Coaches David Shaw, left, of Stanford and Mark Dantonio of Michigan State… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
Stanford is back in the Rose Bowl for the second year in a row.
Michigan State is playing in the game for the first time in a quarter-century.
Coaches and players from both teams sounded equally grateful for the opportunity during a news conference Thursday at Disneyland.
"It's almost weird to feel like we were just here," said Stanford Coach David Shaw, whose team defeated Wisconsin in the 2013 Rose Bowl. "It's no less special.
"It's just as exciting because the Rose Bowl is different than any other game."
On Wednesday, Pac-12 Conference champion Stanford (11-2) plays Big Ten Conference champion Michigan State (12-1) in the 100th Rose Bowl game.
Stanford's 27-21 loss at Utah on Oct. 12 ended the Cardinal's hopes of an unbeaten season and a shot at the Bowl Championship Series title game.
"It's always frustrating to look back at that, just because obviously our team goals are just to go undefeated as a senior class — that's your legacy," Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy said. "But to end up here back at the Rose Bowl is not too shabby. It's still awesome and we're excited to be here."
Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio, in his seventh season with the Spartans, said the Rose Bowl would be a new experience. Michigan State, which suffered its only loss against Notre Dame on Sept. 21, has not played in a Bowl Championship Series bowl under Dantonio.
"We're sort of on new ground a little bit," he said. "So it's very, very important that we understand how to handle success."
Max Bullough suspended
Michigan State announced late Wednesday night that senior linebacker Max Bullough had been suspended for the Rose Bowl for violating unspecified team rules.
Bullough, a team captain, had 76 tackles, including 91/2 for loss.
Asked how Bullough's absence would affect the Spartans, Dantonio said, "We're going to do what we do. That's who we are. Nothing's changing."
Senior Kyler Elsworth, sophomore Darien Harris and sophomore Ed Davis could help fill Bullough's spot.
"One thing about our linebacker position it is one of the strengths of our football team," Dantonio said.
In Bullough's absence, defensive tackle Tyler Hoover said he would "step up" his communication with players around him.
"If one man goes down," he said, "we're all going to help each other and make things happen."
Shaw does not expect a letdown from the Spartans.
"They believe in their system and they play the system to a T," he said. "They're one of the most well-coached defenses that we've seen in years, so they're not going to miss a beat."
Shaw on Sarkisian
Shaw said he was excited for new USC Coach Steve Sarkisian, who was hired Dec. 2 after five seasons at Washington.
"I know this is home for him," Shaw said. "It's a bit of a shift for USC offensively, mentality-wise, but he's a Trojan. He's been there, he understands how the place works, he's been received very well as he should be.
"He had a lot of success there as an assistant and I know he's going to have success there as a head coach."
Shaw indicated early on after USC fired Lane Kiffin in late September that he was not interested in leaving Stanford.
"People aren't going to believe this, and they don't understand it and that's fine — I don't need anybody to understand it," he said Thursday. "I think I have the best college job in America.
"I live in Palo Alto, I'm being paid market value, I work with the most dynamic group of young men that you can find on a football team anywhere…. I walk into work every single day just thankful and grateful that I am where I am.
"A lot of people say other jobs might be more quote, unquote attractive or more football jobs. And I look back and say this is our fourth straight BCS game. This is a football job. It's a phenomenal football job….I appreciate any attention that I get but at the same time I love where I am right now."