TAMPA — QB Kirk Cousins, only the second three-time captain in Michigan State history, was named the winner of the Senior CLASS Award on Thursday.
The award — Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School — goes to the outstanding senior student-athlete in Division I-A. The winner is chosen in a nationwide balloting of coaches, media and fans.
Georgia P Drew Butler, an academic All-American and All-SEC honorable mention selection, was another finalist.
"It's a special award," said Cousins, who has a 3.68 grade point average and graduated this month with a degree in kinesiology. "I guess it just shows the kind of company that I'm able to be a part of, and it's very humbling."
The son of a minister, Cousins arrived at Michigan State as a borderline Big Ten prospect but evolved into the winningest quarterback in school history. He needs 34 yards in the Outback Bowl to eclipse Jeff Smoker's school record for total offense (8,714).
PREPARING TO FAIL? With 30 days between the bowl matchup announcement and kickoff, both coaches acknowledge a risk of overpreparing exists.
"If you see a certain coverage, you think, 'Well, we've got a chance to do something with this,' " Georgia's Mark Richt said. "So you can do too much in that regard, and all of a sudden you can't execute anything.
"I've been coaching now 27 years, and the more I watch it, it comes down to turnovers and special teams so often."
SEEKING ATONEMENT: A common sentiment among Michigan State's players was to get this game under way. None, however, seemed more eager than SS Isaiah Lewis.
Lewis' running-into-the-kicker penalty with 1:37 to play in the Big Ten title game allowed Wisconsin to run out the clock and preserve a 42-39 victory. Lewis, a second-team all-conference pick who has four interceptions this season, says he's ready for redemption.
"I'm trying to have the best game of my season because coming off something like that, people are looking down on you like, 'How's he going to respond?' " he said.
"And I'm looking to respond in a positive way. I'm going to try to show people that a thing like that isn't going to hold me down at all."
THIS AND THAT: Three Georgia offensive linemen have started every game this season: T Justin Anderson, T Cordy Glenn and C Ben Jones. … Cousins has accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl on Jan. 28 in Mobile, Ala. … Outback Bowl CEO Jim McVay's father, John, was a Michigan State assistant for Duffy Daugherty from 1962-64.