EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State is settling into its underdog role quite nicely as it prepares for the Capital One Bowl.
Some of the Spartans already are weary of TV analysts, writers and bloggers routinely saying Georgia is a clear-cut favorite to win the New Year's Day game in Orlando, Fla.
No. 19 Michigan State (9-3) isn't happy with the often-stated opinion that, as a Big Ten team, it must face lesser competition than does No. 16 Georgia (9-3) in the SEC. And don't forget the notion that Big Ten teams are relatively slow and the lack of speed kills them against teams from other power conferences.
Just another case of the Big Ten not getting much love headed into bowl season.
"I guess the whole knock is, what everybody likes to say, is the Big Ten is not as fast," said Michigan State running back Javon Ringer, the nation's third-leading rusher at 132.5 yards per game. "But I really feel that's not true. We're just as fast, just as physical."
Besides, Ringer said Tuesday, the game more likely will be won or lost with the big boys along the line of scrimmage.
"If we can be dominant up front than we can have success," Ringer said. "If not, then it's going to be a rough one."
Big Ten teams are underdogs in six of their seven bowl matchups, according to the most recent Glantz-Culver Line. Only Iowa, facing South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day, is favored to win.
Penn State and Ohio State both made the Bowl Championship Series but are roughly 10-point underdogs against Southern California in the Rose Bowl and Texas in the Fiesta Bowl, respectively.
Georgia is favored by a touchdown over Michigan State. The Bulldogs, after all, were ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason poll. But losses to Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech knocked the Bulldogs out of the Bowl Championship Series hunt.
Michigan State wasn't ranked in the AP's preseason poll.
"I don't know where we came from....52nd?" Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.
Some of the Spartans' underdog comments stem from the us-against-the-world mentality teams sometimes adopt to create a sense of unity before big games. But some of the underdog rhetoric comes from solid evidence accumulated this season.
The Spartans have played two top-tier teams — Ohio State and Penn State — and were crushed by both. Ohio State defeated Michigan State 45-7 on Oct. 18. Penn State clinched the Big Ten title by topping the Spartans 49-18 Nov. 22, ending the regular season.
Georgia, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno, arguably is just as talented.
Michigan State views its bowl game as a chance for redemption on a national stage, particularly after the Penn State loss.
"We didn't play to the best of our ability in that Penn State game," Spartans safety Otis Wiley said. We know we can play better."