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December 7, 2014

Mark Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO:  Very excited about the opportunity to play in the Cotton Bowl versus Baylor.  Got a lot of respect for Coach Art Briles and what he's been able to accomplish at Baylor University during his time there.
I think the program parallels our program in so many ways in terms of the number of win they have had this past year, the offensive production that they have had recently.  And then also they're playing great defense as well.
I think he came in and took a program and has turned it into a national contender.  So, very excited about the Cotton Bowl.  Dallas is a great venue.  And I'm sure our players are going to have great opportunity.  It gives us an opportunity to play up.  I think it's always important in bowl games to be able to play someone that is very comparable to you in terms of what we have to gain.  So, we'll take some questions.

Q.  All the experts of us have you in the Orange Bowl playing Georgia Tech, it was a done deal.  So, so what was your mindset going into today?  Did you watch this as a team or did you get a heads up several hours before or what?
COACH DANTONIO:  No, I think the way that they're playing this now, is that everybody sort of finds out at once.  I think that's the norm these days.  So, really didn't know where we would be going.
I just felt like we were going to be in one of those four bowl games.  I know that a lot of people had us pegged towards going to the Orange Bowl, because of the all the scenarios involving the rankings and etcetera.
But at the beginning of the day, quite honestly, I wanted to go to the Cotton Bowl.  The opportunity to play in the Cotton Bowl would definitely put us against either TCU or Baylor, one of the two teams.  Either way, whether they made it into the playoffs or not.  And I felt like that would be a great game for us competitively.
I thought it was a great venue.  I thought it was on New Year's Day.  Be one of the three primary games to be watched on New Year's Day, along with two playoff games.
So it's exciting for the Big‑Ten, for Michigan State.  Gives our people, our alumni, from all the across the nation an opportunity to come to a central location.  So our alumni from California, Arizona‑‑ Phoenix area, Texas area, Atlanta area, from Florida.  And then, obviously, from Michigan and the East Coast, as well.  But it will be a great location, and I think it's exciting for us.

Q.  On paper this would seem to be an offensive shoot‑out.  Michigan State and Baylor, along with Oregon, are the only three teams in the country to score 24 or more points the last 14 games.  Would we be mistaken if we get sucked into believing this is just going to be a high scoring shoot‑out between two great quarterbacks?  Can you talk about the type of game you think it's going to be?
COACH DANTONIO:  They have a great quarterback in Bryce Petty.  I know that just from the national exposure that they get.  I've watched them a couple times, on and off a little bit, seeing them against Oklahoma a little bit.  I seen them last night against K State a little bit.
But ‑‑ and then there were other games, West Virginia game, I think I watched some of that, as well.  And the TCU game.
So you've seen them a little bit.  But their offensive production is impressive.  They have great wide receivers, they have great scheme.
But it's our job to find out how to defend them, and I would say the same on their end.
So there's always defensive problems or issues that you encounter when you play a great offensive team.  But for me to sit here and say, I hope it's a shoot‑out, that probably wouldn't be what I would hope as a defensive coach, but I'm a realist too.  I know they score points.  We scored as many as well.

Q.  Two‑part question.  Mark, first of all, in the past you've gone to Texas in recruiting and gotten a guy, but in 2015 you're making a lot of headway.  How important can this game be playing a Texas team in Texas for furthering opening doors in Texas?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I think recruiting is pretty accelerated.  So I think we have a national name as an institution, so we have the ability to go in, there's always got to be a connection.  The connection with those individuals who made that choice is, whether it's the family members or whether it's been they have wanted to play in a defense like ours, or wanted to play in a productive offense like ours.
So I think those type of things can attract, and I just think the national media exposure that we'll get from this football game should at least put us in front of the Texas audience of high school players.  And I think can only pay dividends.

Q.  You like big finishes as a way to go.  Certainly, that would give you that opportunity.  Is that how you play that with your kids is, hey, this is a team that a lot of people thought was going to be playing in those top two bowls.  Here's your chance to make a statement?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think you always play for something, you always play for something beyond where you're at.
Regardless of who we would play, the opportunity to win 11 games gives us more credibility.  The opportunity to play a No. 5 ranked football team, like Baylor, gives us an opportunity to crawl up the ‑‑ crawl up the final polls a little bit, and I think that's a positive and we have to direct ourselves toward that.
It will be a great challenge for us.  We'll be the away team in the game, but I know we'll bring a lot of people too.  We always have.  We've brought, I think, we use usually bring in on the average about 30,000 people to every bowl game we travel to, so, 60,000 last year.  So we'll see what this one holds.  But should be an exciting environment for to us play in.

Q.  How would you characterize their offense and compare it to some of the other tempo spreads that you've seen?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, it's a ‑‑ they are going to score fast.  I saw last night where their average drive is in certain number of touchdowns is very, very small.  A minute twenty‑five or things like that.
So they're going to spread you out horizontally and test you vertically.  I think they spread you out by formation‑‑ use the entire field formationally, and then look for the seems.
They also have the ability to run the football when you spread out, so you just can't play them outside as well either.
So I think they're a football team that executes very well, and I think their scheme that they use is unique and extremely difficult to defend.
So we'll go to work trying to figure that out.

Q.  Anything like Indiana?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, a little bit like Indiana, probably a little bit.  You know, trying to just think about everything as we go, all the different people we played in the past.  But I think it's unique in a lot of different ways.

