DALLAS, Texas -- The two teams have been in Texas for almost a week, they are ready to play football.
Number three Michigan State (12-1) and number two Alabama (12-1) will square off on Thursday night at AT&T Stadium for a spot in the National Championship game.
For the Spartans they will finish 2015 in the same spot they began it, playing in the Cotton Bowl. Michigan State came from behind to beat Baylor on January 1st in last seasons Cotton Bowl Classic.
"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. We needed to do better than we did; and we needed to play our best in big games, which I don't think happened last year on a consistent basis" Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said.
Michigan State's lone loss this season came November 7th at Nebraska, 39-38, in a game that saw Michigan State allow 499 yards of total offense to the Cornhuskers. Since that loss the Spartans defense has played much better allowing just 12.5 points per game and 226 yards per game, that includes wins over Ohio State (11-1) and Iowa (12-1)
"I have full confidence and faith in our defense and the players that we have. The coaches have done a great of putting us in positions to win this entire season and it just comes down to us going out there and playing. I think that all the injuries that we have had this year, all the hard times we've had with this defense we have just persevered through but I think we are clicking as a defense we have kind of found our niche and we understand the great challenge we have in front of us and we are really looking forward to it" senior linebacker Darien Harris said.
Michigan State senior quarterback Connor Cook has been bothered by a shoulder injury in recent weeks and two days ago practiced with brace on, but he went through walk through on Thursday without the brace and appears ready to go.
"He's been playing since he's a sophomore, and I think he's 34-4. So he can do about anything he wanted to do. He can create. He's got a quick release, strong arm, those type of things. And he believes in his receivers. And he throws the ball in very tight windows and throws a very, very catchable football. So those are the things that I know that he does. And he's been a great, great performer for us. Great leader for us as well" Dantonio said.
The Cotton Bowl Classic is scheduled to kickoff just after 8 P.M. EST on Thursday.