Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio believes the same as many of Spartan Nation do. He believes that had the NCAA implemented a playoff system prior to the 2013 season, that Michigan State would have come out on top as the National Champions. Here is what he had to say at the Big Ten Media Days session on Tuesday:
"Do I ever think about that? Yeah, I’ve thought about that. I thought we’d have been national champions, to be perfectly honest with you. I think we would have had a shot to do that. Coming out of the end of the season, we were playing great football. We were believing in ourselves.
Were we there at the beginning of the season? No, but we played our best football in November into the championship game and Rose Bowl. We were like this [going up]. That wasn’t necessarily the case for some other teams."
To remind you how Michigan State's 2013 season went, in case you forgot, the Spartans played so-so football out of the gate, but won every game until the Notre Dame game on September 21st. After that, the Spartans won 10 straight decisively, including the Big Ten Championship over heavily favored Ohio State, and the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl, 24-20 over Stanford, after finishing 4th in the BCS poll.
Looking back at the other teams in the top four (Alabama, Auburn, and Florida State), he may have been right. With how the playoffs are supposed to be seeded, a committee chooses the seedings of the top 4 from the BCS poll. Assumming the committee goes along with the poll last year, in the semi-finals, MSU would have faced eventual champions FSU, whom they last faced in 1988 and are 0-2 against in the history of collegiate football. However, the MSU defense was the top-ranked defense by many at the end of the season. It would have been a game for the ages, one that I am sure many would play out on a video game, if only there wasn't that pesky lawsuit.
On the other bracket, we would have seen a rematch, Alabama vs Auburn. In this battle of two SEC teams, Alabama lost on a last-play missed field goal return of over 100 yards. I don't think they would make that mistake twice, but Auburn still would have won this, leading to a championship game between Michigan State and Auburn, who only have faced each other in 1938, with Auburn coming out on top then. But that was a different time and a different game. Michigan State would have fought a low-scoring game to the finish, and very well may have won the National Championship.
Even if Alabama had beaten Auburn in a playoff game, Michigan State would most likely still have won the title game. Dantonio said it best: Michigan State was playing their best football when it mattered, other schools were not. The Michigan State defense was swallowing opponents left and right, and Connor Cook was developing into a serious threat at quarterback. The other three schools were wearing down, not dominating as they were in the early part of the season.
Will Michigan State back these words up this year? If the Spartans continue to be driven by "Little Brother" comments, then it is a possibility. Anything can happen on any given Saturday in college football.