Both Michigan State and Georgia missed
out on more lucrative bowl games after losing in their respective conference
title games. One of those teams will get a measure of redemption with a victory
in the Outback Bowl in Tampa.
The matchup is set for Monday, January 2 at
Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Kickoff is at 1:00 PM ET and the game will be
televised on ABC.
The Bulldogs opened as -2 point
favorites over the Spartans in the college football odds but that number has been bet up to -3.5 across the
board. The total has dropped dramatically, going from an opening number of 54 to
50. It would appear bettors are expecting a bruising defensive struggle and
they’re liable to get one with these two hard-hitting teams
12th ranked Michigan State
(10-3 SU, 9-4 ATS) still hasn’t won a postseason victory under head coach Mark
Dantonio and beating No. 18 Georgia won’t be easy. The Spartans finished the
Big Ten season 7-1 and would have made their first trip to Pasadena since the 1988
Rose Bowl had the conference been under its previous alignment. However the
addition of Nebraska to the league created the Legends and Leaders divisions
and first championship game. The loss to the Badgers sent MSU bowling in the
Sunshine State once again.
Georgia (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS) had its
10-game winning streak snapped by LSU which rolled to a 42-10 victory in the
SEC title game. Like several quarterbacks before him, the Bulldogs QB Aaron
Murray also struggled against the quick Bayou Bengals defense. He completed
only 16 of 40 passes for 163 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The
Bulldogs allowed 42 unanswered points against LSU, finishing with season lows
in points, rushing yards and total yards.
Strength vs. strength
Georgia has one of the top offenses in
the nation and finished third in the SEC with an average of 413.8 total yards
per game but will be facing a Spartans defense that finished fifth in the country
in fewest yards allowed per game.
Murray, who is just a sophomore, threw
for 2861 yards and 33 touchdowns with Malcolm Mitchell, his primary receiver,
hauling in 38 passes for 614 yards and four touchdowns. The ground game is led
by Isaiah Crowell who rushed for 847 yards and five TD’s. Crowell has been
bothered by an ankle injury but is expected to play. It’s worth noting that
Mitchell and Crowell are true freshmen. They’ll be back next year along with
Murray and that should make the Bulldogs at least the third betting choice next
year in the SEC.
Worthy of attention
The Spartans defense, which finished fifth
in the country in yards per game (272.7), is led by first-team All-America
lineman Jerel Worthy. He was Michigan State's first All-American on the
defensive line since the late Bubba Smith in 1966.
On offense, the Spartans are averaging
38.6 points and 433.2 yards over the last five games. They are led by QB Kirk
Cousins and B.J. Cunningham two of the best to ever play in East
Lansing. Cousins is the winningest quarterback in school history while
Cunningham is the all-time leader in receiving yards at MSU and had six
receptions as a freshman in the 2009 Capital One Bowl when Georgia beat
Michigan State 24-12.
Overall Cousins has thrown for 3016
yards this season with 14 touchdowns while Cunningham has 72 receptions, 1240
yards and 12 touchdowns. The running game is spearheaded by Le'Veon Bell
who had 900 yards on a 165 carries and 11 TD’s.
They’ll receive a stern test from a
Georgia defense that finished third in the FBS allowing 268.5 yards per game.
First-team All-American’s Jarvis Jones (LB) and fellow first-teamer Baccari
Rambo (safety) are the leaders of head coach Mark Richt’s hard hitting unit.
Harvey’s Take: Expect a physical game from two teams
that finished in the top five of the FBS in total defense. I would have loved
to get the total at 54, but at 50 I still believe the ‘under’ is the play in college bowl picks here.
Points should be at a premium as Georgia beats Michigan State in a close one.