Mark Dantonio has experienced a wealth of success in his eight seasons at Michigan State.
Over the past five seasons, the Spartans are a combined 53-14, have brought home two Big Ten Conference titles and are 4-1 in bowl games. Three times since 2010 Michigan State has finished the year in the top-10 in the Coaches’ Poll.
A program that posted only two winning seasons in the previous seven years before Dantonio’s arrival has been resurrected.
Despite three, 11-win seasons, a 13-1 record and a Rose Bowl victory in 2013, Dantonio and the Spartans have yet to find themselves competing for a national championship.
It was supposed to happen last season. Michigan State was overflowing with talent on both sides of the football, Braxton Miller was sidelined for Ohio State and the Big Ten was considered to be the worst conference in major college football.
Losses to Oregon and Ohio State shattered any hopes that the Spartans would reach the pinnacle of the football world.
Now, with Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes cementing their dominance, Jim Harbaugh expected to catapult Michigan back to national prominence and Penn State continuing to improve without the NCAA sanctions, it makes you wonder if Dantonio’s shot at the big one has already passed.
Maybe Dantonio, at the age of 59, has already reached his peak in East Lansing.
What Michigan State has been able to accomplish under the tutelage of Dantonio is unlike anything it had experienced prior to his arrival. Prior to the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the program had never put together consecutive 10-plus win seasons.
The Spartans have done it twice in the last five years. That’s not even a feat that Dantonio’s mentor, Nick Saban, was able to accomplish with the green and white.
But those accomplishments don’t put a crystal football or a sleek, slim and golden trophy in the display case.
Had there been a four-team playoff in 2013, it’s conceivable to think Michigan State would have been a legitimate contender to the national championship. The one-loss Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions had posted their best season since the 1966 title run when the Spartans finished 9-0.
But the College Football Playoff came one year too late and an early season loss to Notre Dame was too much to overcome.
That’s been the story of Dantonio’s career in East Lansing. In the South, folks refer to it as “Clemsoning.”
In 2010, the Spartans got blown out by Iowa. Last season, when they had an opportunity to prove they were legitimate title contenders, they fell to Ohio State and Oregon.
Not only was it the end of Michigan State’s championship dreams in 2014, it may have been the end of any hopes Dantonio had of taking home the crown during his tenure.
Dantonio has been an excellent fit for the Spartans and will continue to be considered as one of the Big Ten’s best coaches for as many years as he wishes to stay in East Lansing.
But with Meyer and Harbaugh in the picture, the thoughts of holding a national championship trophy look bleaker than ever before.
If Dantonio never wins a national title, it won’t hinder a Michigan State program that he had rebuilt and restored into a regular conference contender and major player on the national spotlight.
So many missed opportunities, though, when the odds were in his favor may haunt Dantonio for the rest of his coaching career if he’s unable to claim college football’s grandest prize.