Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Spartans Wrap Up

Photo By: Photo by James D. Smith/CBAA

Michigan State completed its final on-field preparation for the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic by conducting a walk-through at AT&T Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

The No. 3 Spartans (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten) spent more than an hour doing light work for their New Year’s Eve game against No. 2 Alabama (12-1, 8-1 SEC) before heading back to the team hotel for final meetings. The winner advances to the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 11 in Glendale, Ariz.

The walk-through marked the fifth time the Spartans worked on the AT&T Stadium field in the last week. The other four were regular practices. A team photo was taken before the walk-through.

Head Coach Mark Dantonio and Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban shared the spotlight during a morning press conference and again at the Goodyear Big Play Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole Hotel. Coaches, players and fans from both teams attended the luncheon, where Spartans tight end Paul Lang was recognized for his academic achievement. He’s one of only 22 Spartans in school history to earn academic All-Big Ten honors.

After meetings, the Spartans were scheduled to watch a movie together Wednesday night.

“Looking forward to the game tomorrow night,” Dantonio said at the press conference. “And as I said pretty much all week long, this will be a great opportunity but a great challenge for us as a program. And we’re looking forward to our moment.”

Michigan State is widely considered an underdog to Alabama, which puts it in the same company as most of the Tide’s opponents in recent years. But the Spartans aren’t new to the big stage. Dantonio has accomplished just about everything except winning a national title in nine seasons leading the program, making the Spartans’ motto for this season – “reach higher” – quite appropriate.

The only Big Ten coach to win 11 games in five of six seasons is not named Schembechler, Hayes, Yost or Tressell. Dantonio is the only one to have done it. Michigan State has won three of the last six Big Ten championships, is the only school to have won a BCS game/New Year’s Six game the last two seasons and has won four consecutive bowls. The last one was a 42-41 comeback victory over Baylor in the 2015 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic last Jan. 1.

“So it's sort of ironic to me that we're playing on December 31st,” Dantonio said. “And we look to go 365. And we left on an upswing, and it was a very positive end of the season for us and it sort of catapulted us into 2015.

“But along with that, we didn't reach our goals. So we were an 11-2 football team and ended up No. 5 in the nation. But nobody felt like they were satisfied, and I think that's what allowed us to move forward sort of with a state of mind that understood that we need to play better.”

The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic celebrates its 80th anniversary on New Year’s Eve while hosting its first College Football Playoff Semifinal. Airtime on ESPN is set for 7 p.m. CST, with kickoff slated for 7:10 p.m.

This marks the second year for the Goodyear Cotton Bowl to be a part of ESPN’s bowl lineup. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will provide the call from the booth with Heather Cox and Tom Rinaldi reporting from the sideline.

ESPN Radio returns as the Classic's national radio partner for the fourth consecutive year. Brad Sham, the "Voice of the Dallas Cowboys," teams with Danny Kanell in the booth and Ian Fitzsimmons on the sideline to describe all the action from AT&T Stadium. This is Sham's 19th consecutive year as the Classic's play-by-play voice and his 23rd overall.

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