Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Basics: Alabama (9-3) vs. Michigan State (11-1), Jan. 1, 1pm ET
Why You Should Watch: If you're a fan of defensive football, then this game may be your dream matchup. Now, on the surface, not many people seem to be giving Michigan State a chance in this game, and it's understandable. After all, Alabama is the defending national champ and has a bit of a chip on its shoulder following what it feels is a disappointing season. Nobody seems to be paying much attention to the fact that Michigan State has only one loss, and has been a very solid team all season. This one could turn out to be one of those New Year's Day shockers.
Keys to Victory for Alabama: I think the biggest key for Alabama in this game is that it wants to play in it. It's not crazy to think that the Tide might show some disinterest in this one. After all, this is a team that feels it's supposed to be getting ready to defend its title in ten days, or at least in a BCS bowl game. Not playing in Orlando in the "second-tier" Capital One Bowl.
Of course, on the flip side of that, this could be an angry team. One hell-bent on destroying the Spartans. If Alabama cares then I see no reason why it shouldn't pick up the victory. The Tide are more talented than Michigan State at just about every position. Plus, one of Alabama's weakness is it's pass protection and Michigan State hasn't had much of a pass rush all season. Still, that doesn't mean Alabama should fall into the trap of trying to throw all day. Yes, Julio Jones is a monster, but the secondary is probably the one aspect of this game in which Michigan State has an advantage on the Tide.
Instead we should get a healthy dose of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and seeing those two matchup against MSU's Greg Jones is something that every college football fan should enjoy.
Keys to Victory for Michigan State: The Spartans have used a balanced offense to find success all season, and that shouldn't change in this game if they want to pull off the upset. Yes, Alabama is tough against the run, but the Spartans have a few options at running back with Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper and have the ability to wear the Tide down.
Also, just because the Spartans will be without B.J. Cunningham -- the teams leading receiver -- that doesn't mean they don't have options in the passing game. Plus the Tide will be without Mark Barron, which will only help matters. Kirk Cousins has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football this season, and he'll still have plenty of weapons at his disposal in Mark Dell, Keith Nichol, Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum.
The X-factor could be the speedster Keshawn Martin. He's very dangerous in space, so look for the Spartans to try and find him some.
The Capital One Bowl is like: the movie 300. The Spartans will be playing the role of the Spartans, and Alabama is the giant Persian army marching in looking to crush everything and everyone in its path. All that's missing are the air-brushed abs and gratuitous nudity. Will these Spartans emerge victorious, or end up in a pile of bodies?