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January 5, 2015

Mark Dantonio

MODERATOR:  Coach, if you would start just on your thoughts on the Cotton Bowl game.
MARK DANTONIO:  Just great a experience at the Cotton Bowl.  Coach Kelly was unbelievable.  They've got an outstanding crowd.  I thought our Michigan State fans represented extremely well.  The game itself, when you really look at it, started fast.  We sort of kept pace in the second and third quarter a little bit trying to always -- I always felt like we were in the game, we were not out of the football game but we needed to play better.  But credit Petty and their receivers, I thought they did an excellent job, Baylor's quarterback and receivers.  Then we find our way in the fourth quarter down by 20, and after the field goal was missed that hit the upright, a big 50-yard throw to Keith Mumphrey.  We get into the end zone with Price on the touchdown and recover an on-side kick, have the interception.  But they gave us at least part of it with the penalty, hold on fourth down, and next thing you know we're in the end zone again and cut it to six.  And then after that we blocked the kick, blocked the kick with 1:10 left.  We go down, big fourth-down throw by Cook, and obviously a big throw by Cook to Lippett.  But I thought when you looked at us, you know, it was just a great performances by our football team just in not quitting.  Good team chemistry.  Nobody panicked on the sideline, everybody understood we had a good football team.  We needed some things to fall our way and they started to in the fourth quarter.  But great individual efforts, you know, to hit the deep balls.  (Inaudible) by Cook to try to get in I guess the next-to-the-last touchdown, and then again, that drive at the end of the game.  You know, left 17 seconds and then all of a sudden we come alive on defense and sacked the quarterback.  But I thought our conditioning showed in the fourth quarter.  We worked extremely hard to be in conditioning for the game.  We worked two-and-a-half hour practices while we were down there.  We ran our guys, we went hard when we were here.  We conditioned ourself and we continued to say that this game had to be a game where we were mentally conditioned, that this was a mental game.  This game was mental, about mental conditioning and we won that war.  In the end, we won the war.  With all the talk and all the different things that were going on in the game, at the end of the day we sort of persevered through it all and came out on the back end.
MODERATOR:  Somebody has their speakerphone on and we're getting a lot of feedback.  Questions for Coach D.

Q.  Oregon will definitely have players from Texas.  They've had a pipeline there.
MODERATOR:  Somebody has the speakerphone on.  If you could take that off, we would appreciate it.

Q.  (Inaudible.)  Have you had the time to do that?  Have you even looked at film yet?  Anything else you found that you didn't realize right after the game?
MARK DANTONIO:  No, because we just got back and took the weekend to sort of be with my family so I have not -- I've watched part of it, but I have not watched it in its entirety.  I have reviewed it things like that.  I think the result of the game, which what we found in the game is that a lot of conflicts by their offense, which put our secondary on (inaudible) and great throws, great catches.  They hit two trick plays, which I thought we were ready for but obviously we weren't.
That's sort of annoying, isn't it, Joe?
Anyway, but I thought that our football team just responded.  Every time we had -- they really never really stopped our offense, we stopped our offense.  So I always thought every time we got the football that we had something going for us offensively, that we could move the football, and we ended up with 553 yards of offense I believe.  We were always able to move the football.  We turned it over two times in the red zone.  We stalled out one other time.  Other than that, we scored points.  We knew that it was going to take probably 40-plus points probably to win this thing and that's what it did.  But in the end, like I said earlier, I think that the fourth quarter, we sort of took it over from a conditioning standpoint. Right, wrong or indifferent, we won the fourth quarter 21-zip.  It doesn't mean they didn't get plays, they made some plays.  But we found our way out of those plays, whether it was because of a penalty or a missed kick or a blocked kick.  But at the end of the game, to get the ball back even if it is at the 50 with 43 seconds or 55 seconds left and to be able to respond and go down the field, credit to our conditioning.

