Outback Bowl Picks – MSU vs Georgia
The annual classic Big Ten-SEC showdown in the Outback Bowl features Michigan State and Georgia duking it out in south Florida in the New Year.
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Michigan State Spartans (10-3) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (10-3)
Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, 1 pm EST
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa FL
Betting Lines from Sportsbook.com
MoneyLine: Michigan St. +145, Georgia -165
Spread: Michigan St. +3.5, Georgia -3.5
Until the 42-10 embarrassment at the hands of SEC West division giant LSU in the conference title game, there wasn’t a hotter team in the nation than Georgia. The ’Dawgs have played some strong games, but the three teams they have faced that were or have been ranked in the Top 15 (Boise State, South Carolina and LSU) they have lost to. Georgia is a good SEC team that was playing excellent football for a prolonged stretch, but after two losses to Boise and Carolina to open the season and then the stomping at the hands of the Tigers, it showed where Georgia is in the pecking order.
The Spartans, conversely, have played perhaps a steadier brand of pigskin throughout the 2011 regular season. They lost a nail-biter in the Big Ten Championship in a rematch with Wisconsin (the Spartans won the first contest, 37-31, in East Lansing on Oct. 22) 42-39. “Sparty” has grabbed some nice wins this year against Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. The MSU defense gets it done routinely (ranking 9th in the country in points against, surrendering on average just 17.5 per game) and the offense is in good hands with veteran pivot Kirk Cousins. Senior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham posted a fantastic season with 72 receptions for 1,240 yards and 12 TDs; he’ll surely draw the attention of NFL war rooms. What Cunningham and Cousins don’t accomplish in the points-scoring department, the running tandem of Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker mops up. The two combined for over 1,500 yards and 16 majors.
The Bulldogs are just as (if not more) talented than Michigan State, though there are some young underclassmen in pivotal roles. Quarterback Aaron Murray is a stud, but freshman RB Isaiah Crowell has been overused, and hampered with injuries accordingly. Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, another first-year player, is one of Murray’s vital targets.
A beefy offensive line paves the way for Crowell and friends and there is ample athleticism on the defensive side of the ball for Georgia, even if they’ve had a few lapses over the course of the season.
It also must be said that Crowell – a huge part of the offensive game-plan – and key defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson were hampered with ailments in the SEC title game a few weeks ago. They will be ready to go on Jan. 2.
This year’s Outback Bowl should be interesting because these are two well-matched ballclubs. Both teams are commanded by experienced, proven pivots and both have offensive weapons on the ground and through the air. The teams are coached by two Marks – Richt in Athens, GA and Dantonio in East Lansing – that have been on the mark this season, despite battling controversy at times through their recent careers. Both teams have loyal, intense fan bases, though Georgia supporters might be a little more entitled than Michigan State fans, who likely are just thrilled to be where they are currently (Tampa is a lot more pleasant than central Michigan this time of year).
It should be a close one, but look for the triumvirate of Murray, Crowell and Mitchell to make an impact and, along with secondary weapons like TE Orson Charles, score enough on State’s vaunted defense to permit Georgia to pull out a win, much to the ire of SEC-haters.
Game Prediction: Georgia 31, Michigan State 24
Over/Under Prediction: 55