Playing in its first Rose Bowl for Michigan State since 1988, the stakes were high.
As it turned out, Spartans coach Dave Warner had some stakes of his own on the game. The first-year offensive coordinator made a vow early in the season to get a tattoo if the Spartans made it Pasadena and left with a victory.
"It was in front of the team," he said, "but I'm not sure it was during a team meeting so I'm not sure who all heard it, but it was guys in the front row for sure. ...
"If we get the Rose Bowl, I'm getting it."
Junior quarterback Connor Cook explained a little bit more of the story of how the promise and the tattoo came to be.
"I remember early in the season, it was our bye week actually," he said. "It was like early in the morning getting ready for meetings, before we have a team meeting, we meet as quarterbacks and the offensive coordinator comes in, Coach Warner, and we watch tape on our opponents and game plan.
"Tommy Vento mentioned like, ‘Hey, what if we win the Rose Bowl?' Coach Warner was like, ‘If we win the Rose Bowl, I'm going to get a tattoo.'"
Following through on his word after the Spartans 24-20 win against Stanford, Warner got a new tattoo on his calf.
His wife, Leigh Ann, came with him when the time came to get his second tattoo.
"She had to hold my hand," he said.
Warner was not the lone Spartan to get a tattoo commemorating the Rose Bowl win. Jackson and Cook said many of the players headed to tattoo parlors to get something done to celebrate.
"It's a cool thing and something that you wanna remember and I think a lot of these tattoos come from people making deals before the season even starts," Jackson said. "If we win the Rose Bowl, let's get tattoos. It's something that represents our brotherhood and symbolizes what this football team is all about."
But was Warner the lone coach? Jackson said he thinks offensive line coach Mark Staten might have gotten something similar to Warner, while Cook said Warner is the only one he knows that did.
"I don't know if Coach (Jim) Bollman got a back tat or a lower back tattoo," Cook said with a laugh.
If the Spartans continue to take steps forward, Warner said there is the possibility of more ink being added if another big step is taken and a national title is won.
"If we take it to the next level, you never know," he said. "There's gotta be some sort of symbol of a national title game and I'm not sure what it is."
So for a win as big as the Spartans first national title since 1966, would a chest tattoo be in order?
"I wouldn't go that far," Warner said. "My chest isn't big enough."