Michigan State Spartans football team eager to put 2016 in rearview mirror

Michigan State running back LJ Scott, top, celebrates a touchdown with teammate Josiah Price during the Spartans’ game against Michigan in East Lansing in October. (AP file photo)

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Sports Writer

EAST LANSING — Over three weeks ago, at media day, Mark Dantonio stated emphatically that his Michigan State team would be ready when it was time for the season opener against Bowling Green.

Now, game week has arrived, and Dantonio’s attitude hasn’t changed.

“We’re very, very ready to go,” he said Tuesday. “It’s been a long time coming. We sat and waited for about nine months for this opportunity, so we’ll be ready.”

For most of Dantonio’s tenure, a game like this might have felt like a tuneup for MSU, but after a terrible 2016 season and a tumultuous offseason, the opportunity to take the field again — regardless of the opponent — is cause for excitement. Last year’s 3-9 record was humbling for the Spartans, who enter Saturday’s game amid little fanfare after spending most of the past seven years among the Big Ten’s elite.

“We need a starting point. This will give us a starting point, one way or the other,” said Dantonio, who is entering his 11th season as Michigan State’s coach. “We’ve got players that can play anywhere in the country. I’m very, very — feel very strong on that.”

The MSU depth chart underscores the challenge facing Dantonio’s team. The first-team defense includes six sophomores, and on offense, there are five sophomores and a redshirt freshman listed among the first teamers.

It’s a young team and — with the exception of some good depth at running back — an unproven one.

“I think we’re a lot ready,” junior LJ Scott, one of those talented running backs, said Tuesday. “If you would have seen in practice today, we had a few fights out there. … I think we’re all ready to go. We’ve got something to prove.”