CHICAGO — When Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio addressed the B1G media in Chicago last week, he made a somewhat surprising admission about the Alabama loss.

“My wife tells me, get over it. She says, get over it, you lost,” Dantonio said.

Why was that surprising? Well, Dantonio has always been about “the process.” MSU has always been about “the process.” That head-to-the-ground mentality helped turn the Spartans into a national power. “The process” could be on Dantonio’s tombstone one day (let’s hope they spell his name right, too). Where was his customary answer about continuing “the process?”

Oh wait. He did end up talking about the you-know-what.

“But what I said to our football team is, hey, we’ve gone this far, but there’s still a ways we have to go. Don’t hang your head. Let’s get on with business. Life’s full of ups and downs. There’s going to be down times. To me it’s how you handle the down times that define you.

“It’s easy to walk around when you’ve won. More difficult when you’ve had a loss and you have to regain your composure and you have to move forward with the process. So Michigan State’s always been about the process. This is just a stepping stone. That was a step back down the staircase. Time to take another step up.”

That, however, will be easier said than done.


Sure, Michigan State has moved on. Players took solace in the fact that it was a competitive first half that got out of control down the stretch. Some said it took them a week or two to get over the loss. You already know Dantonio has no interest in talking about anything other than 2016.

But this is a situation that MSU has never dealt with before. Even when MSU lost to Alabama 49-7 in the 2011 Capital One Bowl — the largest defeat of the Dantonio era — the circumstances were different. The Spartans weren’t one game away from the national championship. The Capital One Bowl wasn’t even a BCS game.

As history shows us, coming back from a blowout BCS/College Football Playoff loss isn’t easy. A BCS/CFP game has been decided by 28 points or more 12 times since the BCS era began.

Here’s how those teams fared the following seasons:

Notre Dame 2001 Fiesta Bowl, 42 5-6, unranked
Maryland 2002 Orange Bowl, 33 11-3, No. 13
Pitt 2005 Fiesta Bowl, 28 5-6, unranked
Oklahoma 2005 National Championship, 36 8-4, No. 22
Illinois 2008 Rose Bowl, 32 5-7, unranked
Hawaii 2008 Sugar Bowl, 31 7-7, unranked
UConn 2011 Fiesta Bowl, 28 5-7, unranked
Virginia Tech 2011 Orange Bowl, 28 11-3, No. 21
Clemson 2012 Orange Bowl, 37 11-2, No. 11
Notre Dame 2013 National Championship, 28 9-4, No. 20
Florida State 2015 Rose Bowl, 39 10-3, No. 14
Michigan State 2015 Cotton Bowl, 38 ????

A few things are worth noting about how those teams performed the following season:

  • Teams won an average of 7.9 games
  • 45 percent finished unranked
  • 36 percent missed a bowl altogether
  • Only one of those teams (2012 Clemson) earned a BETTER final AP ranking
  • Nobody finished in the top 10

Ok, those numbers might scare some people. Yes, every team dealt with a different set of circumstances. Some were rebuilding, others had a tougher schedule. But whatever the specific case, no team has been able to bounce back and compete for a national title. That, as Dantonio suggested, would be “another step up” for the Spartans.

College kids — and even some coaches — aren’t used to getting trounced like that. It’s one thing to lose a game on a last-second play. It’s another to have people question if you should’ve been there in the first place. Maybe a humbling loss knocks the swagger out of a team. Who really knows?

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There’s no guarantee that Michigan State falls victim to this trend. Teams like Illinois, UConn and Hawaii didn’t have a coach like Dantonio to steer the ship. Few in the country have proven to be better at doing that than Dantonio. If MSU loses at Notre Dame in Week 3, nobody is going to say, “Well, MSU still hasn’t recovered from the Alabama game.”

We don’t know if losing 38-0 in front of tens of millions of people is going to impact MSU. It’s a completely new situation to prove just how effective “the process” really is. The good news is that it’s been pretty effective since Dantonio came to East Lansing.

This program thrived in atypical situations last year. It knocked off Michigan in arguably the most improbable finish of the college football season. It went into Columbus without its all-conference starting quarterback and knocked off the unanimous preseason national title favorite. It turned to its offensive line and a true freshman tailback to punch its College Football Playoff ticket.

Can MSU continue to beat the odds in 2016? That remains to be seen. Oddly enough, the words of the great Mike Tyson come to mind.

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”