With two weeks to go in the regular season, rx there are several great match-ups that have the potential to shake-up the CFB playoff picture. None is bigger, however, than the match-up of the B1G season between the Buckeyes and the Spartans on Saturday. In fact, ESPN College GameDay is headed to Columbus for the first time since 2010 for the big showdown. The Buckeyes beat out a valiant effort by Virginia Tech who tried to entice College GameDay to come to their campus to honor retiring head coach Frank Beamer one last time. But alas, the OSU v. MSU match-up was just too big to turn down. So what will the fans of both the Spartans and Buckeyes be in store for when their two teams hit the field?
Honestly, one can only reason a guess at this point in the season. But one thing looks for sure: Whichever team loses will most likely end their hopes of being in the playoff consideration. Whoever wins, probably just put themselves in the hunt for the CFP. Some argue that MSU will be primed for a win after losing a heartbreaker to Nebraska last week. And some believe that OSU has had a cupcake schedule this year and this is their first legitimate challenge.
While the match-up between these two powerhouses on the field is certainly attracting well-deserved attention, the one story that really caught my eye this week was much more personal in nature. It was the feature ESPN did on the relationship between Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo – a football coach and a basketball coach that have fed off of each other, enjoyed each other’s success, and been there for each other during times of struggle. And that was important last week after MSU lost its chance at an undefeated season.
“We just talked about how to deal with the media and the fans and players. I asked him how he addressed his players Sunday when he got back,” Izzo said. “Mostly, I was just checking up on a friend.” – Tom Izzo via ESPN.
Being a head coach of a Division I college sport, especially a revenue generating sport that is constantly in the national media must be awfully lonely. You are either a hero who can do “no wrong” or the fans are calling for your job if the season is not going according to plan. Let’s face it – we are in a “Win Now, Win Often” era of sports, both at the collegiate level and professionally. A college coach who is guiding young men through the bright lights of the wins and the devastation of the losses have to be able to be motivators, comforters, supporters, and to some extent, fathers.
But where do they turn for their own advice and support? While I’m sure family and close friends provide a much needed support system, no one but another coach in similar situation can really understand. For Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio, they turn to each other.
It probably is not a coincidence that for almost the past ten years that they have been at the helm of the football and basketball programs, MSU has seen a resurgence of success. If you don’t know a lot about these two coaches, I would highly recommend reading the story. And for other colleges out there – this is a blueprint waiting to be followed.