2015 Cotton Bowl Picks: Michigan State vs. Baylor Odds and Expert Predictions
by Dave Schwab - 12/26/2014
This season's Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on New Year's Day features a Big Ten vs. Big 12 clash between the Michigan State Spartans and the Baylor Bears. Kickoff from AT&T Stadium in Arlington is set for 12:30 p.m. (ET), and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The Spartans come into this game fresh off a 10-2 straight up run through the regular season that ended with a three-game winning streak both SU and against the spread. Their only two losses on the year came against Oregon and Ohio State, which just so happen to be two of the four teams playing later in the day in the national semifinals of the first ever College Football Playoff. Michigan State went 8-4 ATS, with the total going "over" in four of its last six games.
Baylor was also in the mix for a spot in the playoffs with a sterling record of 11-1 SU. The Bears' only loss came at the hands of West Virginia in a stunning 41-27 upset as eight-point road favorites in late October. They failed to cover in two of their final three games to finish 8-4 ATS. The total went over in four of their final seven games.
Cotton Bowl Picks: Michigan State vs. Baylor Story Lines
Michigan State has one of the best one-two punches in the nation with an offense that is ranked seventh in scoring with 43.1 points a game complementing a defense that was ranked 14th in points allowed (19.9). This unit did give up a combined 95 points in those two losses to the Ducks and the Buckeyes, but it also managed to hold opponents to fewer than 20 points in eight of its other 10 games.
Connor Cook led the passing game with 2,900 yards and 22 touchdown throws, and overall the Spartans racked up an average of 261.6 passing yards a game. The offense was ranked 24th in the country in rushing with an average of 234.9 yards a game. A big part of that number belonged to Jeremy Langford, who gained 1,360 yards on the ground while averaging 5.5 yards a carry.
You have to question Baylor's motivation for this game after getting passed over for a spot in the playoffs as one of the top one-loss teams in the nation. The Bears did almost everything they could to catch the playoff selection committees' attention with a SU five-game winning streak to close out the season in which they averaged 48.6 points a game, but in the end they could not overcome that bad loss to the Mountaineers.
Baylor ended the regular season ranked first in the nation in scoring, and it boasted the fifth-best passing attack in Division IA with an average of 346.2 yards a game. Bryce Petty threw for 3,305 yards and 26 touchdowns while completing 62 percent of his 377 attempts. Corey Coleman and KD Cannon combined for 107 receptions for 1,802 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Shock Linwood anchored the running game with 1,226 rushing yards and another 16 scores.
Cotton Bowl Picks: Michigan State vs, Baylor Betting Odds and Trends
The Spartans have gone 8-1-1 ATS in their last 10 games as underdogs, and they are 3-0 both SU and ATS in their last three bowl games. The total has gone over in four of their last five appearances in a bowl.
The Bears have covered ATS in 12 of their last 16 games against a team with a SU winning record. They are 5-2 ATS in their last seven neutral-site games, with the total going over in six of those games.
This will be the first time these two have played one another in recent memory.
2015 Cotton Bowl: Michigan State vs. Baylor Expert Betting Predictions
This game has the potential to be the most entertaining matchup on New Year's Day between two of the top scoring machines in the nation. My immediate thought was to tempt fate and take the over on an already-inflated total line of 71.5, but my top pick is Michigan State plus the 2.5 points given the Bears' questionable state of mind for this game.
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