MSU's class features 22 players from 10 different states.
Michigan State finishes ranked among the nation's Top 10 for the second year in a row - a program first since 1965-66.
Michigan State vs. Penn State (USATSI)
Michigan State vs. Rutgers (USATSI)
Football versus the Michigan Wolverines on October 25, 2014.
Michigan State vs. Indiana
Michigan State vs. Purdue
Mark Dantonio, who is in his eighth season as head coach at Michigan State, has restored the pride and tradition of Spartan football while transforming the program into an annual Big Ten Championship contender.
A Zanesville, Ohio, native with Midwest ties, Dantonio has led Michigan State to double-digit win seasons four of the past five years, including back-to-back 11-win campaigns in 2010 and 2011, a school-record 13 victories in 2013, and 10 wins this season. The Spartans are extending their school record by playing in a bowl game for the eighth consecutive season.
A coaching veteran who has 34 years of collegiate coaching experience, Dantonio will be coaching in his 19th bowl game as No. 8 MSU takes on No. 5 Baylor in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic. It will also mark Dantonio's eighth bowl appearance at MSU, setting a school record for most bowl games by a head coach. He has led Michigan State to a school-record three consecutive bowl wins (2012 Outback Bowl against No. 18 Georgia; 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU; 2014 Rose Bowl Game against No. 5 Stanford). The 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic marks Dantonio's fifth appearance in a traditional New Year's Day bowl game as a head coach at MSU (2009 Capital One Bowl, 2011 Capital One Bowl, 2012 Outback Bowl, 2014 Rose Bowl).
Dantonio owns a 74-31 record (.705) at Michigan State since his arrival in 2007. He already ranks among MSU's all-time leaders in career wins (second) and winning percentage (fourth), and is the only coach in MSU history to lead multiple teams to double-digit win seasons (11 in 2010 and 2011; school-record 13 in 2013; 10 in 2014). MSU's 23 wins the past two years are the most in back-to-back seasons in school history, and the 52 wins since 2010 are the most in the Big Ten and tied for seventh most in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. It's also the winningest five-year stretch in Spartan football history.
Among Spartan coaches who have coached at least 10 Big Ten games, Dantonio owns the best conference winning percentage (.703, 45-19 record). He won his 71st game at MSU on Oct. 25, 2014, against Michigan to become MSU's second all-time winningest coach (record: Duffy Daugherty, 109).
Dantonio is one of just four Spartan head coaches to coach in at least 100 games at MSU (Duffy Daugherty: 183; George Perles: 139; Charlie Bachman: 114; Dantonio: 105). In addition, he is one of just six active coaches in the NCAA FBS to own at least a .700 winning percentage in at least 100 games at the same school (Les Miles, LSU; Gary Patterson, TCU: Nick Saban, Alabama; Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; Mark Richt, Georgia). Dantonio is the third-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten and 16th longest in the FBS.
A two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (2010, 2013), Dantonio has led Michigan State to Top 25 finishes in four of the last six seasons (2008: No. 24 both polls; 2010: No. 14 both polls; 2011: No. 10 USA TODAY/No. 11 AP; 2013: No. 3 both polls). The Spartans have posted five consecutive winning seasons, a first for the program since recording six in a row from 1985-90. Under Dantonio, MSU has won two Big Ten Championships (2010, 2013) and two Big Ten division titles (Legends Division in 2011 and 2013). In addition, Michigan State has recorded 42 Big Ten regular-season victories since 2008, the most of any team in the conference.
Since 2007, Dantonio has helped produce nine first-team All-Americans (2008: RB Javon Ringer; 2009-10: LB Greg Jones; 2011: DT Jerel Worthy; 2012: Le'Veon Bell; 2013: CB Darqueze Dennard and P Mike Sadler; 2014: C Jack Allen and S Kurtis Drummond) and 17 NFL Draft picks, including six in 2012. Dennard was a unanimous All-America selection and also won the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given annually to the nation's best defensive back. He was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft (No. 24 overall) by the Cincinnati Bengals to become the first Spartan under Dantonio to be chosen in the first round.
From his first day on the job, Dantonio has pledged to support student-athletes as they pursue excellence, both in the classroom and on the playing field. In his first eight seasons, a total of 128 players have earned their undergraduate degrees. In addition, 98 Spartans have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, including seven Academic All-Americans (Blair White, 2009 second team; Mike Sadler, 2014 first team, 2013 first team, 2012 second team, 2011 second team; Max Bullough, 2013 first team, 2012 second team). Michigan State has placed three student-athletes in the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Class (Kirk Cousins in 2011; Bullough in 2013; Sadler in 2014) in the past four years, equaling Duke for the most of any school in the NCAA FBS. Sadler became MSU's first four-time Academic All-American and was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy (nation's top scholar-athlete).
