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Logo  Day 7: Thursday, Dec. 31

This time, there would be no fabulous finish or great escape, no MVP performance or celebratory dance party in the locker room.

As Thursday night surrendered to the New Year, all No. 3 Michigan State had to show for its first appearance in the College Football Playoff was a 38-0 Cotton Bowl loss to No. 2 Alabama that in no way mirrored the accomplishments of this season or the previous three for that matter.

The ultimate goal went unrealized, dreams of hoisting the National Championship trophy were crushed and the Spartans were left to take stock of their body of work while pointing to a future that bypasses Glendale, Arizona, host city for the CFP final between the Crimson Tide and Clemson on Jan. 11.

"This is a reminder that each day you work for the next phase in your life," said senior outside linebacker Darien Harris. "This is something that didn't go right that now you have to overcome. We just need to understand that this is a process and now that we've been to the College Football Playoff we're not the new kids on the block anymore.

"Therefore, guys know what it takes to get here and I know they're going to put in the hard work in the offseason, and I definitely expect the Spartans to be in the playoff hunt next year. We've left a legacy the younger guys can definitely build on."

To read Steve Grinczel's complete column, "Despite Loss in CFP Semifinal, 2015 A Season To Remember," click here.

To watch the post-game press conference with head coach Mark Dantonio, senior defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun and senior quarterback Connor Cook, click on the video below:

Logo  Day 6: Wednesday, Dec. 30

MSUSpartans.com Coverage:
Dantonio, Saban Share Stage at Final Cotton Bowl Classic Pregame Press Conference

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, 7-1 SEC) before heading back to the team hotel for final meetings.

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.

MSU 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 with the team's scholar-athlete award. He's one of only 22 Spartans in school history to earn Academic All-Big Ten honors four times.

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."

Kickoff for the 80th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic is set for 8:10 p.m. ET; the game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Quote of the day...
"We've been successful in the last four bowl games so we tried to take that mindset as we've come into this. Obviously, this is a little bit bigger and a little bit busier, I would say, as well. We've got to take that into context and critique that as well. This whole thing will be critiqued as we've both talked about up here. Our goal is to always get better. Always get better and keep moving forward."
-MSU head coach Mark Dantonio

Note of the day...
A trademark of Mark Dantonio's Michigan State teams has been their ability to produce wins late in the season. Under Dantonio, Michigan State has compiled a 29-12 record (.707) in November, December and January.

Logo  Day 5: Tuesday, Dec. 29

MSUSpartans.com Coverage:
CFP Homework Assignment for Spartan O-Line? Breaking Down 'Fight of the Century'
Catching Up With Jalen Watts-Jackson

Michigan State turned in its final practice for the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Tuesday, capping a full day.

The team started the day with pre-dawn wakeup calls so they could bus from the team hotel to AT&T Stadium for an hour-long media session. After more preparation back at the hotel, they returned to the stadium in the afternoon and worked vigorously for two hours.

"Long day," MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said. "We spent about two hours on a bus - half hour, half hour, half hour, half hour (commuting each way). So, long day today and I think it's important that our players are fresh."

Coaches and players - mostly the higher-profile players - have met with various media since Saturday. But the Tuesday event was the game's designated media day where all players and coaches are made available for interviews and a large media contingent shows up.

More than 300 reporters from around the nation greeted the team on the turf at AT&T Stadium for media day, and portions of the event were broadcast live on ESPN's SportsCenter and streamed live on WatchESPN.

In the afternoon, the practice's content was "a clean-up deal, mental-type preparation and final preparation," Dantonio said. "There will be some adjustments, I'm sure, but for the most part we're ready to go."

Some teams use bowl practices to scrimmage younger players who won't play in the game. It gives them more chances to develop and it gives the coaches a glimpse of the future. But with another game looming should they win, this isn't an average bowl week. Michigan State has been guarded with its redshirt and other deep-reserve players this week.

"It's a catch-22 situation," Dantonio said. "We need every single person. So we can't come out here and scrimmage our young guys because we don't want to get anybody hurt. They're a value too, in terms of scout team and things of that nature."

The Spartans will go through a brief stadium walk-through on Wednesday and meetings in the final 24 hours before the game. They'll also stay off their feet as much as possible.

Quote of the day...
"This is going to be a life memory for them, one of them. The Cotton Bowl last year was, the Rose Bowl the year before. So our players have enjoyed great success these past couple years, and we'll hopefully continue that. At the same time, these are life moments and, I think it's important that they understand that and have fun with it. So we've allowed them to do that."
-MSU head coach Mark Dantonio

Note of the day...
Following the Dec. 5 win over No. 4 Iowa, the Spartans are 7-1 in their last eight games against AP Top 10 teams, including a 6-1 mark since 2013 and 3-0 in 2015. MSU beat No. 4 Wisconsin in 2011. Michigan State has won nine of its last 11 games played against ranked opponents, including five straight (No. 4 Baylor in 2015 Cotton Bowl; No. 7 Oregon on Sept. 12; No. 12 Michigan on Oct. 17, No. 2 Ohio State on Nov. 21, No. 4 Iowa on Dec. 5).

