Kirk Cousins the face of Michigan State team

TAMPA — He’s a three-time Michigan State team captain, the second Spartans player to claim such a distinction (and first since 1948). On Thursday, he was named the Lowe’s CLASS Player of the Year, which goes annually to the best senior in the country on an FBS (formerly Division I-A) team, judged by on-field and off-field categories. He has won more games than any quarterback in his school’s history and is the record-holder for career passing touchdowns and completions.

If you’re looking for the face of Michigan State football, Kirk Cousins is it.

“He’s just a great leader on and off the field,” said B.J. Cunningham, the Spartans’ leading receiver with 1,240 yards and 12 touchdowns. “He’s a great student, as everybody can see from being named the student-athlete of the year in the country. He’s just a great person who comes from a great family, and I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

Said Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio: “What he has meant to the inside of this program from the bottom up, in the locker room, outside in the community, there’s a lot to take in there.”

Containing Cousins will be Georgia’s primary goal when the Bulldogs play Michigan State on Monday in the Outback Bowl. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior quarterback has completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,016 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s the main reason the Spartans have averaged 30.8 points per game.

Georgia will counter with a defense ranked No. 3 nationally in yards allowed (268.5 per game).

“Just looking at them on film and seeing how capable they are at throwing the ball and spreading it around, they kind of remind me of Arkansas, somebody like that,” Bulldogs cornerback Brandon Boykin said. “They like to spread their guys out and throw it.

“Cousins and Cunningham are experienced guys with big-play potential. We’ve practiced to the best of our ability, but it’s different when you get out there on the field against it. But as a secondary we’ll be ready.”

Cousins and the Spartans are coming in with a healthy respect for Georgia’s defense, but with confidence that they’ll be able to move the ball against them.

“They’re probably the best defense we’ll play this year,” Cousins said. “That alone says it all. They’re a very, very challenging team. You see no weakness across the field. They can all cover. They can all run sideline to sideline. They all play with power. So, it just heightens our focus as an offense to make sure that we’re doing all that we need to do and all that we’re supposed to do in order to have success.”

Said Cunningham: “I feel like we can move the ball on Georgia. They’ve got a good, solid defense, though. They have some All-American DBs and linebackers and stuff. But we’ve got playmakers on offense and defense, too. I feel like it’s going to be a good game.”