Q.  Coach, can you talk about changing the packages around a little bit late?  I thought I saw a little bit of that (inaudible.)  Can you just talk about some of the adjustments you made there in the fourth quarter?
MARK DANTONIO:  Yeah, they were difficult to -- first of all, we played a hybrid package because Mylan Hicks played star along with Jalyn Powell.  So those are two guys that played defensive back for us.  So we really played with a nickel, even though those are star linebackers, they're nickel-type players in terms of their physical abilities.  They can run, tackle, and we did some different things that I think helped us.
But we went to the three-man.  It was very difficult to substitute.  We could substitute on third down, but if they didn't substitute, it was a scramble.  I mean, the reality of the situation is we played four safeties in the game, six different defensive backs, different corners, six different corners, and six different linebackers and eight different defensive linemen.  So we played a ton of players and we stayed fresh on the defense side.
On the offense side of the ball, we did what we did, we did what we do.  And we sort of took the clock a little bit.  When you look at the possession time, it was very much in our favor even at the end of the first half, and I think we did that by -- we did that on purpose trying to move the ball a little bit to make sure that our defense would get a rest actually.  And I think those things sort of compounded itself as we got into the fourth quarter.  But we went to a (inaudible) package when we needed to, especially at the end of the game with 17 seconds left (inaudible.)  All of a sudden guys got pressure.  Where they weren't getting pressure earlier in the game, they got it.
MODERATOR:  Again, if you could take it off speakerphone, we would appreciate it.  Other questions for Coach?

Q.  I'm curious when you look back at that game, the thing that stood out to me was, you've been around football a long time, usually the winner gets the MVP, and both of them went to Baylor players.  And does that really speak about how big of an actual team win it is because when you look at the stats, those two were legitimate winners of it.  Does that speak about how big of a team victory it was for your squad?
MARK DANTONIO:  You know, Hondo, that's unusual to say that, but I've been wondering who's been the MVP of that game because it really didn't matter.  I've been wondering for about three or four days, who was the MVP?  But you look at Tony Lippett playing both sides of the ball, you want to count up his plays, he probably played 80 stats, and every time I turned around he was ready to go back in on defense and he made plays.  You look at the play that Marcus Rush made, you know, big sack at the end of the game, I believe, and then also his blocked kick is huge.  It will go down in -- he'll be right there with the hit on fourth down of the Rose Bowl.  You look at his play.  You look at the play of Keith Mumphery.  You look at Cook coming down the stretch, Jeremy Langford.  We had a lot of guys make a lot of plays in this football game.  Trae Waynes made plays.  So we had a lot of guys making plays.  I thought Taiwan Jones played extraordinarily well.  They couldn't run the ball.  They ended up with minus-20 yards rushing.  Even though that's combined with sacks, they probably had legitimately 20-plus yards rushing.  Difficult in a game like that down the stretch because you've got to take the clock.  You've got to run the ball to take more time off the clock.  They weren't able to do that.

Q.  Coach, I hope you can hear me all right.
MARK DANTONIO:  Yeah, I can.

Q.  I guess I'd just like -- you can talk about the season.  Can you talk about some of the defensive backs, you know, that grew this year?  Obviously next year, you've got time to talk about that, but who are some of the players that impressed you this season we might see more of in the future?
MARK DANTONIO:  I think there's no question that Montae Nicholson is a guy that will impress us all as he moves forward in his career.  He has great skill, he's big, he's physical.  To play in the secondary at safety as a true freshman in our scheme is extremely difficult because there's a lot going on.  So I think he played very well.
I think Darian Hicks, up and down a little bit through the season, but he's playing as a true sophomore and he's isolated.  He's on his own out there so it's a difficult situation at times.
Certainly Demetrious Cox is a guy, again, much like Montae in that he has become sort of a featured guy and I think he's really come on strong.  He had a tremendous reroute in the game that knocked the receiver down and that created the sack in the last minute there, last 17 seconds.
I think Demetrious is going to be an outstanding player whether we play him at corner or safety.
RJ Williamson, you know, had huge plays this year in terms of the picks for touchdowns, and then the big interception, the big field goal return.  He's extremely solid in there.
And then you start looking down the line, you start looking at some of the other guys, RJ Calhoun played some, Jermaine Edmondson did not play as much but I think he has skill, he just needs to be more consistent.  And we have some very good freshman that are red shirted.  So we'll have guys, and we recruited some very good guys coming this year, so we'll have guys.  You know, you miss a guy like Kurtis Drummond, you miss a guy like Trae Waynes, but the rest of our guys we have back.  We have a lot of players.  Like I said, we played 10 guys in that bowl game.  We'll lose Tony Lippett as well.  Even RJ Shelton played corner, I don't know if you guys recognized that or not, but I thought he did an outstanding job as well.

