It's officially (BCS) campaign season.
One day after Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen talked up his team's BCS worthiness, it was time for Michigan State's Mark Dantonio to do the same. And Dantonio understands that the Badgers might stand in the way of his team getting an at-large bid.
Of course, Dantonio doesn't want the at-large selection process to come into discussion for his team. The Spartans will play for the Big Ten championship next week against Ohio State in Indianapolis, and they just have to win to clinch a Rose Bowl bid.
But if they lose to the Buckeyes, then the debate will begin about whether Michigan State or a potential 10-2 Wisconsin should grab an at-large bid from the Big Ten, assuming the conference can achieve a second berth. Dantonio was asked at his weekly news conference on Tuesday whether he'd publicly stump for his team if that scenario unfolded.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "I'll campaign. We beat Wisconsin the last three out of four years. We can start with that, OK."
There's an outstanding verbal grenade for you, although previous years' results really shouldn't affect the selection of teams this year. Still, Dantonio has several strong arguments in his favor.
The Spartans are 10-1 and undefeated in Big Ten play, ranking No. 11 in this week's BCS standings. Dantonio pointed out Tuesday that Michigan State leads the Big Ten in 15 team statistical categories.
"I think that's very telling in terms of where we're at as a program right now and the success that we've had," he said. "You don't get there without doing good things. It's been a team effort in a lot of ways."
Dantonio also knows that his team can't start looking forward to next week or the BCS announcements, as Michigan State will get a challenge on senior day from Minnesota. Two years ago on their way toward the Big Ten title game, the Spartans got a scare from the Gophers on their home field, and this is a much better and more confident Minnesota team coming into East Lansing.
But a win this week could push Michigan State inside the Top 10 of the BCS standings, which might be high enough to keep the Spartans inside the top 14 even with a loss in Indianapolis. That didn't happen two seasons ago, when MSU was No. 13 going into the Big Ten championship game and fell to No. 17 after a very close loss to Wisconsin. Michigan, which finished behind Michigan State and lost head-to-head to the Spartans, got the 2011 at-large berth instead.
The reality is, if Wisconsin and Michigan State win this week, at least one very deserving Big Ten team is not going to make a BCS bowl. Dantonio isn't afraid to campaign to make sure his Spartans avoid getting shut out again. But unlike the Badgers, Michigan State can still control its own fate.
"Next week you're not going to hear me talking about going 11-2," Dantonio said. "We're going to go 12-1 ...
"We've got to deal in the present, and we'll deal with those things after the fact. I can tell also you this: We lost by one point to Ohio State last year. One. So we'll be ready to play."