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How MSU, Pitt are taking advantage of free time ahead of Peach Bowl

December 27, 2021
<p>Football head coach Mel Tucker arrives at the broadcast via golf cart and was scheduled to speak live at 9:20 a.m. Michigan State and Michigan fans gathered with signs for the broadcast of ESPN&#x27;s College GameDay, which took place at Ralph Young Field at 9 a.m. Shot on Oct. 30, 2021. </p>

Football head coach Mel Tucker arrives at the broadcast via golf cart and was scheduled to speak live at 9:20 a.m. Michigan State and Michigan fans gathered with signs for the broadcast of ESPN's College GameDay, which took place at Ralph Young Field at 9 a.m. Shot on Oct. 30, 2021.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

With bowl games mostly back in full swing, players, coaches and fans are traveling across the country to make fond memories as they support their allegiances to their schools.

Michigan State is playing in its first New Year’s Six bowl game since the College Football Playoff in 2015, meaning thousands of the Spartan faithful will be in Atlanta for No. 10 Michigan State’s matchup versus No. 12 Pittsburgh in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

As always, there are lots of festivities planned throughout the week such as FanFest, the Peach Bowl Parade and Fan Night at the Georgia Aquarium. However, there are events for the players and coaches too as they embark on their near-week-long stay in Atlanta.

Both Michigan State and Pittsburgh arrived in Atlanta over the weekend, with many having to miss out on Christmas with friends and family. Michigan State Head Coach Mel Tucker described it as a “smooth trip,” while it was not necessarily the case for the Panthers.

Pitt allowed players who lived outside a 100-mile radius to travel home for a few days to celebrate the holiday. Pittsburgh Head Coach Pat Narduzzi said 49 players made the trip with the team out of Pittsburgh, while others joined the team in Atlanta. But, they were not invincible to the holiday travel issues and headaches.

The Panthers arrived on Saturday, one day later than MSU, but multiple players, like redshirt sophomore quarterback Joey Yellen, experienced problems with their flights that sent the Pittsburgh operations team into a frenzy.

All players were able to make Saturday evening’s team meeting, except for Yellen, a Mission Viejo, California native. Instead, Yellen hopped onto the red-eye and did not join up with the team until Sunday morning.

“Our operations team did a heck of a job getting another flight for our guys,” Narduzzi said. “My hat goes off to Chris LaSala, Dustin Avolio and John Ford for setting up those flights. I'm not sure they had a Christmas Eve because they were busy.”

While Yellen was still at home, players and staff from both teams celebrated Christmas with a team dinner. Michigan State redshirt senior wide receiver Jahz Watts and junior center Nick Samac stole the show, displaying their vocal talents with some Christmas caroling.

Additionally, the “Battle for Bowl Week”, a three-day competition between the players of MSU and Pitt, kicked off Saturday evening with a basketball competition. The Spartans have few basketball players on the roster, and it came in handy as MSU took home the victory in the first competition.

“Guys were hooping and hollering and getting after it there,” Tucker said Sunday afternoon. “We’ve got some guys on our team that were big-time hoopers in high school. They went in there and carried the load for us and did a great job.”

The second event took place Sunday night, a go-kart racing competition at Andretti Indoor Karting with Michigan State reigning victoriously. The final competition, “Football Feud”, will take place Monday evening in a football version of “Family Feud.” For what it’s worth, six of the last ten winners of the friendly competitions have gone on to win the Peach Bowl.

In addition to a champion being crowned in the friendly competition, the two teams will take a trip to the College Football Hall of Fame. They will also make a hospital visit early in the week.

“Our guys love to have fun,” Tucker said. “It’s important to kind of have some things to break up the monotony and take your mind off of football.”

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