Under Dantonio, Michigan State has produced a 44-12 record (.786) in home games, including a 15-game winning streak (7-0 in 2010, 7-0 in 2011, won first game in 2012) and a 12-game winning streak (7-0 in 2013; won first five in 2014).
Known as one of the top defensive minds in the country, Dantonio and his staff have assembled another Top 10 defense in 2014, ranking sixth in the FBS in rushing defense (97.5 ypg.) and seventh in total defense (293.5 ypg.). Since 2011, Michigan State's defense has been one of the most consistent in the country, as only MSU and Florida have been ranked among the FBS Top 10 in total defense the past four seasons (including 2014). In addition, Michigan State is the only team in the last four years, including 2014, to rank in the FBS Top 10 in total defense and rushing defense.
Michigan State, which has ranked in the FBS Top 10 in scoring defense in 2011, 2012 and 2013, is currently 12th in the FBS in scoring defense (19.9 ppg.) through 12 games in 2014. MSU has allowed an average of 18.02 points per game over the last five seasons, which ranks as the fourth-best scoring defense average of any NCAA FBS team since 2010. The Spartans are also ranked fourth in the FBS in pass efficiency defense (102.9 rating) after leading the nation in that category last season (92.3 rating).
Offensively, the Spartans are one of the most explosive teams in the nation, ranking seventh in the FBS in scoring (43.1 ppg.) and 13th in total offense (496.6 ypg.). The Spartans have set school records for points (517), total offense (5,958 yards), offensive touchdowns (64) and rushing touchdowns (40). MSU is also averaging 234.9 yards per game on the ground, the highest rushing average in Dantonio's eight-year tenure. MSU leads the Big Ten in passing (261.6 ypg.) and ranks second in the league in scoring and total offense. Michigan State's improvement in scoring offense (+13.7 points per game) and total offense (+111.0 yards per game) in 2014 are both the seventh-largest increases among teams in the FBS.
Michigan State defeated four bowl-bound teams in 2014, including victories over No. 19 Nebraska, Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State, and beat Michigan for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. MSU's only two losses during its 10-2 regular season came against teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff (No. 2 Oregon and No. 4 Ohio State). The Spartans continued their impressive run in Big Ten games, finishing 7-1 in conference play and second in the Big Ten East Division; MSU has won 17 of its last 18 games against Big Ten opponents, with 16 of those wins coming by double figures.
Five Michigan State players were named to the All-Big Ten First Team and a total of 14 Spartans received all-conference recognition. The five first-team selections by the coaches were the most of any school in the conference. Two Spartans took home individual awards, as Drummond was named the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, while fifth-year senior Tony Lippett was selected the Richter-Howard Big Ten Receiver of the Year. It marked the second straight year a Spartan has won the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year Award (Dennard, 2013). Allen, Drummond, Lippett, junior defensive end Shilique Calhoun and junior cornerback Trae Waynes were first-team selections by both the coaches and media. Michigan State has had two defensive backs on the All-Big Ten First Team each year the past four seasons (Johnny Adams and Trenton Robinson in 2011; Adams and Dennard in 2012; Dennard and Drummond in 2013). Since 2007, MSU head coach Mark Dantonio has helped produce 31 first-team All-Big Ten selections.
In 11 seasons as a head coach, Dantonio has collected a 92-48 record (.647), including 10 bowl invitations.
2013: 13-1, 8-0 Big Ten (2014 Rose Bowl Champions, Big Ten Champions, Final Ranking: No. 3)
Michigan State had a record-setting season in 2013, winning a school-record 13 games, defeating No. 5 Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl Game, beating No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game for the school's eighth Big Ten title, and finishing No. 3 in both national polls, the highest ranking for the Spartans since 1966. Michigan State (13-1) became just the third team in Big Ten history to win 13 games in a season.
Dantonio earned 2013 Big Ten Coach of the Year honors from both the media and coaches, as the Spartans finished their conference schedule with a perfect 8-0 record for the first time in school history. Michigan State became the 14th Big Ten team to post an 8-0 mark in league play. The Spartans were the first Big Ten team to win all eight of their conference games by double-digit points since the league went to an eight-game schedule in 1971, and also defeated the Buckeyes by double figures in the championship game. In addition, MSU became the first undefeated Big Ten team to win all of its league games by double-figure points since Michigan in 1943 (6-0 record).
Dantonio also was named a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year, Bobby Bowden Coach of the Year and Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year. In addition, he was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Maxwell Football Club Coach of the Year and was tabbed Big Ten Coach of the Year by Sporting News and CollegeFootballNews.com.
