The days are counting down to kickoff for the Michigan State Spartans and the 80th Cotton Bowl Classic. For Spartans senior quarterback Connor Cook the possibility of it being his final game is not something that has really crossed him mind.
While some have already penciled in Alabama for the National Championship Game, Cook and his teammates know they’ve been doing the work for this one game and not looking ahead to the possibility of having one more game on January 11th.
Have the Spartans prepared differently knowing the winner advances to play one more week?
“No,” said Cook. “Game plans just like any other game. There’s really no prep. We’re not treating this like any other -- or differently than we would any other game. We’re going to come out here, do what we’ve done. Really, the only thing that’s different is just we’ve had so much time to prepare for it. So nothing different. And we’re just going to go out there and do what we’ve done.”
Some feel the Spartans will enter the game in a different mindset having just played in the Cotton Bowl a year ago. But Cook knows the Crimson Tide is no stranger to being in Dallas.
“Alabama played in it, too,” he said. “So they’re probably in the same situation. For sure playing here last year definitely has some advantages.”
Cook knows this Bama team is impressive just by looking at them. But he also sees one of the Spartans opponents in the way they play.
“Obviously, they’re bigger than teams we faced,” he said. “So I would say just the main difference is just their size. But, I mean, they’re sound in what they do. They’re well-coached. If I had to compare them to anyone, I’d compare them to Michigan, the way Michigan was able to stop the run against us.”
This is not unfamiliar territory for Cook or the Spartans as this past season has taught them one major lesson.
“Never give up and always finish, finish, finish, finish,” he said. “That’s the big thing we emphasize. Go out there and finish. No matter how the game starts, no matter what goes on first half, second half, whatever it is, as long as you go out there and finish, good things will happen.”
All in all, Cook knows his time at Michigan State has been a special one with the possibility of even more special things happening.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “Looking back, when I was a freshman coming in here, if anyone would have said that we would have had the seasons we’ve had, I would have looked at them with the craziest look on my face. To be able to be in the situation -- the reason why I came back was to compete for a conference championship and potentially get a playoff berth. So for things to kind of fall into place and actually be able to live it out, it’s one thing to go out there and talk about it and another thing to go out there and do it. For me to come back and to be able to be in a situation like this with my teammates, it’s pretty special.”