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The Michigan State Spartans were probably the one team this year that really deserved to be in the BCS that didn't get there. However, they're going to be playing in a game that is going to feel like a BCS encounter when they take on the defending national champs, the Alabama Crimson Tide in Champs Sports Bowl betting action.
Capital One Bowl Matchup: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Michigan State Spartans
Date: Saturday, January 1st, 1:00 ET
Location: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL
Capital One Bowl Line: Alabama -10
Crimson Tide Notes: The Crimson Tide have a real question mark in this game about motivation. The last time we saw this team play in a bowl that wasn't the BCS National Championship Game, they were supposed to clock the Utah Utes. Instead, they were manhandled by the top mid major in the land in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. The challenge is going to be getting the offense rolling. We know that this unit can really play well at times. Case in point: Alabama really came out of the blocks strong against the Auburn Tigers. We also know that this unit can fall apart as well. Case in point: The second half against Auburn. QB Greg McElroy isn't used to losing, as the three losses this year marked the only three defeats of his career since middle school. He did throw for 2,767 yards and 19 TDs this year, and it really helped that he had WR Julio Jones to get the rock up to. Jones is one of the most purely talented receivers in the land, and though his numbers could have been better, there is no shame in the fact that he had 75 grabs for 1,084 yards and seven trips to the end zone on the season. RB Mark Ingram didn't have anywhere near the success this year that he had hoped for, and even though he did miss the first few games of the season, he still didn't put up the numbers that were expected. Ingram and his backup, RB Trent Richardson, combined for 1,474 yards and 16 TDs this year, numbers that Ingram put up on his own last season. The good news for the Tide is that this defense is still one of the most brutal in the country. Allowing 289.9 yards per game in the rugged SEC is nothing to mock, and even though this team graduated seemingly everyone after last year's National Championship, Head Coach Nick Saban still kept foes to just 14.1 points per game.
Spartans Notes: Give Sparty a ton of credit for going 11-1 this year. Even though this schedule was relatively easy by Big East standards, 11 wins are 11 wins. This was a team that was good enough to stick with the power running game of the Wisconsin Badgers. It had the wit to outsmart the Notre Dame Fighting Irish with the "Little Giants" play in overtime. And it had the craftiness to hold off a clever team like the Penn State Nittany Lions, who came back from a big deficit to nearly pull off an upset. MSU can play from ahead thanks to its power running game with RB Edwin Baker, and it can come back on the right arm of QB Kirk Cousins. Why this team is still not getting the respect it deserves is beyond us. Baker rumbled for 1,187 yards and 13 TDs this year, while Cousins threw for 2,705 yards and 20 scores against just nine picks. Do keep an eye on both WR Mark Dell and WR BJ Cunningham, as both have the speed and skill to change any game they play in a hurry. The two combined for 99 receptions, 1,372 yards, and 15 TDs.
The Final Word: Michigan State is good enough to win this game outright. Don't kid yourself about that. Saban is going to be drawing a lot of questions about the way he motivates his teams when there is little to nothing on the line if this one is lost, and there isn't a team that would rather stick it to him than his former mates. Sparty gets the job done and finishes in the Top 10 in the country with an upset at the Capital One Bowl.
Capital One Bowl Free Pick: Michigan State +10
Capital One Bowl Prediction: Michigan State 24 – Alabama 20