Dantonio and his staff assembled the No. 1 defense in the Big Ten for the third straight season in 2013. The Spartans led the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense for 13 straight weeks and finished the season ranked No. 2 in the FBS, allowing just 252.2 yards per game. MSU was the only school to rank in the top three in the four major defensive stat categories: No. 2 in total defense, No. 2 in rushing defense (86.6 ypg.), No. 3 in scoring defense (13.2 ppg.) and No. 3 in pass defense (165.6 ypg.). In addition, the Spartans led the FBS in pass efficiency defense (92.3 rating) and ranked No. 2 in opponent third-down conversions (.279) and No. 5 in first-downs defense (14.3 pg). MSU's defense allowed just 4.04 yards per play, which also ranked No. 1 in the FBS.
The Spartans also led the Big Ten in nine defensive categories (total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass defense, pass efficiency defense, turnover margin, opponent third-down conversions, opponent fourth-down conversions, first downs defense). MSU is the first team to rank first in total defense and rushing defense three years in a row since the Big Ten awarded conference stat champions in 1985 for overall games.
Offensively, the Spartans evolved into championship form as the season progressed, culminating with strong performances against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game and Stanford in the Rose Bowl Game. The Spartans produced 438 yards of total offense against the Buckeyes and nearly 400 yards (397) against Stanford, which entered the game No. 14 in the FBS in total defense. Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Big Ten Championship Game after throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns, and he topped that performance by racking up 332 passing yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinal while being named the Rose Bowl Game's Offensive MVP.
MSU ranked among the Big Ten leaders in conference games in passing efficiency (third with 139.5 rating), scoring offense (fifth with 29.8 ppg.) and rushing offense (fifth with 185.8 ypg.). The offensive line allowed just 17 sacks - the second fewest in the Big Ten and 15th fewest in the FBS. In addition, Michigan State ranked seventh in the FBS in time of possession (33:19 per game).
Another key reason for MSU's success was creating turnovers on defense and limiting mistakes on offense, as Michigan State ranked first in the Big Ten and tied for 10th in the FBS in turnover margin (+13, 0.9 per game). The Spartans forced a total of 28 turnovers (11 fumbles, 17 interceptions), including five for touchdowns (three fumble recoveries, two interception returns). MSU forced the most turnovers in the Big Ten (28) and also turned the ball over the least amount of times (15) in the conference. MSU's seven interceptions were also tied for fewest in the Big Ten and tied for 11th fewest in the FBS.
Michigan State was rewarded for winning the Legends Division by three games, as six Spartans were named to the All-Big Ten First Team and a total of 16 players received all-conference recognition. The six first-team selections were the most for Michigan State since 1990, and the 16 honorees overall equaled the second most under Dantonio (19 in 2011, 16 in 2010). Two Spartans took home individual awards, as senior Darqueze Dennard was named the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, while sophomore Shilique Calhoun was named the Smith-Brown Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Dennard, Calhoun and senior linebacker Max Bullough were first-team selections by both the coaches and media. Junior safety Kurtis Drummond, senior safety Isaiah Lewis and junior punter Mike Sadler were named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches. The five first-team selections on defense tied for the most in school history (1966). Since 2007, Dantonio has helped produce 26 first-team All-Big Ten selections.
Michigan State defeated five bowl-bound teams in 2013, including victories over Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota and Ohio State. The Spartans snapped Ohio State's school-record 24-game winning streak in the Big Ten Championship.
2012: 7-6, 3-5 Big Ten (2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Champions)
Michigan State secured its third-straight winning campaign (7-6) in 2012 with a thrilling 13-point second-half comeback victory over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, defeating the Horned Frogs, 17-16.
The Spartans placed five players on the All-Big Ten First Team in 2012, the most first-team selections for the program since 1999. A total of 11 Spartans received All-Big Ten recognition, including junior running back Le'Veon Bell, who garnered consensus first-team honors after leading the Big Ten and ranking No. 3 in the NCAA FBS in rushing with 137.9 yards per game.
The Spartan defense ranked among the NCAA FBS Top 10 in eight categories: touchdowns allowed (second with 16), pass efficiency defense (third at 98.8), total defense (fourth at 274.4 ypg.), pass break-ups (tied for eighth at 4.8 pg.), rushing defense (eighth at 98.6 ypg.), third-down defense (eighth at .305), pass defense (ninth at 175.8 ypg.) and scoring defense (ninth at 16.3 ppg.). In addition, MSU also led the Big Ten in six defensive categories (touchdowns allowed, total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, rushing defense and third-down defense). Seven starters, including first-team choices Johnny Adams (cornerback), Max Bullough (linebacker) and Darqueze Dennard (cornerback), earned All-Big Ten accolades.
