Posted on: December 31, 2010 9:27 pm
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?
Posted on: December 21, 2010 12:25 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
There's a part of me that feels sorry for Michigan State this season. Like Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Spartans went 11-1 this season and picked up a share of the Big Ten title. Unlike Ohio State and Wisconsin, the Spartans aren't going to a BCS bowl game this season thanks to a big loss against an Iowa team that stumbled down the stretch.
Instead they'll be going to the Capital One Bowl where they get to face Alabama. Not that it's anything to be ashamed of, but when you win a share of the Big Ten title, you expect a bit more. Unfortunately for the Spartans, the hits keep on coming now that the regular season is over. The team's leading receiver B.J. Cunningham broke his foot during practice on Saturday and won't be able to play in the game.
"B.J. Cunningham is a great competitor and he's extremely disappointed to be out for the Capital One Bowl game against Alabama," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in a release from the school.
"B.J. had another outstanding season, and I know that he'll work hard during his rehab and set himself up for a big senior year."
Cunningham had 50 catches and 9 touchdowns this season, both of which led the Spartans. The good news for Michigan State is that they have a couple of talented receivers behind Cunningham in Mark Dell and Keshawn Martin, but when you're going against a defense like Alabama's, you want as much talent on your side as you can get.
So not having Cunningham available will only make a tall task that much taller.
Posted on: December 13, 2010 4:03 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
There cannot possibly be anything we can say to prepare you for this video, so here it is: rapper Rick Ross, feverishly praising senior Michigan State wide receiver Mark Dell for almost two minutes straight.
Yes, Ross did seriously compare Dell to Tim Tebow at one point, saying this about the two players:
"Every so often, we see certain players that really bring that energy, that light back to you. And you know, in recent years, Tim Tebow did that. And I think Mart at this wide receiver position can give you that same excitement as a receiver, you know what I mean?"
Now, the video was posted exclusively to Mark Dell's personal website (WARNING: some audio of him in interview sessions is on auto-play when you go to the site, and I couldn't find where to turn it off), so it certainly gives the impression that ol' Ricky Rozay here is doing a favor for a friend and little more; it's not as if this is actually going to boost Dell's modest draft stock at all. But let's back up -- are Rick Ross and Mark Dell actually buddies? If so, how random is that? Ross is based out of Miami, and while many college football players come out of southern Florida, um, Dell's not one of them; he's from Farmington Hills, a suburb of Detroit. So how ... why ... I don't get it.
Also, for the record, Mark Dell is currently rated 31st among wide receivers in CBS Sports' NFL draft rankings. He's projected to go either in the 7th round or as a free agent (though, for what it's worth, once you get past the first two or three rounds, projected draft position is little more than a crapshoot). And Rick Ross is hyping the guy like this? Tell you what: if Mark Dell makes an All-Pro team during his NFL career, we will -- without a hint of irony or reservation -- start referring to Ross as an NFL Draft Expert. All caps. "NFL Draft Expert Rick Ross released a new album today, and warned franchises not to overpay for veteran free agents with a history of knee problems," etc., etc. So for that reason, we are now pulling for Dell to succeed in the NFL. Wouldn't it be exciting to live in a world where Rick Ross is an authority on college football?[Terrorist fist jab: The Only Colors ]
Posted on: October 23, 2010 3:27 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When we last off with Michigan State vs. Northwestern , the homestanding Wildcats were manhandling the favored Spartans on the ground and had opened up a commanding 17-0 second quarter lead. They never really stopped manhandling them, either; until a late, essentially meaningless Edwin Baker touchdown run, Northwestern was outgaining the Spartans 2-to-1 in the rushing game.
Which is why Michigan State went to the air in the second half, changed the game, and won 35-27 . Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins enjoyed a monster second half, finishing with 335 yards on 32-of-45 passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. MSU wideouts B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell each finished with over 100 yards receiving. They were all at their best on the Spartans' critical 11-play, 89-yard fourth-quarter drive to take the lead, as Cousins went 8-of-9 for 96 yards (the Spartans turned 2nd-and-20 and 3rd-and-15 situations into first downs after sacks) and Cunningham added a brilliant touchdown reception after an end-zone deflection.
Sparty also got a boost from another Mark Dantonio fake punt that led to a touchdown and two critical Northwestern turnovers, one on the Spartan 1-yard line in the first half and a Dan Persa interception that helped lead to MSU's first score of the second half. But Cousins was the difference-maker, hitting his routes on perfect timing again and again. Ohio State annihilated Purdue as comprehensively as it's possible to annihilate a Big Ten opponent, but it's not going to matter as long as Cousins and his receivers continue executing at this level and Dantonio's squad continues to show the kind of resilience they did today.