Logo  Day 4: Monday, Dec. 28

MSUSpartans.com Coverage:
Dantonio, Spartans Establish Inspiring Bond with 9-Year-Old at Scottish Rite Hospital
Rotation at Running Has Served Spartans Well During Playoff Run

It was another event-filled day at the Cotton Bowl Classic on Monday.

In the morning, co-offensive coordinators Dave Warner and Jim Bollman, along with Jack Allen, Aaron Burbridge, Jack Conklin, Connor Cook, Gerald Holmes, Madre London and LJ Scott, met with the media for a press conference in downtown Dallas at the Omni Hotel.

"Certainly there's a little extra excitement if there can be," said Bollman on playing in the College Football Playoff. "When you get in one of these final big six games, when you're in the final 12 teams in the country, you're always playing a great opponent.

"But when you're in the Final Four tournament, we all know and talk about what's in the end, the possibilities of continuing. But you got to take it one game at a time, especially now. So certainly there is a little more added excitement to the game, no question. But, again, thankful to be here. Blessed to be here. And I think our whole outfit feels that same way."

For complete quotes on MSU's offensive press conference, click here.

The Spartans then had the opportunity to visit the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children for the second year in a row.

"You come out and have an opportunity to see people who have difficult situations going on in their lives -- young people," said MSU head coach Mark Dantonio. "I think our players do a great job being a light for people and giving back a little bit. Sometimes when you see people and it's a little tougher for them than you, you tend to appreciate where you are in life. We're just glad we're able to do a little something and put some smiles on some young people today."

In the afternoon, the Spartans practiced for two hours in shells after spending the first two practices in full pads.

"I think our attention to detail is very good," said Dantonio following his team's third practice at AT&T Stadium. "I think the focus is good. You have to have great attention to detail. You have to play great fundamentally and tackle in space, get off blocks, play the ball, catch the ball. There are so many fundamental things to do in football that you may know what to do but you have to transfer that to the field."

For a complete practice report, click here.

Upon arriving back at the Gaylord Texan, the Spartans signed autographs for the official team travel party and ate pizza for dinner before closing the day by attending the Dallas Mavericks-Milwaukee Bucks game at American Airlines Arena.

Quote of the day...
"It's all about finishing. Coach D always talks about finishing. All the workouts we've had going back to winter conditioning, the workouts in the spring, summer, we put a big emphasis on finishing the workouts...No matter what the outcome is or the score, we could be losing, whatever it is, as long as we push forward, finish the game, usually good things will happen."
-Quarterback Connor Cook

Note of the day...
No. 2 Alabama is the highest-ranked AP opponent MSU has ever faced in a bowl game (previous: No. 4 UCLA in 1956 Rose Bowl; No. 4 UCLA in 1966 Rose Bowl; No. 4 Baylor in 2015 Cotton Bowl).

Logo  Day 3: Sunday, Dec. 27

MSUSpartans.com Coverage:
Spartans Prepping for Challenge of Facing Heisman Trophy Winner Derrick Henry
Barnett Provides Emotional Spark for Spartan Defense

Co-defensive coordinators Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel, along with linebacker Riley Bullough, defensive end Shilique Calhoun, safety Demetrious Cox, linebacker Darien Harris and defensive tackle Joel Heath, had an early start on Sunday with a morning press conference in downtown Dallas at the Omni Hotel.

The Spartans talked about facing a physical Alabama offense that features Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, who leads the NCAA FBS in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and an offensive line that won the inaugural Joe Moore Award for the nation's best position group up front.

"They have obviously the Heisman Trophy winner who is huge and fast," remarked Tressel. "They have the award-winning top offensive line in the nation who's huge and strong. They have receivers that are fast, go vertical, make big plays. And then (offensive coordinator) Coach (Lane) Kiffin does a great job of designing things to put linebackers and safeties in conflicts to try to isolate people. So there's no doubt we have our work cut out for us. But we will play fast, and we're looking forward to it."

To read the rest of the quotes from the Spartan defensive press conference, click here.

The Spartans then worked out in full pads for the second time at AT&T Stadium in the afternoon for more than two hours.

Following practice, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio had the Dallas-area storm victims on his mind. At least 11 people died, many others were injured and hundreds of homes were damaged when tornadoes tore through nearby cities Saturday evening. It was the first thought Dantonio shared Sunday after completing the team's second practice for the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

"Our thoughts and our prayers go out to the people that are affected by the tornadoes," Dantonio said. "It's a tragedy. It puts things into perspective."