Michigan State defeated four bowl-bound teams in 2012, with victories over No. 24 Boise State, Central Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Spartans snapped Wisconsin's 21-game home winning streak at Camp Randall Stadium on Oct. 27 with a 16-13 overtime victory against the Badgers. Michigan State became bowl eligible for a school-record sixth-straight season while playing the toughest schedule in the Big Ten and the fourth hardest in the FBS, according to NCAA figures, as MSU's opponents compiled a 78-48 (.619) record during the regular season.
Three Spartans were selected in the 2013 National Football League Draft: Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers, second round), Dion Sims (Miami Dolphins, fourth round) and William Gholston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fourth round).
2011: 11-3, 7-1 Big Ten (2012 Outback Bowl Champions, Big Ten Legends Division Champions, Final Ranking: No. 11/10)
In 2011, thanks to its 33-30 triple-overtime victory over Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl, Michigan State (11-3) finished No. 10 in the final USA TODAY Coaches Poll and No. 11 in the final Associated Press Poll. It marked MSU's third Top 10 finish in the history of the USA TODAY Coaches Poll and its first since 1999 (No. 7 with a 10-2 record). It also marked the third time in the last four years that MSU has appeared in the final polls, as the Spartans ranked No. 24 (both polls; 9-4 record) at the conclusion of the 2008 season and No. 14 (both polls; 11-2 record) in 2010.
Michigan State's 11 wins in 2011 tied a then-school record, as the Spartans became bowl eligible for a school-record fifth consecutive year. MSU won the Big Ten Legends Division title outright with a 7-1 conference record, improving to 14-2 in Big Ten play during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. The Spartans came up just short of their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1988, falling to Wisconsin, 42-39, in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.
Michigan State defeated five bowl-bound teams, including a victory over the Badgers earlier in the season on Oct. 22 in Spartan Stadium, 37-31, on a last-second, 44-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol. MSU also beat No. 11 Michigan for the fourth-straight year on Oct. 15 in Spartan Stadium, 28-14, a first for the program since 1959-62. Other landmark victories included a 10-7 win at Ohio State on Oct. 1, MSU's first win in Ohio Stadium since 1998, and a 37-21 victory at Iowa on Nov. 12, the Spartans' first triumph in Kinnick Stadium since 1989.
The Spartans claimed the Legends Division outright with a 31-17 victory at Northwestern on Nov. 26 and closed the regular season with a 4-0 record in November. Under Dantonio, MSU has compiled a 13-3 record in the month of November, including seven-straight wins. Michigan State also went a perfect 7-0 at home for the second-straight year, posting back-to-back perfect home seasons for the first time since 1955-56, and extended its home winning streak to 14 games.
Michigan State led the conference in rushing defense (100.5 yards per game), total defense (277.4 ypg.), interceptions (18), sacks (45), tackles for loss (105) and third-down defense (.337). In addition, the Spartans ranked among the NCAA FBS Top 20 in seven statistical categories, including sixth in total defense, seventh in sacks, ninth in rushing defense, 10th in scoring defense (18.4 ppg.), 11th in pass defense (176.9 ypg.), 14th in tackles for loss and 18th in pass efficiency defense (113.3 rating).
On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver B.J. Cunningham re-wrote the Michigan State record book. Cousins, the winningest quarterback in school history with 27 victories as a starter, finished his career as MSU's all-time leader in touchdown passes (66), passing yards (9,131), completions (723), passing efficiency (146.1 rating), 200-yard passing games (26) and total offense (9,004 yards). He also set a single-season MSU record with 25 passing TDs in 2011. Cousins' favorite target was Cunningham, who left East Lansing as Michigan State's career leader in both receptions (218) and receiving yards (3,316). In his senior year, Cunningham tied a school record with 79 receptions and posted eight 100-yard receiving games, the most in an MSU single-season.
The Spartans were rewarded for their excellent season as 19 players received All-Big Ten recognition on the first team, second team or honorable mention, including a school-record 11 on defense. The Spartans had four first-team All-Big Ten selections: cornerback Johnny Adams (coaches), offensive guard Joel Foreman (coaches and media), safety Trenton Robinson (media) and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy (coaches and media).
Worthy also earned consensus first-team All-America honors, marking the fourth-straight year Michigan State has had a consensus first-team All-American (Javon Ringer: 2008; Greg Jones: 2009, 2010), which is a school record.
