It's been a season ripe for AD votes of confidence from schools you wouldn't necessarily expect to hear from -- primarily Texas, Oregon, Notre Dame and, now, Michigan State.
Fresh off their second Big Ten championship in three years, their third straight Top-6 finish and a College Football Playoff appearance, Michigan State has stumbled to a 2-5 start. After starting with wins over Furman and Notre Dame, Sparty has dropped five straight games, including to the likes of Indiana, Northwestern and Maryland. Michigan awaits this week. Ohio State and Penn State are still to follow.
It hasn't been a good season for Mark Dantonio and his Spartans, but Michigan State AD Mark Hollis stepped in to provide some perspective.
"Our program is in a very good place. Our season is not," Hollis told the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, via MLive.
"Michigan State football is not going away, I think what we've built here over the last nine years with coach D at the helm has been incredible. We've got some challenges this year, but we're building upon the many years."
Adding that he's "comfortable with where we're headed in the future," Hollis said, "You've got to measure things in large chunks as an AD, you can't have the ebbs and tides of mistakes and failure. Both are short lived."
Historically, Dantonio has rebounded from down seasons to bounce Michigan State to a higher level than the program occupied before the bad year. After going 16-10 in 2007-08 and slipping to 6-7 in 2009, Dantonio guided the Spartans to a 22-5 mark with two top-15 finishes in 2010-11. Then, after a 7-6 mark in 2012, Michigan State has enjoyed its best run in half a century, going 36-5 overall and 24-2 against Big Ten competition (and 5-1 against Michigan and Ohio State) with those two Big Ten titles, three top-6 final rankings, three BCS/New Year's Six bowl appearances, including the program's first Rose Bowl win since 1987.
It is worth noting, though, that circumstances surrounding Dantonio's third rebound will be different -- and more difficult -- than the first two. Pat Narduzzi no longer stands by his right hand. The program's streak of stable, reliable quarterback play has come to an end with no obvious heir apparent. Ohio State isn't getting any worse, and Michigan and Penn State are only getting better.
The hill in front of Dantonio has never been stepper. But he's climbed enough of them to show he should be trusted to mount this one, too.