Mark Dantonio told me Thursday his travel squad will number 70 players to California Friday morning. The Spartans fly out of Grand Rapids at 11:30am-- the runways are being renovated in Lansing. Six of the players are true freshmen and 15 more are redshirt freshmen. Dantonio feels good about his team's chances, realizing that he is going into a tough environment. Michigan State is a five point underdog.
I asked him about leaving Friday instead of Thursday because of the three time zone difference. He reminded me of the year MSU played at Oregon and got trounced when Nick Saban was head coach-- State went earlier in the week and that didn't help. Dantonio plans to keep everyone's watch on Michigan time-- so in reality it will be an 8pm game, even though it will be five o'clock in Berkley. The game will draw 71,000 fans, up to 10,000 of whom will back the Spartans.
Dantonio professes not to know who will run the ball behind Javon Ringer, but he says he doesn't have any major injury problems to deal with. He admits some players are nicked up, but not badly enough to miss the trip. The Spartans are one of two Big Ten teams who are underdogs on the opening week end-- Illinois is a nine point underdog to Missouri in Saturday night's game in St. Louis.
Dantonio has a 3-1 record in opening games as a head coach. The Spartans fly home immediately after the game, arriving at dawn back in Grand Rapids. The team then prepares for its home opener against Eastern Michigan. The next three games are in Spartan Stadium-- after EMU, it's Florida Atlantic then Notre Dame. Florida Atlantic is a 24-point underdog in its opener Saturday at Texas.