Following the successful 2011 campaign, six Spartans were selected in the 2012 National Football League Draft, the most since 2000: Worthy (Green Bay Packers, second round); Cousins (Washington Redskins, fourth round); Keshawn Martin (Houston Texans, fourth round); Robinson (San Francisco 49ers, sixth round); Cunningham (Miami Dolphins, sixth round); and Edwin Baker (San Diego, seventh round).
2010: 11-2, 7-1 Big Ten (Big Ten Champions, Capital One Bowl, Final Ranking: No. 14/14)
Dantonio, who led Michigan State to a then-school record 11 wins in 2010 and a share of its first Big Ten Championship since 1990, was named the Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year, as selected by the conference's media panel. A finalist for the Paul "Bear" Bryant, Eddie Robinson and Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year Awards, Dantonio helped manage the third-biggest turnaround among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams during the regular season, as the Spartans improved from 6-7 in 2009 to 11-1 in 2010. He was also named the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) Region 3 Coach of the Year, and earned National Coach of the Year honors from CBSSports.com, Scout.com and Rivals.com.
Thanks to its 28-22 victory at Penn State in the regular-season finale, Michigan State recorded its first win in State College since 1965 and finished in a tie with Wisconsin for the 2010 Big Ten Championship. With successive wins over Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State to close out the regular season, the Spartans posted a perfect 3-0 record in November for the first time since 1999.
MSU also dealt Wisconsin its only loss of the 2010 regular season, 34-24, in the Big Ten opener. The Spartans finished the season ranked No. 14 in both The Associated Press and USA TODAY/ Coaches' Polls.
A total of 16 Spartans received All-Big Ten recognition on the first team, second team or honorable mention, including senior linebacker Greg Jones, senior punter Aaron Bates, sophomore running back Edwin Baker and sophomore placekicker Dan Conroy, who each earned All-Big Ten first-team honors from the media. One of the top linebackers in school history, Jones was named a first-team consensus All-American for the second straight season, becoming only the third Spartan to accomplish the feat. He also became just the seventh player in program history to receive first-team All-Big Ten honors three times. Jones (New York Giants) and cornerback Chris L. Rucker (Indianapolis Colts) were selected in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
2009: 7-6, 4-4 Big Ten (Alamo Bowl)
Led by Jones and one of the most explosive offenses in the Big Ten, the Spartans earned their third consecutive bowl bid in 2009.
A consensus first-team All-American, Jones became the first Spartan to win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year accolades after recording 154 tackles, finishing first in the conference and third nationally in 2009. He also led the team and ranked among the national leaders in tackles for loss (14 for 69 yards) and sacks (9 for 53 yards). Jones was rated the No. 1 linebacker in the nation by CollegeFootballNews.com and earned the Linebacker Trophy (Linebacker of the Year) by the College Football Performance Awards.
In addition, Worthy was named a Freshman All-American, marking the third-straight year a Spartan landed on a Freshman All-America Team, and cornerback Jeremy Ware was chosen by the Oakland Raiders in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
Offensively, Michigan State featured the No. 2 passing attack in the Big Ten, averaging nearly 270 yards per game. The Spartans also finished second in the league in scoring (29.7 points per game) and third in total offense (406.2 ypg.). MSU established a school record with 28 touchdown passes in 2009, and the 3,502 passing yards ranked second in the school record book.
The Spartan passing game was built around wide receiver Blair White, who was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches while recording career highs in receptions (70), TD catches (9) and receiving yards (990), all of which rank among MSU's Top 10 single-season leaders.
MSU's special teams featured the school's all-time leading kicker in Brett Swenson, who scored 377 career points. A first-team All-Big Ten selection and Lou Groza Award semifinalist, Swenson also became MSU's career leader in field goals (71 made) and extra points (164 made) during the 2009 season. He closed out his career ranked among the Big Ten's all-time leaders in kick scoring (second), field goals (tied for third), total points (fourth) and extra points (sixth).
2008: 9-4,6-2 Big Ten (Capital One Bowl, Final Ranking: No. 24/24)
One of 15 semifinalists for the George Munger Coach of the Year Award, Dantonio had a breakthrough season as a head coach in 2008. Under his leadership, the Spartans went 9-3 in the regular season and compiled a 6-2 record in the Big Ten, the best league mark for the program since 1999. Michigan State defeated five bowl-bound teams, with victories over Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame, Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin. The Spartans, who made their first New Year's Day Bowl appearance in nine seasons, finished the season ranked No. 24 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Polls.
Three Michigan State players were named first-team All-Big Ten by the league's head coaches: senior running back Javon Ringer, senior safety Otis Wiley and Jones. A total of 15 Spartans received All-Big Ten recognition on the first team, second team or honorable mention.
