Grading the Big Ten Coaches - Mark Dantonio

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Is it me, or does Mark Dantonio look like a very grumpy man? Hey Mark, we're giving you a 25% raise.

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Hey Mark, your wife wants to know if it's ok if Angelina Jolie and Jessica Alba come over for a threesome?

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You know, come to think of it, I have seen that look before. But for the life of me I can't remember where.

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Eh. It'll come to me sooner or later. Let's get on with this thing.

2007 Record: 7-6 (3-5) - Lost to Boston College in the Citrus Bowl

BSD's 2008 Expectations: I figured they would pick up a win over Michigan, but give up a wins against Cal, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Penn State. And of course they're always good for one or two "wtf?" losses per year. After all, they are Sparty. I was thinking another 7-5 season with a trip to the Motor City Bowl.

2008 Results: 9-3 and an invite to the Capital One Bowl

Here is what Mark Dantonio had to work with this year.

1. An inconsistent senior quarterback without a big win under his belt.

2. No proven wide receiver talent

3. An ok defense

4. A pretty good but not spectacular running back.

Dantonio turned an unspectacular team into a nine win team with a chance to win a share of the Big Ten title going into the last game of the season. When you look at the rankings, there isn't anything that Michigan State could be remotely considered great at doing. But there was nothing they were horrible at either. They just managed to keep finding ways to score more than their opponents. I doubt there is another nine-win team in the country that only outscored their opponents by just over four points per game.

The ability to pull out the close win has been the greatest improvement Dantonio has brought to the Spartans. Under John L. Smith, you knew that Sparty was going to always find a way to blow a second half fourteen point lead. Not so under Dantonio. Michigan State has become a team that can do the necessary things to pull out a close victory. They take care of the ball and they don't beat themselves.

And Dantonio gets extra credit for his brash personality. In an age of pointless press conferences where coaches heap praises on top of their bitter rivals, Dantonio is a breath of fresh air. His hatred of all things Wolverine are becoming legendary.

 
And of course Dantonio has also managed to draw the ire of Penn State fans. Whether he was upset about backup quarterback Pat Devlin throwing a 50 yard touchdown pass in garbage time or he upset about Penn State calling an unnecessary timeout to allow the defense to take a curtain call on senior day, he called two unnecessary timeouts with nine seconds to go forcing Penn State fans to sit in the cold an extra few minutes and delay their conference championship celebration. It was a bush league move by a petty man, but BSD enjoys this friendly jabbing between rivals and wholeheartedly endorses such activity in the future.

We'll find out how Dantonio does next year when he has to replace his starting quarterback and running back. But as far as this year is concerned, he took a team that didn't appear on anybody's preseason radar to the brink of the Big Ten championship. For that he goes to the head of the class along with Pat Fitzgerald.

Final Grade: A

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