Stakes suddenly higher for No. 21 Michigan State football team

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, left, celebrates with MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis after the Spartans defeated Michigan 14-10 in Ann Arbor on Saturday night. (AP photo)

By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING — Mark Dantonio is 8-3 against Michigan since taking over as Michigan State’s coach — a mark that has done plenty to endear him to the fans in East Lansing.
This week, however, it’s another part of Dantonio’s resume that’s front and center.
“We’ve actually tracked how we play after our big games. We track that, ever since 2007,” Dantonio said Tuesday. “I think after the Michigan game, we’re 8-2. That’s whether we’ve won it or lost it, we’re 8-2. I think that’s a good measuring stick, but you need to be prepared for that because it is about: What are you going to do next? If you don’t play your best, you play unemotional, then you’re not handling success right.”
For the first time in 2017, the Spartans are dealing with some legitimate expectations. Saturday night’s 14-10 win at Michigan vaulted Michigan State into the Top 25, and the No. 21 Spartans have taken a big step toward putting last year’s 3-9 showing behind them. The question now is what they can accomplish this season. A bowl bid certainly seems likely, but perhaps this team is capable of more.
Michigan State (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) plays at Minnesota (3-2, 0-2) this weekend. The Spartans have done a good job under Dantonio of avoiding letdowns after the Michigan game — and by game time, they should be well aware of how important that is.
“We went over that in a team meeting — he showed us all the wins and losses that we’ve had,” quarterback Brian Lewerke said. “He was just trying to make sure that we didn’t think that we had won a Super Bowl or anything.”
The only times under Dantonio that Michigan State has lost the next game after Michigan were in 2014, when the Spartans fell to eventual national champion Ohio State, and last year, when a seven-game losing streak derailed their season completely.
Michigan State is favored to win again at Minnesota, and the Spartans are fourth in the nation in total defense. But Michigan State has been held under 20 points in each of its past three games.