Ringer became MSU's first consensus All-American since 2004, earning first-team accolades from Walter Camp and the Associated Press. The Doak Walker Award finalist had one of the finest seasons in Spartan history, scoring a school-record 22 touchdowns and rushing for 1,637 yards, which ranked second in the school record books. Ringer was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
2007: 7-6, 3-5 Big Ten (2007 Champs Sports Bowl)
In his first season as head coach at Michigan State, Dantonio sparked a three-game turnaround as the Spartans finished the 2007 regular season with a 7-5 record, securing the program's first bowl bid in four years with a berth against Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Dantonio became just the third first-year coach in Michigan State history to earn a postseason bowl bid, joining Saban (1995 Independence Bowl vs. LSU) and John L. Smith (2003 Alamo Bowl vs. Nebraska).
Michigan State (7-6 overall) produced seven victories despite playing one of the nation's most demanding schedules, as the Spartans' 2007 opponents had a combined record of 75-57 (.568) during the regular season. The Spartans went 4-3 in games played against bowl-bound teams in 2007. Michigan State lost six games by a combined total of 31 points, including two in overtime (Northwestern and Iowa). All six games were decided by seven points or less.
Michigan State finished the year strong, winning its final two games of the regular season for the first time since 1999 with victories at Purdue and over Penn State, both bowl-bound teams. Dantonio became the first coach in Spartan history to begin his initial season 4-0, as Michigan State opened the 2007 campaign with wins over UAB, Bowling Green, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. With the 31-14 victory over the Irish, the Spartans became the first opponent to win six-straight games in the 77-year history of Notre Dame Stadium.
In 2007, Michigan State featured one of the Big Ten's most prolific offensive attacks. The Spartans ranked second in the conference in scoring offense (33.1 points per game), third in rushing offense (198.2 yards per game) and fourth in total offense (416.8 ypg.). Michigan State also was listed among the NCAA's top 30 in rushing offense (No. 25) and scoring offense (No. 29). The Spartans scored a school single-season record 430 points and produced top 10 single-season totals in six other offensive categories, including total yards (No. 3: 5,418), first downs (No. 4: 266), passing yards (No. 5: 2,842), total yards per game (No. 6: 416.8) and scoring average (No. 6: 33.1 ppg.).
Michigan State also displayed dramatic improvement on the defensive side of the football in 2007. The Spartans ranked fourth in the Big Ten and No. 30 nationally in rushing defense, allowing just 125.9 ypg. Michigan State held four opponents under 50 yards rushing (UAB, Bowling Green, Indiana and Boston College). After finishing eighth in the Big Ten and No. 88 nationally in total defense in 2006, the Spartans improved to fourth in the league and No. 32 in the NCAA, allowing 345.5 ypg. After finishing near the bottom of the conference in tackles for loss (ninth) and sacks (10th) in 2006, Michigan State vaulted to third in the Big Ten in tackles for loss (7.69 per game) and fourth in sacks (3.08).
Jonal Saint-Dic, one of eight finalists for the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award, earned first-team All-Big Ten and second-team Walter Camp All-America honors in 2007. Saint-Dic ranked fourth in the Big Ten in sacks (0.83 per game) and ninth in tackles for loss (1.21) while setting the conference single-season record with eight forced fumbles. Three other Spartans garnered second-team All-Big Ten honors: Ringer (coaches and media), Thomas (coaches and media) and offensive tackle Pete Clifford (media).
Jones, a consensus Freshman All-American, became the first true freshman to lead the Spartans in tackles (78 in 2007) since Dan Bass (111 stops) in 1976.
Dantonio, who served as head coach at Cincinnati for three seasons prior to his return to East Lansing, became Michigan State University's 24th head football coach on Nov. 27, 2006. He previously spent six years as an assistant coach at Michigan State from 1995-2000.
The 58-year-old Dantonio established himself as one of the nation's up-and-coming coaches during his three-year tenure at Cincinnati, where he compiled an 18-17 overall record and led the program in its transition from Conference USA to the BIG EAST Conference.
In 2006, Dantonio led the Bearcats to a 7-5 overall record and a 4-3 BIG EAST mark, making Cincinnati bowl eligible for the second time in three years. Dantonio accomplished the feat against the second-toughest schedule in the country, as UC's opponents compiled a 69-42 record. His Bearcats upset then-No. 7 Rutgers, 30-11, on Nov. 18, handing the Scarlet Knights their first loss of the season and marking the highest-ranked opponent ever defeated by UC.