Q.  Can you go back?  RJ Shelton?
MARK DANTONIO:  I think he's got to play football for us, a lot of plays.  He has the ability to play both sides of the ball.  He was a playmaker last Thursday on the offensive side of the ball and on the kick returns.  He's always been a playmaker.  He's got a good sense about him as a defensive player.  He's got great acceleration.  But we have to make sure that we don't overuse a guy and then we take away his productivity on the offensive side of the ball.  He knows our package, he's able to go in and play it.  How much of that he does will really depend on what other guys do.

Q.  Do you see Powell sticking at the star position next year?  Jalyn.

Q.  Mark, as far as coaching staff for next year, do you have a timetable of when you would like to get that completed?  And have you talked more with Mike and Harlon, I guess, about how their responsibilities will kind of be divided out next year yet?
MARK DANTONIO:  Yeah, we have.  I think it's important that every staff have a checks and balances within it.  I'm sort of the checks and balances within the secondary.  You know, so we'll probably hire a front seven guy, the way it looks like, and we'll make that decision earlier rather than later.  That's my opinion.  And when we're sure and we've had all the Ts crossed and Is dotted, then we'll announce that.  But obviously Michigan State's a great place and it's a great destination and we can attract some outstanding quality coaches.  Obviously Harlon Barnett, Ron Burton and Mike Tressel will all be involved in this, and I've talked extensively with them about candidates and guys that we may offer jobs to, all the different things.  Also, in terms of how to basically orchestrate the whole defensive staff.  But our guys have been there.  We've been together, we've been in that room for 11 years as well.  So we'll miss Pat, there's no question.  We'll miss Coach Narduzzi, but it's time for a lot of people to grow and this is the next step in the growth process. So I feel very good.  We have good players coming back and I'll expect to have a very good defense.

Q.  Mark, I have a question about staff issues.  I have had two NFL general managers tell me that when they review their coaching staffs, they look at what guys do other people want, what guys are not getting along, and a lot of other interest, and they say sometimes they're just overlooked, but they look at all of that.  How do you evaluate each of your staff members every year at the end of the year?
MARK DANTONIO:  I look at their performance and their teaching ability.  I look at their teaching, I look at their attention to detail, I look at how creative they are.  Players play, coaches coach.  Just because a coach may be doing a great job, a player might not -- you might not see it on the field if the player is not capable of performing or has lapses out there in his play.  But I look at productivity, there's no question about that.  But at the same time I look for how they fit in the staff room, how accountable they are, how creative and innovative they are.  How they get along with every staff member, how do they recruit.  There's just an abundance of different things you have to look at because those guys are in a staff room with four other people, four or five other people, and they've got to be able to get along and bring substance to every meeting.  I think we've had a tremendous staff in place here and now's the time to try and move in a little bit different direction with our staff, I guess, and allow growth.
That growth is going to occur.  I've been extremely impressed with Coach Barnett over these 11 years, and with Coach Tressel.  Both guys are doers.  Both guys have great relationships with their position groups and with the team in general.  Both guys are very articulate and great teachers in the classroom.  I've seen our guys teach over and over, and we critique that and we critique everything we do in this program.  Their players have played extremely well, they've been extremely productive.

