EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan State Spartans are considered the underdogs in the upcoming Cotton Bowl against Alabama, but they are relishing that role.
“We’re used to being the guys that nobody expects to win or expects to do anything, really. It’s big for us, it’s big for the Big Ten,” Michigan State senior center Jack Allen said Wednesday at the team’s media day.
The Spartans play the Crimson Tide on Dec. 31 in Texas for a College Football Playoffs semifinal. The oddsmakers from Pregame.com aren’t giving Michigan State much of a chance to beat Alabama — which has a Heisman Trophy winner and offense that knows how to run — marking the Crimson Tide as 10-point favorites.
Still, the Cotton Bowl is expected to be like a heavyweight boxing match, both teams leaving with lots of bruises. After all, Michigan State has beaten power running teams on the road.
“The schedule has really set us up for success in terms of being able to go on the road … and play big-time teams in big-time environments. I think everything’s kind of built itself us to get us ready for this moment,” senior linebacker Darien Harris said.
The Spartans say the game is about this particular team and the Michigan State program, but they also can’t help but want to take on people doubting them and their conference.
“You don’t want to hear it, but then you kind of look at it and take it personal and stuff like that,” junior defensive back Demetrious Cox said. “Just being 11 percent chance of winning and all that stuff, it gives you a little edge and makes you want to come to practice and work a little harder.”
The Spartans are a newly established power looking for knock off a perennial power and earn the right to play for their first national championship in nearly half a century.
“We want to consider ourselves the best and to go through Alabama, who also believes they’re the best. It’s going to be a big challenge,” senior quarterback Connor Cook said.
“Especially now, I can actually envision the idea ofbeing in the national championship and winning, also,” senior defensive end Shilique Calhoun said.
COOK SAYS SHOULDER ISN’T BOTHERING HIM MUCH
As the game nears, Cook said his shoulder issues aren’t really holding him back anymore. He says he had been limited in practice, but is now “pretty much doing everything in practice.”
Cook hurt his throwing shoulder against Maryland on Nov. 14, and he missed a win at Ohio State the following weekend. He threw three touchdown passes in a division-clinching win over Penn State on Nov. 28, but Cook looked like he was off his game when Michigan State beat Iowa a week later for the Big Ten championship.
Cook has thrown for 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions this season.
–The Associated Press’s John Marshall contributed to this report.