Highly respected as one of the top defensive coaches in the country, Dantonio's Bearcats finished the 2006 regular season ranked among the NCAA leaders in six statistical categories: No. 21 in tackles for loss (6.8 per game), No. 23 in pass efficiency defense (109.3 rating), No. 27 in rushing defense (107.5 ypg.), No. 31 in total defense (304.3 ypg.), No. 34 in scoring defense (19.3 ppg.) and No. 34 in sacks (2.4 per game). UC held seven of its 12 regular-season opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, highlighted by performances of 36 yards each in back-to-back games against Miami-Ohio and Akron. In the win over Rutgers, Cincinnati held the nation's No. 15 rushing offense to a season-low 50 yards on the ground, and limited the NCAA's No. 3 rusher, Ray Rice, to a season-low 54 yards. Defensive end Trevor Anderson ranked among the BIG EAST leaders in tackles for loss (No. 5 at 1.13 per game) and sacks (No. 6 at 0.5 per game).
Six Bearcats earned All-BIG EAST honors in 2006, including three first-team selections: defensive tackle Terrill Byrd, linebacker Kevin McCullough and free safety Dominic Ross. Three UC players received second-team all-conference honors, including offensive guard Trevor Canfield, tight end Brent Celek and cornerback Mike Mickens. Celek, who set UC career records for receptions, receiving yards and TDs by a tight end, was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
In 2005, Dantonio brought together one of the nation's youngest teams, with the Bearcats starting as many as five first-year freshmen on defense and posted a competitive 4-7 record in the program's first season in the BIG EAST.
In 2004, he became the first head coach in 23 years to direct a team to a winning season in his first year at UC. Dantonio also became only the second head coach in Cincinnati history (along with Sid Gillman) to take the Bearcats to a bowl game in his first season. The Bearcats' went 7-5 in 2004, including a 5-3 mark in Conference USA to finish second in the league standings, and defeated Marshall (32-14) in the Fort Worth Bowl.
Cincinnati led C-USA and ranked No. 26 in the NCAA in pass defense, allowing 194.2 yards per game. The Bearcats also ranked second in C-USA in total defense (341.3 ypg.) and third in both scoring defense (26.7 ppg.) and pass efficiency defense (121.5). Offensively, quarterback Gino Guidugli ranked 15th in the country in passing efficiency (146.5) and directed the Bearcats to the 30th-ranked offense in the nation (405.6 ypg). Three players were chosen in the 2005 NFL Draft (defensive end Trent Cole, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler and cornerback Daven Holly).
In his three seasons at Cincinnati, 21 of Dantonio's players earned All-BIG EAST honors and 40 received academic all-conference recognition. In back-to-back years (2006-07), Cincinnati's program was presented the American Football Coaches Association Academic Achievement Award for attaining a graduation rate of at least 70 percent for its student-athletes.
Assistant Coaching Positions
Prior to his appointment at Cincinnati, Dantonio served as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State for three seasons, where his defensive unit helped the Buckeyes to a combined record of 32-6.
In 2003, Ohio State's defense was the second toughest against the run, allowing 62.3 yards per game, and was ranked No. 10 in total defense (296.9 ypg.) and No. 16 in scoring defense (17.6 ppg.). Those efforts helped the Buckeyes post an 11-2 record and finish No. 4 in the final polls.
Dantonio assembled the defense which led Ohio State to the 2002 National Championship, as the Buckeyes ranked second in the NCAA in scoring defense (13.1 ppg) and third in rushing defense (77.7 ypg.). Six Buckeye defenders were named first-team All-Big Ten during his tenure and 13 were drafted by the pros, including a pair of first-round selections in 2004 (defensive end Will Smith and cornerback Chris Gamble).
Dantonio spent six years (1995-2000) as Michigan State's secondary coach, including five seasons under Saban and one under Bobby Williams. He was promoted to associate head coach in 2000. During his six-year tenure as an assistant, the Spartans compiled a 39-30-1 record.
Under his supervision, the Spartan secondary ranked among the NCAA leaders in pass efficiency defense three of his last four years, finishing No. 10 (101.6) in 1998, No. 16 (103.9) in 1997 and No. 22 (104.5) in 2000. In his last season as secondary coach, the Spartans only allowed 164.1 yards a game through the air, ranking seventh in the country in 2000.
Dantonio contributed to Michigan State's successful 1999 season, during which the Spartans went 10-2, won the Florida Citrus Bowl, led the Big Ten in total defense and ranked No. 7 in the final polls. He tutored cornerback Amp Campbell, who earned third-team All-America honors from the Associated Press.
Dantonio came to Michigan State following four seasons under Glen Mason at Kansas (1991-94) where he coached the defensive secondary. In 1992, the Jayhawks produced an 8-4 record and defeated BYU, 23-20, in the Aloha Bowl.
