ORLANDO _ While the University of Alabama has spent all week in Orlando preparing for Saturday's Capital One Bowl, it's also been an interesting time for Michigan State.
Although he really considers himself more of a Jim Tressel disciple, Mark Dantonio has called facing his former boss, Nick Saban, "bittersweet."
Even though the No. 7 Spartans won a school-record 11 wins and a share of their first Big Ten title since 1990, they're considered underdogs to the reigning national champions who have two more losses and will be without its defensive MVP, All-American safety Mark Barron.
On Friday, it was announced that offensive coordinator Don Treadwell had accepted the head coaching job at his alma mater, Miami (Ohio). This season Michigan State was one of just two teams in the Big Ten to rank among the top five in the conference in rushing (168.8 yards per game), passing (237.8), scoring (30.1) and total offense (406.7).
Here's a sampling of some of the things the Spartans said about the Crimson Tide here:
Head Coach Mark Dantonio on facing Alabama: "It's a great challenge for us, they're an outstanding football team. Their quarterback (Greg McElroy) completes 70 percent of his passes, they have two great tailbacks, outstanding wide receiver group, big offensive line. Really when you watch them on defense, very impressive - they're coming off on like a sled. ... They make plays on special teams and they're very well coached. It will be a great challenge for us."
Defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett on Julio Jones: "(While at Cincinnati, we went against) Rodney White, who is with the Atlanta Falcons right now. He was a really good football player, and obviously you're seeing it. Nobody knew about him like they know about Julio (Jones), because he (White) was at UAB. But we knew about him when we were at Cincinnati playing against him, so it reminds me of that a little bit. A really good football player that we had to go out and play with good technique, go out and play and challenge him, compete, and see what happens."
Defensive line coach Ted Gill on Alabama's offensive line: "They're big, physical. I think Joe (Pendry) does a good job, I've worked with Joe (with the Carolina Panthers, 1996-97). Joe's a good technician. He has those guys playing real hard. I'm really pleased, as I look at them I see some similarities of when we worked together. He continues to really build on making those guys better every game." Offensive line coach Dan Roushar on facing the Crimson Tide: "As I look at Alabama, they're multiple with their three-down package and their four-down package. That strikes me first. Secondly, their personnel is exceptional. Those become real big challenges to us."
Roushar on Alabama's team speed: "That's a good question. I think we'll see that on game day, but they look to be like any one of the very good defenses in the Big Ten to me. They're very physical, extremely well-coached, fundamentally very sound. You look at the top of our league, and you see those kind of defenses in Ohio State and Iowa. Those guys play great defense. I think they're very similar."
Linebackers/special-teams coach Mike Tressel on Alabama's no-huddle package: "With bowl prep, you have a lot of time to practice everything, so we had a lot of time to practice no huddle, up tempo, empty formations, and although that might not be Alabama's base, we've seen it, and have had time to practice it."
Tressel on Mark Ingram: "He has some subtle cutbacks where he runs through your weak shoulder or your back shoulder as good as anybody I've seen. I know that on power-type of plays, he's going to cut it through the backside a (gap) as quick as he's going to bounce it. He's a powerful runner. I don't know if we've seen anybody exactly like him, but we'll be up for the challenge."
Treadwell on similarities between Alabama and any Big Ten opponent: "They've got a little Wisconsin in them and a little bit of Iowa. They've got big physical tailbacks like Iowa does. But they've got more explosive wideouts across the board. They're loaded with talent and it's going to be fun."
Quarterback Kirk Cousins on Alabama's defense: "It's a great challenge. Tremendous athletes, well-coached, disciplined football team. We're going to need to execute from start to finish. They have guys that fly around and use their athleticism to their advantage. They're a blitzing team and they're going to try to keep you guessing, keep you on your toes and that's where having a month of preparation and seeing those blitzes on film and get better at what we're going to do to attack them."
Linebacker Greg Jones on slowing Alabama's running game: "It starts in the front with their O line. Just a big group of guys, well-coached, not a whole lot of weaknesses. And Mark Ingram is shifty but can run you over at the same time. Not just him, though. You get the same from both running backs. It's going to be hard but I'm excited about the challenge of going up against those guys."