Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio isn’t playing the underdog card.
“You’re only an underdog if you think you’re an underdog,” Dantonio said, per ESPN’s Alex Scaborough. ” We don’t play that card.”
Dantonio may not talk to his team about it, but the No. 3 Spartans have reason to feel overlooked against No. 2 Alabama. Michigan State is a 10-point underdog to the Crimson Tide, and Dantonio’s name was misspelled on the cover of Sports Illustrated earlier this month.
“We laugh about it because those are errors that are little small things that happen…but at the same time, maybe if we play better, they’ll get our names right,” Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun told reporters during Cotton Bowl media day on Tuesday. “In the same sense we’re like ‘See, maybe we need to be a better program.’ ”
Michigan State may not play as underdogs, but are willing to admit that they play with a chip on their shoulder.
“The chip on our shoulder is just the mentality out whole team has taken,” linebacker Jon Reschke said. “It’s just the lack of respect we get throughout the country. It’s just an edge that we have to play with that sets a tone for us. That’s just our mentality.”
Michigan State’s defensive front has been stout this season, even comparable to Alabama. The Crimson Tide rank No. 1 in rushing defense nationally, giving up just 74 yards per game. The Spartans are No. 9, allowing 113 yards per game. Alabama is No. 1 in sacks per game with 3.5. Michigan State is tied for No. 18 with 2.7.
The Spartans’ defensive line has been good enough to garner the nickname “A.W.O.L.”, which stands for “Animals Without a Leash”.
“That’s the defensive line,” Calhoun said. “Those are my guys, just a bunch of guys that want to wreak havoc in the backfield. We have a bunch of playmakers on the defensive line…We’re just crazy, honestly. We’re literally just out of our minds. We’re just waiting to be let loose. That’s it.”