Dantonio previously spent five years at Youngstown State under Tressel, helping the Penguins to three trips to the NCAA I-AA playoffs. While serving as defensive coordinator in 1990, Youngstown State posted a perfect 11-0 regular-season record and ranked second nationally.
His coaching credits also including stops at Akron (defensive secondary, 1985), Ohio State (graduate assistant, 1983-84), Butler (Kan.) Junior College (defensive coordinator, 1982), Purdue (graduate assistant, 1981) and Ohio University (graduate assistant, 1980).
Dantonio earned three letters as a defensive back for Coach Jim Carlen at South Carolina (1976-78). He earned a bachelor's degree in education from South Carolina in 1979. Dantonio later earned a master's degree in education from Ohio U. in 1980.
He picked up all-state and all-league honors as a prep football player at Zanesville (Ohio) High School and was selected to play in the Ohio North-South All-Star Game.
THE DANTONIO FILE
Born Mark Dantonio in El Paso, Texas, on March 9, 1956.
PREVIOUS COACHING EXPERIENCE: College - Graduate assistant at Ohio U. (1980); graduate assistant at Purdue (1981); defensive coordinator at Butler (Kan.) Junior College (1982); graduate assistant at Ohio State (1983-84); defensive secondary coach at Akron (1985); defensive secondary coach and defensive coordinator at Youngstown State (1986-90); defensive secondary coach at Kansas (1991-94); defensive secondary coach (1995-2000) and associate head coach (2000) at Michigan State; defensive coordinator at Ohio State (2001-03); head coach at Cincinnati (2004-06).
93-48 (.660) in 11 years as a college head coach; 18-17 in three years at Cincinnati (2004-06); 75-31 (.708) in eight seasons at Michigan State (2007-).
Bachelor's degree in education from South Carolina in 1979; master's degree in education from Ohio U. in 1980.
College - Three-year letterman as a defensive back at South Carolina (1976-78).
Coach - 1987 NCAA I-AA playoffs, 1989 NCAA I-AA playoffs, 1990 NCAA I-AA playoffs, 1984 Fiesta Bowl, 1985 Rose Bowl, 1992 Aloha Bowl, 1995 Independence Bowl, 1996 Sun Bowl, 1997 Aloha Bowl, 2000 Florida Citrus Bowl, 2002 Outback Bowl, 2003 Fiesta Bowl, 2004 Fiesta Bowl, 2004 Fort Worth Bowl, 2007 Champs Sports Bowl, 2009 Capital One Bowl, 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl, 2011 Capital One Bowl, 2012 Outback Bowl, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, 2014 Rose Bowl, 2015 Cotton Bowl.
Dantonio's Career Record - Head Coach
||Year||School||W|| L||Pct.|| W ||L|| Pct.|| Finish||Bowl/Postseason|
|2004||Cincinnati||7||5||.583||5||3||.625||T-2nd||Fort Worth Bowl|
|2007||Michigan State||7||6||.538||3||5||.375||T-7th||Champs Sports Bowl|
|2008||Michigan State||9||4||.692||6||2||.750||3rd||Capital One Bowl|
|2009||Michigan State||6||7||.462||4||4||.500||T-6th||Valero Alamo Bowl|
|2010||Michigan State||11||2||.846||7||1||.875||T-1st||Capital One Bowl|
|2011||Michigan State||11||3||.786||7||1||.875||1st (Big Ten Legends)||Outback Bowl|
|2012||Michigan State||7||6||.538||3||5||.875||4th (Big Ten Legends)||Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl|
|2013||Michigan State||13||1||.929||8||0||1.000||1st (Big Ten Legends)||Rose Bowl|
|2014||Michigan State||11||2||.846||7||1||.875||2nd (Big Ten East)||Cotton Bowl|
|*Did not coach UC in bowl game|
|Dantonio's Career Record - Assistant Coach|
|1985||Akron||8-4||I-AA Playoffs First Round|
|1987||Youngstown State||8-4||I-AA Playoffs First Round|
|1989||Youngstown State||9-4||I-AA Playoffs Second Round|
|1990||Youngstown State||11-1||I-AA Playoffs First Round|
|1995||Michigan State||6-5-1||Independence Bowl|
|1996||Michigan State||6-6||Sun Bowl|
|1997||Michigan State||7-5||Aloha Bowl|
|1999||Michigan State||10-2||Florida Citrus Bowl|
|2001||Ohio State||7-5||Outback Bowl|
|2002||Ohio State||14-0||Fiesta Bowl|
|2003||Ohio State||11-2||Fiesta Bowl|
|Totals||139-87-1||8 Bowl Games, 4 NCAA I-AA Playoff Appearances|