Jan. 10, 2009
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State, which won nine regular-season games for the first time since 1999 and made its first New Year's Day bowl appearance in nine years, finished No. 24 in the final Associated Press and USA TODAY Polls. The last time the Spartans appeared in the final national polls came at the conclusion of the 1999 season. Thanks to its 37-34 victory over Florida in the 2000 Florida Citrus Bowl, Michigan State finished the 1999 season with a 10-2 record and ranked No. 7 in the final AP and USA TODAY/ESPN Polls.
Despite a 24-12 loss to Georgia in the 2009 Capital One Bowl, the 9-4 Spartans earned a Top 25 national ranking for the 10th time in the last 11 weeks, including the last eight in a row. Michigan State finished third in the Big Ten standings at 6-2 - its highest finish in the league standings since tying for second place in 1999 (6-2). The Spartans' only conference losses came against 2008 Big Ten co-champions Penn State and Ohio State.
After a 38-31 loss in the season opener at California, the Spartans responded by reeling off six straight wins. Following a 45-7 home loss to Ohio State, Michigan State started a three-game winning streak with a 35-21 victory over Michigan, as the Spartans won in Michigan Stadium for the first time since 1990.
In 2008, Michigan State went 5-3 in games played against bowl-bound teams, including victories over Florida Atlantic (Motor City), Notre Dame (Sheraton Hawaii), Iowa (Outback), Northwestern (Valero Alamo) and Wisconsin (Champs Sports).
"We're building a foundation here and finishing in the Top 25 is part of the process," Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio said. "We entered the polls for the first time in early October and remained there for 10 of the last 11 weeks. That's consistency.
"Credit the 2008 senior class for raising the bar. This team found a way to win the close ballgames and put itself in a position to compete for a share of the Big Ten championship in the final week of the regular season. That group also led us to a New Year's Day bowl game and another opportunity to win 10 games.
"As we continue to build this program, our expectation will be to become a consistent Top 25 team. In the seasons when we can bounce into the Top 10, then that's when great things can happen."
Michigan State's 2009 season and home opener is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 5 against Montana State. Coach Dantonio expects to welcome back as many as 17 starters from last year's 9-4 team, including seven on offense, eight on defense and two specialists.