5 Reasons Alabama Thinks They’ll Beat Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl
The second playoff semifinal on New Year's Eve will look very familiar to college football fans as Alabama enters the game as a favorite over the Big Ten champion Michigan State Spartans.
Last year, the Crimson Tide carried the No. 1 seed into the Sugar Bowl but Ohio State pulled the upset and eventually went on to win the inaugural College Football Playoff. This season, Nick Saban will take his team to the Cotton Bowl as the No. 2 seed to face the Michigan State Spartans.
Oddsmakers have established the Crimson Tide as a 9.5-point favorite on New Year's Eve, but the Spartans have embraced the underdog role. Mark Dantonio has led his team to two top-5 wins in the last three games to advance to the playoff.
As we approach the big game, we asked our friends, the staff at Tide 99.1 in Tuscaloosa, to share the reason why they think Alabama will prevail over Michigan State and advance to the national championship in Glendale. Here's what they came up with.
Nick Saban has said time and again that last year's team treated the semifinal like a bowl trip rather than a playoff game. This coaching staff has the experience of going through this process and will have this team prepared for a return trip to the College Football Playoff while Michigan State tries to figure it all out for the first time.
Since 1989 -- its first game against an SEC opponent in 42 years -- Michigan State is 2-4 against the SEC, with each of those games coming in bowl games. In addition to a game many still remember well -- Alabama's 49-7 rout over the Spartans in the Capital One Bowl at the end of the 2010 season -- even Nick Saban couldn't beat an SEC team as Michigan State's coach. In 1995, Saban's first season as the school's head coach, the Spartans lost 45-26 in the Independence Bowl against LSU.
The Crimson Tide is going to win this game but not because they're a better team (although they are), not because they have better players (although they do), and not even because they have a better coaching staff (although they have that as well). It's because they don't want to repeat that feeling from last year after getting eliminated from the inaugural College Football Playoff by the Ohio State Buckeyes. It's a revenge factor for the Tide, even if Nick Saban says it isn't.
The Alabama head coach has faced one of his former assistants on eight separate occasions. Every single one of those ended in Saban's favor, and the combined score was an ugly 311-88. Dantonio received the most recent beating in the only other matchup between these two programs. That was a 49-7 win in the 2011 Capital One Bowl.
The blueprint for giving Alabama trouble defensively is a up-tempo, spread attack. Teams that try to beat the Crimson Tide with its own brand of football - which Michigan State plays - rarely finds any success. Connor Cook is a very good quarterback, but he'll have to put up a career day to pull off the victory.