On Wednesday, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio made it known that he knows that a lot of people are expecting big things out of his Spartans this coming season. His response was simple: He's expecting big things, too.
After a huge win over Ohio State for the Big Ten championship and a victory in the 2013 Rose Bowl over Stanford, the Spartans seemingly only have one more way to top it - a national title. And while Dantonio did say that if the now-implemented college football playoff system had been in place last year that his team would have won the national title, he also knows that the pressure to win it all now is greater than ever.
"We're going to dream big," Dantonio said to the media. "What's been established is that we've been to the Rose Bowl, and we won the Rose Bowl, we won the Big Ten championship. That's been established. What we do beyond that remains to be seen."
The entire atmosphere of NCAA football is changing these days; with playoffs now in place, court rulings coming down about pay-for-play concerning players, as well as the big conference always realigning, there's always change in this college setting. So what does Dantonio think is the key for keeping his players at the top of their game? The basics.
"I think the bottom line is for a football team — because the ball's going to bounce certain ways: Do you play hard? Are you resilient? Do you prepare? Do you do everything that you can do to be successful? Do you carry yourself on and off the field correctly?" Dantonio said. "Nationally, the general public basically evaluates you, 'Hey, do you win or do you lose?' And we won a lot of games last year, but there's always something that you can do to do a little bit better."
The Spartans have a lot to look forward to this season, as well. Though the expectations are high, Michigan State has a lot of key talent returning and Dantonio is the first to echo that.
Connor Cook, last year's MVP and the surprising quarterback story of the Big Ten, returns this season with more experience, more poise, and a greater focus. When he spoke to the media last week at the Big Ten Media Day in Chicago, he let the fans and analysts know that he and his teammates were taking things very seriously this time around, despite last year's successes.
In the end, Dantonio knows it's up to him to keep his players ready for something they haven't experience much of yet as Spartans: high expectations.
"There's higher expectations. You have to manage those expectations," Dantonio said. "You have to keep things real for your players, but also continue to try and climb a ladder or two."
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.