Capital One Bowl Predictions: Michigan State vs. Alabama Odds and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 12/30/2010
For my money, the New Year’s Day Capital One Bowl in Orlando is the best non-BCS bowl this season – and actually I’d argue this Michigan State-Alabama matchup is better than the UConn-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl.
Michigan State (11-1) shared the Big Ten title with Wisconsin and Ohio State and won a school-record 11 games. But there were only two spots for the conference in the BCS bowls, and the BCS standings were used to break the deadlock. So Sparty got hosed despite having beaten the Badgers and not getting a shot at the Buckeyes. Still, some say MSU hasn’t beaten anyone other than Wisconsin, and the Spartans didn’t beat any other team that is currently ranked.
It has to be called a disappointing season for Alabama (9-3), as the Tide entered this season as the consensus No. 1 team in the land and the favorites to defend last season’s National Championship. All three of the Tide’s losses came to ranked teams (South Carolina, LSU and Auburn), and by just a total of 18 points. And Bama beat three then-ranked teams (Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi State) by a combined 49 points.
There are a lot of intertwined plots in this one. Alabama’s Nick Saban coached 10 years at Michigan State, five as an assistant, then five more as the Spartans' head coach. Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio served as an assistant coach under Saban with the Spartans. Alabama assistant Bobby Williams took over the Spartans as head coach when Saban left after a stellar 1999 MSU season, but Williams didn’t even last three full years in East Lansing, going 16-17.
But it was in the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium where Williams won his first game as Michigan State's head coach, 37-34, over Florida in the Citrus Bowl on a last-second field goal. And finally, Alabama running back Mark Ingram, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, grew up in Flint, Mich., and nearly attended MSU, where his father was a star receiver and a team he grew up loving.
Both of these teams count on the run first. Ingram accounted for 816 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns this season despite missing a few games and Trent Richardson contributed 658 yards and five touchdowns. Michigan State got 1,187 yards and 13 touchdowns from sophomore Edwin Baker, and found a new talent in freshman Le'Veon Bell, who picked up 592 yards and eight scores, mostly in the first half of the season. Alabama averaged 175.2 yards per game rushing, while MSU averaged 168.8 this season.
There are two very key injuries to be aware of here. Alabama safety Mark Barron, an All-American and top NFL Draft prospect, is out with a torn pectoral muscle. Barron started every game this year and led the Tide in tackles but was injured in the regular-season finale against Auburn. Sophomore walk-on Will Lowery is expected to start in Barron’s place. It will be Lowery’s first career start. Tide QB Greg McElroy suffered a concussion against Auburn but will start his final collegiate game.
For MSU, No. 1 receiver B.J. Cunningham is out with a broken foot. The junior led the Spartans with 50 catches and nine touchdown receptions and ranked second on the team with 611 receiving yards. If there is one position at which Sparty is very deep, however, it’s at receiver.
Alabama and Michigan State have never met in football.
Capital One Bowl Odds -- Michigan State vs. Alabama
Alabama is currently a 10-point favorite, according to college bowl game odds, with the total at 51.5. Bama is getting approximately a 57 percent lean. The line opened at 10.5 and climbed to 11 for a while before falling. The total has risen a point. MSU is 7-5 ATS this season while Bama is also 7-5.
Capital One Bowl – Michigan State vs. Alabama Betting Trends
MSU is 5-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
Alabama is 5-0 ATS in its past five non-conference games.
The ‘over’ is 6-1 ATS in Sparty’s past seven non-conference games.
The ‘under’ is 4-0 ATS in Bama’s past four vs. a team with a winning record.
Capital One Bowl – Michigan State vs. Alabama Predictions and Betting Picks
I think that while Michigan State certainly appears on the way up, Alabama still has more talent at nearly every position but a few. However, this bowl is usually close as eight of the past 11 have been decided by one score. Make that nine of 12. Take Sparty and the points and the ‘under’.
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