Q.  Coach, you mentioned making a hire of a front (inaudible) guy.  That would lead me to believe Harlon will still oversee the DBs.  The way the staff was structured before, Pat would kind of be the overseer and you had three position guys.  Will you have to change how you do things, or will Harlon still be in charge of the DBs?  And if so, can he also be the guy that's calling the plays in the press box on Saturdays?
MARK DANTONIO:  Oh, I think he can do both things, and I think Mike Tressel can do both things as well.  We hire a guy that has extensive special teams knowledge or we hire a guy with the ability to coach the linebackers, and flipping coach defensive ends at times or defensive tackles at times on the field.  That's what Pat used to do.  He used to take the linebackers and meet with maybe the linebackers or then maybe meet with the defensive ends every now and then.  This will be a process.  This will be a process as we move forward in terms of how we get to where we want to be.  We don't want to lose anything in this transition.  Obviously we lose something, but we don't want to lose a lot in terms of how we do things.  We don't want to lose a lot.  So it's got to be the right guy that fits the situation.
I think I could have -- you know, when I went to Ohio State as a defensive coordinator, I was going to coach the secondary and then we all of a sudden got five coaches, so I was able to hire a guy to coach the secondary and I became sort of the walk-around guy.  But in a lot of schemes the secondary coach is just the coordinator and that's it and he coaches the secondary as well.

Q.  Just wonder about having this kind of season, on top of the Rose Bowl win last year, what's that say about kind of staying power of this program and where you guys are?
MARK DANTONIO:  I think we've developed continuity here, not just in what we're doing but in how we're doing it and in terms of productivity, in terms of wins.  I think we've won 44 games and lost three, and two of them are two of the people that are playing in the championship game, and one of them was to Notre Dame the year before that was coming off the championship game.  So I think we can be in the national conversation.  I think we're a football team that can and will play up.  I think we're looking at inches in terms of how far away are we from being in the game that everybody's anticipating this weekend.  You know, things can fall either way.  Now, it can fall the other way, too.  As you could see last week, we could have lost that game.  But you deal with what you have.  And we've done a good job here, a great job here of being able to remain resilient after a tough loss and be able to rebound and respond, and I think that's the key to coaching.  That's why I'm so impressed with our coaching staff and our players and our team chemistry because we've always been able to rally around things.  But you look at what we did on offense this past year, we set a lot of records and we're the most prolific offense in the history of Michigan State football.  That's a huge statement.  Looking at some stats here, we had 70 touchdowns and ran for 44.  When you look at our defense, we end up No. 1 in the nation again against the run.  We're the only team to rank in the top 10 in total defense since 2011.  That's the only team in the country.  So we've won on the road here, we've won here.  Everything's going sort of according to plan.  We're getting better.  We're not fading away, we're getting better as we move forward.  And the challenges are getting bigger and I think it's important that we understand this is how -- it's how we handle success.  I'll say it again, how do we handle success, and we've got to get ourselves ready to play a tough 2015 schedule, very tough.

Q.  You talk about constantly evaluating.  I'm just curious, will you sit down with Coach Bollman and Coach Warner and maybe ask them if there were things in developing a co-relationship that you could have done differently to help Harlon and Mike, or will you go to them, are there things you'll talk to them to maybe improve the process?
MARK DANTONIO:  Yes, I will go to them and talk with them about that, but I've seen that work.  I've been in meetings, I've seen how they've orchestrated the meetings.  The biggest thing, the most important thing is that people don't have egos, and as long as they don't have egos and things are going to work well and they can play off each other, and inevitably somebody's going to call the plays or inevitably -- you know, I think they're both capable of calling the plays.  Who knows, we may call one series this and one series that.  There's all different ways to do that as long as we're always working towards the same goals and are moving in the right direction.  But again, I will talk to those two most definitely in terms of how that's happened.  But everybody's extremely comfortable on the offensive staff how this has occurred, and everybody has input.  I feel like we have -- I feel like our offensive staff is extremely strong and everybody has input in there.  You see Coach Staten and Coach Salem making suggestions in that room as well as Coach Samuels, and they're not the coordinators.  And on the defensive side of the ball, Harlon and Mike and Ron Burton have always been extremely involved in the game plan.  The coordinator puts it together and calls it, but everybody's involved in the game plan and is working towards the common goal and I think that's what's made us successful.
MODERATOR:  Other questions for Coach, Michigan State related?

