Michigan State's Big Ten football champions went through a three-hour workout Saturday at UC Irvine and then, like any group of Midwestern tourists, headed for Universal Studios and a visit to the world of make-believe.
Tour director George Perles, who is also the Spartan head coach, has a busy schedule lined up for his team before next Friday's Rose Bowl meeting with USC.
Tonight they will be at Lawry's Prime Rib for their share of the annual Beef Bowl gorging, Monday they'll spend the afternoon at Disneyland and Tuesday they will be at the Big Ten dinner at the Hollywood Palladium. Those are only the organized affairs.
"I also want them to get down to the beach and get around and see the sights," Perles said. "That's one reason we're staying at the Newporter Resort. We wanted to be near the fun while we're here. For the next couple of days, all we expect is for them to look after themselves and be back at the hotel by 2 a.m.
"Come Tuesday we'll get down to more serious thinking, but days like today are a bonus," Perles said. "The game's not until a week from yesterday, so today is kind of like a normal Sunday before a game. We're just working out the kinks. It's our first workout since Dec. 18."
Michigan State played its last game on Nov. 21, defeating Wisconsin, 30-9, to finish with a 7-0-1 conference record. After that the Spartans had eight practices in East Lansing before Saturday's exercise at UC Irvine.
"We'll get tightened up before the (New Year's Day) whistle." Perles said. "If we don't get anyone hurt, something like a twisted knee or ankle, we'll figure it's a good practice.
"We got our game plan in mind before we left home, so if no one gets hurt, we'll be ready. What we want the players to do now is get relaxed. John Wayne liked it around here, and he was a relaxed guy, so if he liked it, it should be good enough for us."
The fact that the Rose Bowl will be a rematch after Michigan State won the season opener with USC, 27-13, is of little or no significance, according to Perles.
"Every game is unique in itself," he said. "They're all different. What happens one day has no effect on what will happen on another day.
"Teams never stay the same, they're either improving or they're slipping. Both of us have improved, I'm sure, but it really doesn't matter if we beat them before because this is a whole new game.
"Look at the pros. They play each other twice a year, and every time they meet it's different."
Perles spent 10 years as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers before returning to his alma mater as head coach in 1983.
If Perles has an apprehension about the game, it could be the fact that it will be played on grass.
Michigan State's only game on grass this year was at Notre Dame, where they were blitzed by the Fighting Irish, 31-8.
"That's the day we made Tim Brown," Perles said. "We didn't do very well on punt returns that day. I don't know why, but I'm sure it had nothing to do with the grass."
Brown twice returned punts for touchdowns in the first period, one for 71 yards and two minutes later for 66 as Notre Dame took a 19-0 lead in the first 15 minutes.
Perles rejects the theory, however, that Big Ten players tend to look slower on grass than on their own carpets.
"I've heard all that about how grass nullifies our speed, but I don't believe it," he said. "I think it's just propaganda. My only concern is figuring out what type of cleats to use. I've seen several guys slip on the turf today, and I'll take a look at the film tonight to see if I can figure out why. Other than that, I don't think whether it's grass or carpet makes much difference."
UC Irvine, the school that is providing the Spartans with their practice facility, doesn't even play intercollegiate football.
"I can't believe a school would have a layout like this and not play the game," Perles said. "This place is fantastic, two big fields here and a stadium right over there. We'll use the stadium to sharpen up our kicking game."
Greg Montgomery, the Spartan punter, is a two-time All-American. This season, he averaged 44.7 yards per punt. The Trojans remember him. Montgomery's best punt of the season, a 65-yarder, came against them.
Perles said he and Athletic Director Doug Weaver flew here the day after Michigan State's last game to pick a place to work out.
"We had three choices, but you don't have to be a PE major from Michigan State to pick this place.
"Not only is it a perfect layout, but every time we turn around, the people here are asking me if there's anything they can do for me, and I can't think of a thing."
Except, maybe, a win to break the Big Ten's six-game losing streak in the Rose Bowl.
"Hey, it's been 22 years since Michigan State was out here. What happened to those other teams is of no concern to us. That's their problem," Perles said.
"We just want to have some fun, and a win would make it a lot more fun, wouldn't it?"
It doesn't take a PE major from Michigan State to figure that out.