Q.  In the past, you've reached out to other coaches who you know to help you and you helped them.  Will you reach out to Bob Stoops just to get some ideas on playing Baylor?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think that's pretty natural to reach out to people that you know and try and at least get an idea and talk to them about personnel, and, but I think what you do is you really intensify maybe what you look at in those games so that you can talk intelligently to them.
That might be as big as anything, because, but I think that goes to ‑‑ people figure that out as we go, but I also think that there's a conference affiliation thing, too, so you just test the waters.

Q.  Ohio State, obviously, gets in the top four for the Big‑Ten.  For you guys and for them, for the league, how important is it for you guys to perform well and for Ohio State to have a good showing in terms of perception and some of the sort of beating that's happened over last three months?
COACH DANTONIO:  I always concerned myself with Michigan State first and foremost.  I think it's good, congratulate Ohio State in getting into the playoff situation; and having a Big‑Ten school there is a positive; and even more importantly maybe is the fact that the two games we have lost is to Oregon Ohio State and they're both in the playoff.  Now we have the opportunity to play the No. 5 team.
So, to me, it's an opportunity to show and to test that we do belong in this conversation, in this national conversation.  And that's a positive for our program.  And that's a move for our program and definitely in the right direction.
So, as far as playing, it's about Michigan State, and it's about Baylor.  And to go beyond that, it's not about the Big‑Ten conference in these games, it's about who is playing who and the matchups that those are involved in, the matchups that are involved in those two teams.

Q.  You stole a little bit of what I was going to ask you.  But you talk about in this game being able to prove to people that you belong in the national conversation.  Is there a point where you maybe, I don't know, say, get tired of it, but you would think you got this program to the point where they are in that whether you have to, regardless of what happens against Baylor, or is that just kind of the natural evolution of a program you have to just keep proving yourself?
COACH DANTONIO:  You know, we won double digits the last four or five years we had double digit wins.  So I think we have credibility nationally.  But it's just another opportunity to prove ourselves and I think football is about competition and it's about you're always in a proving ground.  You just always are.
We could be playing anybody 1 through 20 and they have got a good football team.  1through 20 they have got good football teams.
So we're fortunate to be playing in the Cotton Bowl with a great deal of exposure, it should be a packed house, I would imagine, and it should be an exciting atmosphere.  I think that's what will fuel our guys.  That and the competitive nature of it.  And when they get down to Dallas and it really starts to become real and you figure out that you got to play.  So, another measuring stick for us.

Q.  You've been involved with a lot of bowl games here.  I don't know if you had a chance to speak with your players yet, or captains, have you gotten any reaction from them yet in relationship to pass bowl games did you get some excitement from them first of all?  Secondly, it wasn't long ago that you were trying to get to a bowl game and win a bowl game, now you got a bowl streak.  How important is the bowl win streak to you?
COACH DANTONIO:  The bowl win streak I think is important.  It shows that we're always ending one year and moving forward.  I think that's the biggest thing about that.  It gives you a feel good for the next season.  You go into that season as a winner.  Rather than re‑collecting yourself, you go into that season saying, okay, here's the prosperity that we have been able to game.  I think that's a positive.
When you lose, you re‑collect yourself and you move forward.  So there's two different ways to approach it, I guess.  Both are, both you have to be successful at, because you start yourself over for 2015.
But we want to win the football game.  I don't think there's any way that we're going to go in there and act as if we're just playing in a bowl game.  We have never done that, so I don't see doing that.  The first part of the question was?

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH DANTONIO:  No, I found out that, I found out during our banquet who we were playing.  And like so many other people I sort of felt like we were going this direction and we went in this direction.  Which I've always said hey, adjust and move forward.  So the deal moves.
So, it just goes to show you that today, today, for a lot of people, things didn't go as well as or in the direction that they had planned.  And so, you need to ‑‑ I think the way you deal with things in a successful way is you just re‑collect yourself, and you push it forward and you adjust.  And that's what we'll do.  Instead of going to Florida, we're just going southwest.

Q.  In the few hours that we have known about this a lot of the conversation has been about both offenses and we know about your defense.  You said in the teleconference that you haven't really been able to look at a whole lot of film, but is there anything in the games that you watched about Baylor's defense that maybe we don't see that it could be a strength for Baylor?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, Baylor, a lot of parallels there.  They give up 106 yards rushing a game.  Which is not very many in that conference.  They may led the conference, I believe.
And they're second in sacks with 37.  Which parallels our sack production.  I think we have 38, I think.  And we lead the conference.
So, there's a lot of parallels in that.  I think they have good athletes playing in the back end.  I'm sure that they see their offense a lot and they're going to be able to play, they have got to have guys that can run and play the ball in the deep part of the field.
So, probably a lot of similarities.  But beyond that, I really don't, I really don't know, because when you watch Baylor, at least from my perspective, you pretty much concentrate on what you're seeing, which is the ball going down the field a little more often than usual.

Q.  I know you just said you readjust, do you have to readjust what Tony Lippett's role will be now that you're going from playing a triple option team where there probably wouldn't have been much of a need for him to a team that goes lot of four and five wides.  And then also, do you know if you'll keep the travel plan you've used in the past of traveling on Christmas Day or will you go one day later because of the bowl date?
COACH DANTONIO:  We will travel on Christmas.  I think Christmas afternoon we'll travel so we can get down there and sort of get ourselves situated.  That will give us, I think, four or five practices, probably five practices down there.
So it will give us a little bit more time to prepare.  As far as Tony Lippett, he was going to play either way.  But I think that he's probably more geared to playing against this offense than an option attack.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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