Capital One Bowl Picks: Alabama vs. Michigan State Analysis

Last Updated: December 31st, 2010 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist)

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The Alabama Crimson Tide and Michigan State Spartans might not be playing in a BCS game this year, but they are certainly going to be playing in the most illustrious of all of the non-BCS bowls on New Year’s Day, as they’ll meet in Capital One Bowl betting action on New Year’s Eve. Head Coach Nick Saban is going to be facing off with one of his former squads, and the action should be tense, so before you make your Capital One Bowl picks in this one, check out our keys to the game.

Key #1: Saban needs to prove that he can coach in a game that isn’t for a championship
Sure, we know that Saban does have the ability to win games that don’t have that much significance in it, but we’re wondering about these last few seasons. Alabama looked very, very flat at times down the stretch this year, especially in the second half of the Iron Bowl against the Auburn Tigers and for a good chunk of the game against the LSU Tigers as well. The last time the Crimson Tide played in a game that didn’t have a direct impact on the BCS Championship race for the Tide, they were crushed by the Utah Utes, a team that they were supposed to be significantly better than. Now, not only is Alabama not playing in the BCS Championship Game, but it isn’t playing in a BCS bowl game whatsoever. Can the Tide stay mentally tough? We know that the Spartans will, as this is their best bowl bid in years. This might be the biggest key to the entire game.

Capital One Bowl Odds at Diamond Sportsbook
Alabama Crimson Tide -10
Michigan State Spartans +10
Over/Under 52
Click Here to Bet on Your Capital One Bowl Picks!

Key #2: A relatively fresh Mark Ingram needs to look like a Heisman Trophy winner
Sure, RB Mark Ingram wasn’t anywhere near as good this year as he was when he won the Heisman Trophy last year, but he is still an incredibly dangerous runner that can rip apart any defense in the country. Ingram was really used a ton last year, as he rushed the ball 271 times and had another 32 receptions in the Heisman Trophy campaign. This year, Ingram was dealing with injuries at the start of the season, but he just wasn’t used as much as he was the year before in general. Rushing for 816 yards was a bitter disappointment for a man that that had double that last year. You want to prove that you’re still one of the best in the nation? Do something that the Wisconsin Badgers and their vaunted rushing attack couldn’t do. Beat up a big, physical Michigan State defense that only averaged allowing 114.0 yards per game this year. The Spartans didn’t allow a single team to score more than 31 points this year, and it’s going to be up to Ingram to make that not stay the case this week.

Key #3: The Spartans cannot be intimidated
If you’re Head Coach Mark Dantonio, you know that you have nothing to lose in this game. Even though you’re easily the higher ranked team, no one is expecting you to win, so even losing by 20 wouldn’t be a bitter disappointment. A win, and you’ve beaten the defending champs. Michigan State has to pretend like this is just any other game. It is a power running team, and even though the Crimson Tide have one of the more vaunted rush defenses in the nation. When the Spartans are ready to take their shots, they should take them and have confidence in QB Kirk Cousins to not turn the ball over. This was a team that averaged 408.5 yards per game against some of the best teams in the Big Ten this year, including that aforementioned win against the Badgers. As long as Michigan State believes in itself, it should be able to compete in the Capital One Bowl.

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Posted in College Football - Last Updated on Friday, December 31st, 2010 @ 6:25 pm (EST)
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