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Michigan State hopes to send off its winningest senior class ever victorious at the Outback Bowl

TAMPA — Michigan State's outgoing class, comprising mainly the first recruits signed by fifth-year coach Mark Dantonio, enters the Outback Bowl with the most wins (36) of any senior group in the program's 115-year history.

Among the nucleus: QB Kirk Cousins, the second three-year captain in MSU history; and all-time leading receiver B.J. Cunningham (211 catches, 3,020 yards).

"A lot of these guys came when they had to trust Mark Dantonio and our staff," Dantonio said.

"We recruited them for two months and they were in. … They've raised the bar and they've raised expectations. They've changed the culture and that's what we were looking to do when we came here."

Yet one piece of culture remains in need of modifying. The seniors are 0-3 in bowls, including a 24-12 loss to Georgia in the 2009 Capital One Bowl.

NO NFL DECISION YET: Before Tuesday morning's practice at the University of Tampa, Georgia TE and former Plant High two-way standout Orson Charles reiterated that, after the bowl, he'll "sit down and pray about" whether to opt for the NFL.

A third-year junior, Charles recently sought a draft evaluation from the NFL along with several teammates. A devastating blocker who has a team-best 44 receptions, he might be the most coveted TE prospect.

"We're curious to see where we're rated and stuff like that," Charles, named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, said of his draft evaluation. "Why not?"

RUNNING BY COMMITTEE: Georgia freshman RB Isaiah Crowell, the team's top rusher with 847 yards, is recovering from an ankle injury but is "under the weather," coach Mark Richt said. He said the No. 1 back entering the week is freshman Ken Malcome, who has 123 yards, all in the past four games.

"It's highly competitive. We'll see where it ends up," Richt said. "I hope (Malcome) holds onto it. Richard (Samuel) is back in the fold, and he'll have something to say about that, as well as Isaiah."

THIS AND THAT: Richt was amused about his team preparing at the University of Tampa surrounded by signs making it the home of the Spartans. "I didn't know that 'til we came off the bus," said Richt, joking about the eyes peeking out from dormitory rooms around Pepin-Rood Stadium. "A lot of windows over there, too." … Richt said a former Bucs player he knows well is QB Brad Johnson, who married his sister Nicole and now lives in Athens. Richt was quarterbacks coach at FSU when Johnson played there 20 years ago.

Michigan State hopes to send off its winningest senior class ever victorious at the Outback Bowl 12/27/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 27, 2011 8:39pm]
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