Stanford defensive back Usua Amanam celebrates after intercepting a pass… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Stanford is in the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive year, Michigan State for the first time since 1988. Staff writers Gary Klein and Chris Dufresne examine some of the story lines in the 100th Rose Bowl game:
Los Angeles would still be "Tinsel Town" without the contributions of Michigan State, but it would be less a "title town."
Three former Michigan State players have helped L.A. to seven total professional championships.
Michigan State gave us Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who led the Lakers to five NBA titles. Johnson was a two-time All American at Michigan State and came to the Lakers after leading the Spartans to the 1979 NCAA title.
Two former Michigan State football and baseball players, Steve Garvey and Kirk Gibson, helped the Dodgers to World Series championships in 1981 and 1988, respectively.
Garvey played defensive back at Michigan State in the 1960s. He earned a football letter in 1967, recording 30 tackles, before turning pro in baseball as the Dodgers' first-round pick (No. 13 overall) in the 1968 MLB draft.
Gibson, long before he hit that famous home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, was a star receiver for Michigan State. As a senior in 1978, Gibson had 42 catches for 806 yards and left as the school's career leader with 112 receptions and 2,347 yards receiving.
Gibson's career average of 21 yards per catch is still a Michigan State record.
Ready for a challenge
Stanford nickel back Usua Amanam made a key play in last year's Rose Bowl, intercepting a pass late in the fourth quarter to help preserve the Cardinal's 20-14 victory over Wisconsin.
The fifth-year senior said he learns from all of his experiences, including this season's 20-17 loss to USC at the Coliseum.
Amanam was covering Trojans receiver Marqise Lee on a fourth-and-two play late in the fourth quarter. Lee ran a slant pattern to the inside and caught a pass from Cody Kessler to help set up a game-winning field goal.
"I think throughout the game they were trying to find our Achilles' heel and I think they found a matchup they liked against me," Amanam said. "They lined up Marqise in the slot and I pushed him to my help, which was on the inside, but unfortunately the quarterback placed it in a perfect position.
"If you get it in the general vicinity of a guy like Marqise Lee, he's going to come down with the ball."
Amanam said the situation reminded him that "every play does matter" and added that it was a great learning experience.
"It's carried over throughout the last couple games of our year," he said, "and I think it's going to carry over to this game too. It's going to be a close game. I'm glad we've been in close games and been in situations like that because all those situations build character."
Michigan State and Stanford both will be missing key defensive players who helped them win bowl games last season.
Michigan State middle linebacker Max Bullough, a team captain and three-year starter, was suspended on the eve of the Spartans' Southern California arrival for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Bullough had nine tackles in last season's 17-16 victory over Texas Christian in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Stanford end Ben Gardner suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in the eighth game against Oregon State.
Gardner had six tackles in last season's Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Stanford, 3-2, but the Cardinal has won the last two games.
Michigan State won in 1955, 1956 and 1961. Stanford won in 1966 and also in 1996, when the Cardinal prevailed, 38-0, in the Sun Bowl.
Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis, an alumnus of the school, attended the 1988 Rose Bowl and is happy to be back.
"I guarantee you I'll be rubbing my shoes on that red paint" on the field, he said.
Hollis said he expected "north of 40,000" Spartans fans in attendance and that it would be a home-field atmosphere.
"I would not be surprised if we exceed 50% of the stadium" outfitted in green, he said.
Many players listen to music to get ready for games.
Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy's pregame ritual?
"Actually not listening to music," he said. "I think everyone on the team listens to music and gets excited and I sit there quietly, the calm before the storm, and think about my job and what I'm going to do."
Murphy's favorite film to watch before a big game?
He didn't say, but it's probably "Silent Movie."