, All-American honors from the Associated Press, or he could mention that Big Ten coaches voted six of his players first-team all-conference.
Of course, he could also talk about that win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game.
“That just changes perceptions as we move forward,” Dantonio said of the victory. “You know, we’re moving up the chain. I don’t think that, that game by any means was a fluke if that’s what people are asking. You can print that one.”
Starting next year, Ohio State and Michigan State will both be playing in the league’s East Division. That means the Buckeyes will have a chance at payback soon enough. (November 8th, if you’re marking your calendar.)
And whether or not the emergence of Michigan State is a good thing for Ohio State, it seems almost certain that the budding rivalry will be good for fans on both sides.