Michigan State to play Washington State in 2017 Holiday Bowl in San Diego

Plenty to do before this year's gamel
Posted at 9:51 AM, Dec 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-06 15:41:31-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV/CNS) - The 40th annual Holiday Bowl game on Dec. 28 will feature a matchup between Washington State of the Pac-12 and the Big Ten's Michigan State, but there will be plenty to do in San Diego before kickoff.

Leading up to the game, there are several events being held to celebrate the annual contest:

The Holiday Bowl was originally planned by local officials to be a showcase for San Diego State, which was repeatedly shut out of the post-season despite posting sterling won-loss records during the 1970s under head coaches Don Coryell and Claude Gilbert. However, the Aztecs program hit the skids soon after the bowl started, and didn't make its first and only appearance until 1986.

The inaugural contest on Dec. 22, 1978, saw Navy defeat BYU 23-16. The Cougars put the bowl in the national consciousness two years later when they scored three touchdowns in the final minutes to upset highly regarded Southern Methodist 46-45 -- in an era when pinball scores weren't as common as today.

The game now matches entrants from the Pac-12 and Big Ten. This year's game at San Diego County Credit Union Stadium features Washington State and Michigan State.

"We really look forward to welcoming thousands and thousands of football fans to our great city in just a couple of weeks," bowl Executive Director Mark Neville said.

He said the match-up is the bowl's first with both teams ranked in the top 20 since 2008, when Oregon outscored Oklahoma State 42-31. This year, the Spartans are 16th and Cougars 18th in the latest college football playoff rankings.

Michigan State started the season 7-1, then lost two of its next three games. The Spartans concluded the regular season with victories over Maryland and Rutgers, tying Penn State for second in the Big Ten Conference's seven-team East Division, one game behind division champion Ohio State.

Washington State began the season 6-0, including a 30-27 victory over eventual Pac-12 Conference champion USC, then lost two of its next three games. The Cougars lost to Washington, 41-14, in their final regular-season game, finishing third in the six-team North Division.

Michigan State will be making its first Holiday Bowl appearance and first appearance in California since the 2014 Rose Bowl Game when it defeated Stanford, 24-20.

Washington State will be making its second consecutive appearance in the Holiday Bowl and fourth overall. The Cougars lost to Minnesota, 17-12, in 2016 and to Brigham Young, 38-36 in the 1981 game, in a game it trailed 31-7 early in the second half.

Washington State's lone Holiday Bowl victory came in 2003 when it defeated Texas, 28-20.

This will be the first meeting between the teams since 1977. The Spartans lead the series, 5-2.