Q.  Coach Dantonio, are there ways that Michigan -- you keep talking about getting your program going in the right direction.  Are there ways in which Michigan's hire of Jim Harbaugh increases that challenge for you and is that something exciting for you?
MARK DANTONIO:  That's occurred a number of times year since I've been here, so yeah, it's going to be a challenge every time there's somebody new, everybody time there's somebody new in the Big Ten.  Nobody hires bad coaches.  There are no bad coaches out there.  Very, very good coaches coach in this conference, including Coach Hoke and Coach Rodriguez, so it's a challenge.  Inevitably the top players play on the field.  Coach Harbaugh is an excellent coach.  He's got a tremendous track record, we all understand that.  It will be the next challenge for us.  But we compete against Michigan regardless of who's there on a daily basis, we understand that here.

Q.  Coach, I have a question.  I've written a couple stories comparing the Rose Bowl to the Cotton Bowl team and you always wait until the end of the year to assess it.  I don't even know if you can even put that Cotton Bowl in perspective quite yet.  In comparing those two teams and their identities, what would you say about this Cotton Bowl team and where it took the program from where the Rose Bowl team had it?
MARK DANTONIO:  First of all, we're the only team in the nation to win a BCS game in '13 and then follow it up to New Year's Day, the power 6 game this year.  So we're the only team in the nation that's done that, so that's one positive.  The second thing is, though, the question that you asked, I felt last year's team really paralleled a little bit Ohio State's team right now.  They were a football team that had their doubters early in the season and they gained momentum and they gained ground as they moved through the process.  And coming out the back end, I'm not sure who could have beaten us last year, I'm really not, because we were playing at an extremely high confidence level and we had a lot of good players as evidenced by 10 guys, whether they were drafted or not, going into the NFL and then what we're having this year.  So we had a lot of good football players.  So the confidence, we were moving forward, we were gaining ground.
This year, this was about holding ground a little bit more.  This was about being the favorite team going into the Ohio State game maybe, or about being a team that had to go to Oregon and it was maybe a toss-up, and it was about handling success.  So we had to get up off the mat a couple times this year and be able to respond.  So our players did that.  We persevered.  I think we handled success.  I think coming into the Cotton Bowl was another situation we were in a little bit of a proving ground, and however it sorted itself out, we won the football game and that's the bottom line.  At the end of the day, did you win, did you lose.  That's how you're -- I could point to a lot of football games we played extremely well and we lost the game.  So that's the bottom line and we were able to do that.  So I would say that we accomplished our goal of handling success.  Did we get as far as we wanted to be?  No.  You know, in both those games, the Oregon game and the Ohio State game, we were winning the football game.  You know, all of a sudden things sort of went the other way and we lost it.  And we've got to play better and we've got to understand that that's a part of this.  But I do think this Cotton Bowl game, like you said, I think this Cotton Bowl game will go down in our history, in our recent history here as a game that was a program game.  It was a game that we beat the number 5 team and we moved forward with a national reputation and a national brand.

