Payton Thorne turned on the television just in time.
Xavier Henderson was out to get food and forgot that there was a show to announce the selection of bowl games.
Michigan state players were scattered Sunday afternoon, but they all received word that the Spartans (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) had been selected to play in the Peach Bowl against Pittsburgh (11-2, 7-1 ACC ) to compete. 30 in Atlanta.
“That New Years Eve Six feels good,” said Henderson, a senior security officer. “It’s strange to see how big it is. I’ve never really thought that before, but now that we’ve been selected for one it feels pretty special. “
Michigan State meets Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl
Michigan State is in a New Year’s Six Bowl for the first time since losing the 2015 College Football Playoff semifinal to Alabama at the Cotton Bowl. This will also be the show’s first appearance in the Peach Bowl.
“We’re excited to have our players, our program, and all of our fans selected for this New Years six-bowl game,” said Michigan state coach Mel Tucker. “It’s a very rewarding achievement for a regular season of 10 wins.”
Tucker posted a 2-5 record in a pandemic-troubled 2020 debut season leading the program and then revamped the roster via the transfer portal. The result is a team that has far exceeded outside expectations after Michigan State was widely predicted to be last in the Big Ten East Division.
The Spartans defeated Michigan on October 30th with an 8-0 start and what remains the only defeat for the Wolverines, who are in the playoffs for the first time. Michigan State’s Big Ten championship and playoff hopes were eliminated by a loss at Ohio State, but the team rallied for a win over Penn State to finish the regular season unbeaten at Spartan Stadium.
“Obviously we missed our goal a little this year of playing in the (Big Ten championship game) and winning all of our games,” said Thorne, a sophomore redshirt quarterback. “We won 10 games, we will have a chance to win 11… That’s a positive thing. It shows progress in the right direction. “
Although bowling eligibility requirements were waived last season amid the chaos of COVID-19, the state of Michigan declined an invitation to bowling. Thorne said that if the Spartans had been able to play in a game like the Peach Bowl, they would have done it but didn’t feel that a bowl trip was deserved. He said the season had been so strange, everyone just felt finished and it was good for the players to be able to return home to spend quality time with their families.
“The way our year went, all the ups and downs all year round and just the uncertainty of the year,” said Thorne, “it was a good thing that we simply called it a year, our eyes on this year and ourselves have prepared to go. “
This could be a historic year for the Big Ten Heisman finalists
Tucker said he did not know of any Michigan state player intending to withdraw from the bowl game, and neither did Thorne. It’s the first time Thorne has played in a bowl after seeing the Spartans’ 2019 Pinstripe Bowl win over Wake Forest in New York from the sidelines.
“I’m excited,” said Thorne. “I’m not just a soccer fan, I’m a soccer fan too, so I’ve watched these games all my life. I know what a New Year’s Eve six bowl means and I know that it means more than the others. “
Michigan State hasn’t played a New Year’s Six Bowl in six years, so it will be a new experience for almost everyone on the list. Henderson arrived in East Lansing after the height of the Mark Dantonio era and was part of a program that has broken records of 7-6, 7-6, and 2-5 for the past three years.
“It’s a dream come true, I guess you could say,” said Henderson, unsure of whether he will return for another season. “It means a lot, especially to me since my first year until now, that we’ve gotten better. It feels good and it is good for the fans because I know they have been waiting and they are proud of us this year and we are grateful for all of them. “
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