The Spartans were finishing their Saturday practice and then riding in buses back to the team hotel and were not in the twisters' vicinity when the tornadoes hit well east of AT&T Stadium.

For a complete report on practice, click here.

In the evening, the entire team visited the Main Event for dinner while also playing video games and bowling.

Quote of the day...
"Actually, I really do like the beard. It's the hair that's the problem. (laughter) No, honestly, I think he does. I think it all comes from - I don't know if you have ever seen the cartoon the Crimson Chin. But that's why I think he's like a superhero with that beard. It gets really wild and really crazy."
-Shilique Calhoun on Riley Bullough's hair and beard

Note of the day...
Michigan State has 18 student-athletes on its roster who have received their undergraduate degrees, including nine projected starters for the Cotton Bowl Classic: C Jack Allen (hospitality business), DE Shilique Calhoun (criminal justice), RG Donavon Clark (sociology), QB Connor Cook (media and information), LB Darien Harris (journalism), DT Joel Heath (interdisciplinary studies in social science), TE Paul Lang (economics), FB Trevon Pendleton (hospitality business) and DE Lawrence Thomas (sociology). The 18 graduates on MSU's roster rank first in the Big Ten and tied for seventh most among the 80 FBS teams playing in a bowl game.

Logo  Day 2: Saturday, Dec. 26

MSUSpartans.com Coverage:
Grinz on Green: Spartans Relying on Past Bowl Experiences in New College Football Playoff Era
Cotton Bowl Welcome Press Conference

The Spartans began their first full day in Dallas with a welcome press conference in their team hotel as MSU head coach Mark Dantonio and seniors Jack Allen, Shilique Calhoun, Connor Cook and Darien Harris talked about the challenge and opportunity awaiting them in the upcoming Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic against No. 2 Alabama.

"It's great to be back at the Cotton Bowl," said Dantonio. "We had a great experience here last year. In so many respects, I think that this Cotton Bowl really sets the bar in terms of how bowls are handled.

"We have been on a big stage. This program has grown since 2007. We have had to do things and have a process to it. And so we've gone through the various stages of that process: Winning at home, winning away, winning at bowl games, winning a Rose Bowl, coming from behind it in a Cotton Bowl. Now you have an opportunity to play on an even bigger stage."

In the afternoon, the Spartans held a two-hour practice for their first workout at AT&T Stadium.

"Good practice today," said Dantonio. "We got a lot of things done and got reconnected with the environment here.

"We had good retention and we looked like we were in shape."

After practice, both Michigan State and Alabama attended the Dallas Cowboys Welcome Dinner on the concourse at AT&T Stadium.

Quote of the day...
"It feels great. Coach D always talks about completing the circle. It doesn't get better than this. Doesn't come to fruition more than this does. We obviously played in this game on January 1st of this year, which is kind of crazy to say. It will be the second time since I have been here that we have played in two bowl games in the same year, which is an interesting kind of concept to deal with. But especially the fact we're coming back here within the same year is great. We love the Cotton Bowl. We are glad to be back."
-Senior linebacker Darien Harris

Note of the day...
With the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic victory over Baylor, MSU extended its school-record bowl winning streak to four games, tied for the longest in Big Ten history (2012 Outback over No. 18 Georgia, 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings over TCU, 2014 Rose Bowl over No. 5 Stanford, 2015 Cotton Bowl over No. 4 Baylor). It also equals the longest active bowl winning streak in the FBS. Michigan and Ohio State each have two four-game bowl winning streaks in their history, while Purdue and Wisconsin have accomplished the feat once. A win over Alabama would give MSU a Big Ten-record five-game bowl winning streak.

Logo  Day 1: Friday, Dec. 25

The Michigan State football team arrived in Dallas on Christmas Day and checked into its team headquarters, the Gaylord Texan, to begin its week in Texas for the 80th Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

The No. 3 Spartans were greeted at the team hotel, located in Grapevine, Texas, by representatives from the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.

Michigan State will resume its preparation for the College Football Playoff Semifinal Goodyear against No. 2 Alabama with its first practice of the trip on Saturday afternoon inside AT&T Stadium following a media briefing in the morning.

No. 3 Michigan State (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten) will play second-seeded and SEC Champion Alabama (12-1, 7-1 SEC) in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Thursday, Dec. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (8 p.m., ESPN).

Daily updates on MSU's week in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl Classic will be available on msuspartans.com. Fans can also follow on Facebook (MSUAthletics), Twitter (@msu_football), Instagram (msu_spartans) and YouTube (MSUSpartanAthletics).

Note of the day...
Michigan State is the first Big Ten school to play in the Cotton Bowl Classic twice. Ohio State (1987) is the only other school to play in the Cotton Bowl Classic.

 

 

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