Q.  I guess my last game-related question, Coach, the press corps, we've talked a lot about it during your tenure, I think it's safe to say the three most elite spread teams in the country, you guys play two of them again next year.  Is it safe to assume that there'll need some tweaking for those games with Ohio State and Oregon moving forward, and how much did you learn from that Baylor game?
MARK DANTONIO:  Well, I think we learned a lot from both games, from all three of those games.  You've got to make plays.  Their guys are there to make the play.  They've got to get the ball out.  A couple trick plays they hit us with, which again I think we should have been prepared, quarterback under center, it's a trick.  I mean, you've got to recognize that fact.  But to answer your question, yeah, we're always going to look at things very hard.  I think we're to a point where you have to look at the teams you have to beat to be a champion and that's how where this program is right now, how we're going to beat Ohio State at Ohio State, how are we going to beat Oregon when they come here and if we're able to accomplish those two things, good things are going to happen in between those, but to say we got to where we wanted to be and we solved our goals?  We didn't.  We weren't Big Ten champions.  But I think we handled success well and we continued to gain credibility as we moved through this process.  As I've said earlier, we've won 24 games of 27, so pretty good.  A lot of teams out there would like to be where we're at.
MODERATOR:  Any other questions about Michigan State?  If not, we'll entertain some questions about the match-up Monday night.
MARK DANTONIO:  Before I talk about that, I just also want to talk about our players real briefly.  Very excited, extremely excited that Connor Cook is coming back for his senior year.  We have a quarterback who's a record-setting quarterback, who's been the MVP of the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten championship game as a sophomore and has had a very productive year this year as well.  Second team all-conference guy coming back to lead your football team is a huge, huge lift for our football team.  I think that that will pay dividends for him and pay dividends for this football team as well.  Obviously we lose Trae Waynes and that's a big loss.  He's an outstanding football player and an outstanding person.  He's been a great ambassador here.  But all indicators are that he will be a first-round pick, and if that's the case, you've got to let it go.  The goal here is to become self-sufficient as a man, self-sufficient.  Along with your degree, he has three classes to go, he'll be able to accomplish those probably this semester online.  So he's been a great student here as well.  Shilique Calhoun is still weighing the possibilities and we're in conversation there.

Q.  Just your take on that match-up?  It's a unique position that you guys have been in having played both the title game participants.
MARK DANTONIO:  Two outstanding football teams.  Did not play against Cardale but I've seen him on film now or on the TV.  But Mariota is a very special quarterback, a very special quarterback.  You know, very good with the ball in his hands, you know, just in terms of riding out fakes and run after things and creating plays down the field.  Both teams have great wide receivers, both teams have excellent running backs.  Both football teams have, I think, established offensive lines.  Defensively, they're a little bit different in terms of what they run.  I think it will be a great football game, great football game.  We played one early and we played one, you know, sort of mid-late, so I've got a little bit more feel on Ohio State maybe because it's later in the season.  But at the Oregon game, we played out there and, you know, great football game.  I can't -- I can talk about more specifics if you ask me more specific questions.

Q.  Defensively, how would you approach each of those offenses because they are both potent but they're both a little bit different of how good they are.
MARK DANTONIO:  They are the same but different.  They both create run-pass conflicts.  I think they both have coaches that are on the cutting edge of what we see now as offensive football.  I think both coaches always come with something a little bit different that you may not see as a fan, but as a coach you tend to see those little differences after you've studied them.  So I think they'll both bring something a little bit new, both difficult to prepare for.  If you're waiting for me to pick one, I'm not going to do that.  They're both outstanding football teams and they both are extremely deserving of getting there.  They've both proven by winning the championship game and then also being champions within their conference to represent.

Q.  Mark, if you could get into, maybe describe the differences in the way the teams use tempo.  I know they both use it.  It does seem like Oregon has sort of mastered it.  Does Ohio State ever get as fast, go as fast as Oregon does?
MARK DANTONIO:  Yes, they can.  You know, Oregon is extremely fast tempo when they want to be, but again they slow it down when they want to.  Ohio State not so fast, but there's a reason for that as well.  You know, it probably had to do with their quarterback being a young player.  They certainly, I think, were faster with Braxton a little bit, but they have the ability to go fast as well.  So I think they're probably pretty close to each other in that area.  They practice against each other -- when they practice against that type of system, you know, they're getting ready to play in this game.

Q.  Mark, knowing what you know about each team, if you were going to put yourself in each head coach's shoes, what's like the one thing or two things that Urban Meyer really should be concerned about, and the same thing for Mark Helfrich?
MARK DANTONIO:  Those are tough questions.  You know, I would say that you're always going to be concerned about turnovers and how your special teams play.  I think those are big factors in any football game that need to be discussed over and over.  So it's about ball security and about decision making and also your special teams.  I mean, they're going to do what they do, both teams do what they do to some extent.  But there's going to be tweaks, and there's going to be something that's new and then adjusting to whatever the newness is.  You've got to adjust to that, I think.

