Nov. 17, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Six losses separate Michigan State's Rose Bowl aspirations from the any-bowl-will-do situation it finds itself in following Saturday's 23-20 loss to Northwestern.
For the continued health and growth of head coach Mark Dantonio's six-year program, it's imperative that the Spartans win next Saturday's regular-season finale at Minnesota to level their record at 6-6 and qualify for an unprecedented sixth-consecutive postseason appearance.
A victory in Minneapolis will likely put MSU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., on Dec. 29. The good new is, while the Spartans are 2-5 at Spartan Stadium, they're 3-1 on the road.
"It's very important," Dantonio said. "We need to go to a bowl game. We have played better way from home, so maybe that's an omen this year. We need to go to Minnesota with the mindset and right idea to get it done. I don't care what bowl it is."
There's no question that a 7-6 finish, which is still within MSU's grasp, would look infinitely better than 5-7 epilogue on the heels of back-to-back 11-win finishes in 2010 and '11.
"We are in a one-game playoff," said red-shirt junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell. "There isn't time to get frustrated; this is the biggest game of the year. We have to realize how finite and how serious this situation is."
If prognosticators were a year off in their assessment of Michigan State, and the Rose Bowl was actually a more realistic goal for the 2013 squad, then the work toward that end needs to begin this week.
There's no question the Spartans can benefit from the two extra weeks of practice that come only with bowl qualification.
"That's 15 extra practices you get to improve your football team and to improve yourself as a football player," Maxwell said. "Getting to a bowl game is a great experience and I think and our goal will be to see the improvement you can make in those 15 practices.
"You get a lot of work with the young players who have been on the scout team all year. You get to develop them throughout the winter."
The Spartans outgained Northwestern, 419-303, and had 23 first downs to 17. But, they still haven't put it all together on a consistent basis. Offensive coordinator Dan Roushar would love to get another opportunity to tinker with the offense under game conditions.
"Hey, we all have to be better," he said. "I think the one thing is, we've got a lot of pride and high level of character, there's an established level of play we've played to the last five years.
"As we look at it right now, guys are going to have to regroup, come back and see if can salvage the last game and get ourselves bowl eligible."