TAMPA — By the time Michigan State kicks off Monday against Georgia in the Outback Bowl, it will have gone 10 years without a bowl victory, including losses to end each of Mark Dantonio's first four seasons.
Overall, the program has lost five consecutive bowl games.
"We haven't talked about it much," Dantonio said Wednesday. I talked about it a little bit (Tuesday) just in terms of how you feel as a coach addressing your football team after a loss; when you look at your seniors and it's their last football game.
"They're taking off that uniform for the last time. They've sweated with each other, been through a lot of things with each other."
Michigan State has lost its past three bowl games by an average margin of 21 points, including 49-7 to Alabama in the January 2011 Capital One Bowl and 24-14 in the January 2009 Capital One Bowl to the same Georgia program it faces Monday.
Dantonio said his bowl losses have overshadowed the Spartans' regular-season success.
"I think we've played some outstanding football teams in that period of four years. You get to a game like this, you're going to play somebody good," he said. "That's a thing people need to recognize. It's always about the last game you played. You're evaluated on that last game. You finish on a high note, things look great. You finish on a low note. … We were 11-1 last year, played Alabama. All you heard about basically was, 'We didn't get it done, this and that,' It's about how you finish."
REUNION: Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Dantonio know each other well, having both been assistants at Michigan State from 1996-98. Grantham coached the defensive line, Dantonio the secondary.
"He's a very good friend of mine, an excellent coach; obviously brings a lot of energy to the game, believes in aggressive play," Dantonio said. "He's a technician. He teaches very well. He's a great teacher, and you see that in Georgia's football team."
Georgia and Michigan State are ranked third and fifth, respectively, in Division I-A in total defense, both allowing fewer than 275 yards per game. That will create a challenge for two veteran quarterbacks in the Bulldogs' Aaron Murray and the Spartans' Kirk Cousins.
THIS AND THAT: Georgia coach Mark Richt said what he remembers most about the teams' meeting in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando was how many players from that game are in the NFL, most notably Lions QB Matt Stafford. … Georgia also is trying to bounce back from a bowl loss, its coming 10-6 to UCF in the Liberty. Richt said the biggest problem in that loss was intensity. "You talk about energy?" he said. "There wasn't a whole lot of it." … The last time Michigan State won a bowl game was the December 2001 Silicon Valley Classic, a game now defunct, when it beat Fresno State and quarterback (and future No. 1 overall pick) David Carr 44-35.
Greg Auman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.