Q.  Coach, can you talk about just I guess shock factor.  Mariota, he made a lot of Michigan State players miss tackles and that's something that you take pride in.  But just what kind of a factor is that to have a quarterback as elusive as Mariota?  Can you compare him to anyone else you've seen?
MARK DANTONIO:  In a way he does, he's extremely gifted in terms of riding the fake-out.  You can see a couple times in the film where our guys are sitting right there and eyes on the ball, eyes on him and we lose him.  And then, you know, in the pocket getting out of problems.  He's a fast guy, he's extremely elusive, and we had him dead to right two times on two third downs when we were ahead in the football game by nine, and he got out of those situations and created a couple plays which led to first downs which ultimately led to scores, and that's what opened it up and all of a sudden they were back on top.  You know, I think, as I said, I have not played against Cardale Jones, but Ohio State, you have to really credit the coaching at Ohio State because they have developed the next-man mentality, next-man-in mentality.  And their quarterback, whoever that guy is, is going to be successful.  I think that's a proven commodity, so you've got to be able to stop the quarterback.  I think it starts with that.  And both teams have excellent tailbacks that quite frankly can break -- you look at both football teams against us, their tailback broke tackles.  In the end, you've got to be able to tackle in space.  They both have wide receivers that can go offensively that can make big plays.  They both have enough -- they're both innovative and have some trick plays, so you're going to see some different things.  And I think both football teams are confident football teams.  They're motivated.  Excellent defenses as well.

Q.  You mentioned they do things different defensively.  I know Ohio State, Oregon changed up their defense a lot.  Can you just talk about the difference in complexity of the defense and what they do differently?
MARK DANTONIO:  Well, you know, Oregon's more of a 3-4 defense.  They will get some 4-3, but more of a 3-4 defense, big defensive ends.  Ohio State's more of a 4-3.  Linebackers, impressive linebackers.  Great skill set in the secondary as well.  Their coverage package I think is different.  You'd have to look a little deeper into that to recognize that fact.  Their coverage package is a little bit different and that's probably the biggest differences.  Both teams have excellent football players, and again confident football teams, pride themselves on that.

Q.  You didn't see Cardale Jones, but beyond that, the line play, the skill guys around both of the quarterbacks, do you see a lot of similarities there or there's some differences?
MARK DANTONIO:  The offensive line?

Q.  Well, the offense line and the skill guys, the wide receivers, running backs.
MARK DANTONIO:  Offensive line, Oregon went through a lot of injuries early in the season and that's probably paying dividends for them now because they have younger players who have gotten their feet wet.  Ohio State had younger players coming in and they've established themselves as an excellent offensive line throughout the season.  Both extremely well coached, do some things similar.  And then in the skill players, you know, take your pick.  They have excellent skill players.  They have guys that can get deep.  Both sides have guys that can go the distance.  Devin Smith's been a guy, they both have guys, excellent skills on both sides of the ball.  I don't think you get to where you're at without excellent skill players.  They get the ball to them.  Again, I talked about the tailbacks situation, Ohio State will use two and Oregon will use two or three.

Q.  You said you're not going to predict who you think's going to win, but I'm assuming you would like the Big Ten team to win.  How important has it been for the Big Ten to have success in the big bowl games with you, Wisconsin and Ohio State?
MARK DANTONIO:  I think the Big Ten, as I've said when I've been asked these questions over the course of time these last couple years, you win a game 42-41, does that mean we're better than the Big 12?  There's so much parity in college football that on any given day, depending on turnovers or blocked kicks or whatever, that football team is capable of beating another football team.  I think it's tremendous that Ohio State is in the game representing the Big Ten conference and they're doing an excellent job representing that conference.  And of course I'd like to see the Big Ten win.
MODERATOR:  Any other questions for Coach?  If not, thanks so much for your time.
MARK DANTONIO:  Thanks, guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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