Dec. 12, 2011
OKEMOS, Mich. - Several Michigan State players met with the local media Monday afternoon at Outback Steakhouse in Okemos to preview the upcoming Outback Bowl against Georgia on Jan. 2 in Tampa, Fla. Tickets are on sale for the game on msuspartans.com.
"We're really excited to go to Tampa - we have a lot to play for," said senior left guard Joel Foreman. "For this senior class to get a bowl win and to leave Michigan State on the up-and-up is very important for us."
For the Spartan offense, Michigan State must go against a Bulldog defense that's ranked third in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense, allowing just 268.5 yards per game. Georgia is also ranked in the top 10 in the FBS in pass efficiency defense, pass defense and rushing defense.
"What a great challenge, (they) are one of the top defenses in the nation," said red-shirt freshman center Travis Jackson, who was recently named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team by Rivals.com. "It's really a good test for us. It will be exciting to see what we'll be able to do against them - it's not going to come easy."
Michigan State's defense is also one of the top in the FBS, ranking among the top 10 nationally in four statistical categories, including fifth in total defense (272.7 ypg.). The Spartans will look to contain Georgia sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who has tossed a school-record 33 touchdowns this season.
"They're a team with a lot of speed," said sophomore linebacker Max Bullough, MSU's leading tackler with 86. "They had an incredible year and are 10-3 like we are. We played them a few years back before I got here, and (the players) said to expect a fast team that plays physical."
One of the game plans on offense will be to get back-up sophomore quarterback Andrew Maxwell some experience, much like Kirk Cousins did in the 2009 Capital One Bowl vs. Georgia. Cousins was 4-of-5 passing for 36 yards in his lone series against the Bulldogs, which came in the second quarter of a 3-3 game, and he later cited those few plays as giving him confidence moving forward when he became the starter the following season.
"We're doing it because we think it will provide a great deal of experience for (Andrew)," said quarterbacks coach Dave Warner. "It puts a little more pressure on him to perform. It gives him a chance to get in there when the lights are on, and it also gives us a chance to evaluate him and see how he does. We expect him to turn it on and play well."
The Spartans are taking the week off due to final exams and will officially begin bowl practice on Friday.
"I'm really excited to go against Georgia," said second-team All-Big Ten linebacker Denicos Allen, who ranks second in the Big Ten with 10 sacks. "Like we've been saying all year, we've been looking for a new challenge every day, and we've found a good challenge in Georgia. We're looking forward to sending the seniors out right."
The No. 12 Spartans (10-3) and No. 18 Bulldogs (10-3) will meet in the 2012 Outback Bowl at 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 2 in Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game will be televised on ABC.