LOS ANGELES -- The Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO is barely 48 hours away, and Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio held his final pregame news conference Monday morning.
Here are some notes from Dantonio (and one from athletic director Mark Hollis):
Senior Kyler Elsworth should start at middle linebacker in place of the suspended Max Bullough, although Darien Harris also will play a fair amount. Dantonio said both will have the same responsibilities Bullough had with play calls and checks at the line. Elsworth, who was an elite high school wrestler, bench-presses about 400 pounds and has "great ball skills" as he played wide receiver in high school. Harris, who played running back in high school, brings good speed to the middle.
Dantonio said the Big Ten's poor start to bowl season doesn't add any pressure for Michigan State. He noted that while everybody obsesses about conference vs. conference, it really comes down to team vs. team matchups. "In the end, it's going to be Michigan State's deal," he said. "We represent the Big Ten, we carry the banner of the Big Ten in here, but in the end it's going to be Michigan State wins or loses, period. We're going to have to stand alone on that."
Dantonio again had high praise for quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who started all 13 games in 2012 and the opener this season before moving to a reserve role behind Connor Cook. "It's been tough, and he could have made things difficult here," Dantonio said, "but he chose this path, and that path has allowed us to flourish as a football team."
Michigan State has had no curfew issues or other disciplinary infractions leading into the game, but Dantonio reiterated that his team must handle success and being on the big stage the right way. Stanford appears in its fourth consecutive BCS bowl, while no Michigan State players were alive the last time the Spartans played in the Rose Bowl. "They've played in this type of environment with this type of media coverage," Dantonio said of Stanford. "Our guys, we're sort of on a new threshold here."
Dantonio on Sunday tweeted a link to a video called "The Spartan Process" that outlines MSU's path to the Rose Bowl, not just this year but in previous seasons. He showed it to the players this past week as a reminder of those who helped the program reach this point. "When you saw a picture of [former running back] Javon Ringer, I hope everybody felt a part of that, or a Kirk Cousins photo," Dantonio said. "They might not share in this physically, but they're going to share in this and be able to identify with what we do." Cousins, the Spartans' quarterback from 2008-11, will serve as the team's honorary captain.
Hollis said Michigan State will have more than 40,000 fans at Wednesday's game, and possibly more than 50,000. "I would not be surprised if we far exceed 50 percent of the stadium," Hollis said. "Estimates have been well over 50,000, so we believe it's going to be a home field for us, even though we're three time zones away."