EAST LANSING, Mich. — Mark Dantonio knows how far Michigan State has come. He is much more interested in where the Spartans are going.
No. 13 Michigan State (9-1, 6-0 Big Ten) is one win from their second Big Ten championship game in three seasons and two wins from the best conference record in school history. They locked up a share of the Legends Division title with a 41-28 win at Nebraska, their first win in eight tries against the Cornhuskers.
Now they can take another step toward their first Rose Bowl berth in 26 years with a victory at Northwestern (4-6, 0-6) on Saturday.
“I don’t want anyone to think we’ve arrived,” Dantonio said Tuesday. “We’ve not arrived. We’re a long way from that.”
Michigan State hasn’t lost since Sept. 21, the last day the Wildcats won. That doesn’t mean the Spartans are guaranteed of anything except Northwestern’s best effort.
“They need two more wins to get to a bowl game, so they’re in that kind of mode,” Dantonio said. “I know how they’ve played us the past six years. They’ve never taken a play off. I expect the same thing this week.”
With a school-record 38 wins in the past four seasons, Michigan State has plenty of unfinished business. The Spartans would love to beat the Wildcats, then top No. 3 Ohio State in Indianapolis.
“We’ve put ourselves in position to compete for a championship a number of times since we’ve been here,” Dantonio said. “That doesn’t just happen.”
Michigan State is closing in on its third 11-win season in four years, the only times that has happened in the program’s 117-year history. Its 33 conference wins since 2008 are the most in the Big Ten, with Ohio State vacating seven of its 38 victories in that span.