Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio addressed reporters Tuesday at Michigan State's Outback Bowl media day at the Clara Bell Smith Center Auditorium in East Lansing, Mich.
Here are some of his opening comments about the Jan. 2 contest with the Bulldogs and a few of his answers to questions posed by the media in attendance.
Dantonio: When you look at Georgia, from my perspective, first of all you look at the head football coach [Mark Richt]. I think he's brought a great deal of stability to the program there. He's developed a culture there. He's been tremendously successful. He'll provide us with a great challenge.
When you look at them from a defensive standpoint, I think it's interesting when you characterize them with us a little bit. They rank in the top 10 in four different categories which is exactly what we do. We rank in the top 10 as well in four different categories.
Similar in defense: They're No. 3, we're No. 5 [nationally in total defense]. Pass efficiency: they're in the top 10, we're No. 12. We are in the top 10 in four different statistics, as they are.
When I look at them, they're very physical. They play a lot of guys, zone pressure, difficult to run on, difficult to throw on. I think they have (34) sacks. I think we have (41) or so. A lot of similar statistics there. But it will be a challenge for our offense and we're looking forward to that.
On the offensive side of the ball, when you look at them, I think it all starts with their quarterback, Aaron Murray. Again, some similar things offensively. Think they averaging a little bit over 31 points a game. We average a little over 30 points a game offensively. Their quarterback and our quarterback are both in the top 25 in passing efficiency. They run the ball with three running backs. (Isaiah) Crowell, a true freshman sort of heads up their running game. Big offensive line. (Orson) Charles is an outside tight end, No. 12 (Tavarres) King, wide receiver, big play guy. Obviously they get some big plays from their running backs.
Q. You started out this season by saying you had to win your last one. That was the goal of this program. That was one of the very first things you said at the first press conference. Would you elaborate on that?
MD: The one thing that has escaped us thus far is winning our bowl game. That's something that we've got to be able to rectify and to make sure that we're able to do that and continue to work towards that.
We've played some very, very good teams in bowl games. If you look at Alabama and their football team, the team that's playing in the national championship is minus (four) first round players. We played a Georgia team in '08. We played a very good Texas Tech team that we were down significant numbers. We played a great Boston College team with the No. 1 draft choice (Matt Ryan). Now we play a Georgia team that's an outstanding football team as well.
We've never had an easy pick. I don't think there are any easy picks when you play on January 2. This is our third time playing in a New Year's Day-type game. So it's exciting for our football team. It's another aspect of the culture or the state of the program that we're in right now. The expectations are much higher.
As I said earlier, the number two goal for our entire program was win our last game and springboard next year's class, next season. It was to spring into 2012 with a positive outlook.
That's one thing that has escaped us. We're going to try and remedy that.
Q. Before that Big Ten Championship Game, these guys were obviously motivated by playing in the Rose Bowl. Have you had to do anything to get these guys motivated to play in this bowl?
MD: We're still two weeks out from playing in this bowl. I think that's what we have to recognize, or a little less than two weeks out. We don't want to peak too early. We want to be able to take things in stride.
I think the way things fell, it was important we had our banquet the day after that championship game so we could get rid of some of that feeling, we could mourn a little bit, we could move through that time of disappointment.
But as I always tell our football team, whether they're in my office for disciplinary situations or whether we've lost a game or whether somebody has gotten hurt, whatever it is, it can always get worse. We have to focus on trying to make it better. The way to get better is to play well and win.
Our seniors have had a great week of practice here. It's been energized out there. We worked extremely hard. There's been emotion out there. I think we're past all of that.
But we've had a number of goals here since we've come here. One goal this last year obviously was to get to the Rose Bowl. That's always going to be our focus because that's the epitome of being champions. It's not so much the Rose Bowl as it is being a champion.
But the second goal we had was winning our last football game. That remains in focus for all of us. We'll take that to Tampa with us and we'll concentrate on getting that done and being an 11 3 football team. With that we'll end up somewhere maybe in the top 10, which would be a tremendous accomplishment.
Q. When you're facing a no huddle team that gets the ball out that quickly, how does it affect your defense scheme wise? Is it much more difficult to get pressure against a team like that?
MD: Well, I think that's the norm right now in college football. Not the norm, but a lot of people are doing it. We played a lot of no huddle football teams, some with a much more rapid tempo than Georgia will use.
It keeps you off balance. We're going to have to prepare from that, especially from a conditioning standpoint. We've been conditioning extra. Had the indoor up to 80 plus degrees every day.
Usually I think what happens is you settle in on the tempo of the football game as you go. We've had a tendency to play a lot of football players when we've done this. We've played a lot of football players in general on defense throughout the season.
It's not something we're not used to. They will do it out of a two back set as well, and they'll run the ball as well. It's not totally passing. We've seen quite a few people do that, Northwestern, Michigan obviously, and a few different people throughout.