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Michigan State looking forward to Holiday Bowl

While some Michigan State supporters were likely fretting the fact the Spartans were passed over by their rival in the bowl selection process, their coach wasn't among them.

Michigan State, which finished the season No. 16 in the College Football Playoff rankings, will take on No. 18 Washington State in the Holiday Bowl at 9 p.m. Dec. 28 in San Diego.

"I would not say going to the Holiday Bowl is a big disappointment," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "I'm very excited about the opportunity, so that's where we're going to play. The Pac-12 and Big Ten have a great relationship, a historic relationship, so we better get ready to play.

"That's all we're focused on right now. Again, we're excited the Holiday Bowl picked us to come and represent the Big Ten. San Diego is a tremendous place and I know about 15,000 to 20,000 people in Southern California that are very excited. We're going to California and looking forward to it."

Most projections had Michigan State (9-3) playing in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando. However, those projections all assumed the Big Ten champion would be in the playoff field. Ohio State's win over Wisconsin in the conference title game apparently knocked the entire conference out of the playoff, which bumped the Badgers down to the Orange Bowl. According to the Big Ten's agreement, if a conference team is in the Orange Bowl that means there can't be one in the Citrus Bowl.

The next bowl selecting was the Outback Bowl, which opted to go with Michigan (8-4), despite the fact Michigan State had a better record and a head-to-head victory over the Wolverines.

However, it wasn't something Dantonio was thinking about.

"I just look at it as an opportunity to play in the Holiday Bowl," Dantonio said. "The records are what they are. I'll just continue to concentrate on beating Michigan and let things sort of sort out."

Since the Big Ten and their bowl partners do not follow a strict pecking order when it comes to determining which teams play in which games, it allowed the Outback Bowl to select Michigan over Michigan State, which last played in Tampa after the 2011 season, getting a triple-overtime victory over Georgia.

Instead of heading to Florida, however, Michigan State gets set to make its first appearance in the Holiday Bowl and its first trip to California since beating Stanford in the Rose Bowl following the 2013 season.

Any frustration over how the selection process waned quickly for the Spartans. After reaching a bowl game in each of Dantonio's first nine season, Michigan State went 3-9 last season, less than a year removed from a spot in the playoffs.

"It's rewarding. That's an understatement probably," Dantonio said.

"We've been through a lot. Again, I go back to our administration, everybody involved, coaches staying the course, whoever it would be. ... A lot of people, our players, just wanted us to forge forward. That's important. That's important that we did this all together. It wasn't one person. It wasn't me. It's everybody together."

Michigan State and Washington State have played seven times with Michigan State winning five. The last meeting came in 1977.

The Cougars (9-3) will play in the Holiday Bowl for the second straight season after losing, 17-12, last season to Minnesota.





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