No. 9 Michigan State Spartans (11-1 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. No. 16 Alabama
Crimson Tide (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS), Capital One Bowl, 1:00 p.m. EST,
Saturday, January 1, 2011, Citrus Orange Bowl, Orlando, Fla., TV: ESPN
by Badger of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: MSU +10/Bama -10
Over/Under Total: 52
The Capital One Bowl isnt exactly the bowl the Big Ten Conference
tri-champion and 9th-ranked Michigan State Spartans wanted to be
playing in on New Years Day, but theyve been battling adversity all
season so their game in Orlando against the 16th-ranked Alabama
Crimson Tide will be another chance to prove they belong in the top-10.
Sparty surprised a lot of folks in the Midwest with a one-
loss season in the Big Ten, taking advantage of an Ohio State-less
schedule and a big, 34-24, victory over Wisconsin in early October to
finish in a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings.
Mich. St. rebounded from their only loss of the season at Iowa the
day before Halloween with a three-game winning streak to finish the
season, including a couple of close calls against Purdue (35-31 win)
and on the road at Penn State (28-22 win) in the final two weeks to
set up a New Years Day showdown with the defending champion Crimson
At one point it looked like Alabama might be able to get back to the
BCS title game for a second straight season, but losses on the road
at South Carolina in October and at LSU in November left the Tide in
the position of spoilers in the Iron Bowl at home against Auburn. The
Tide then became part of the lore that is Cam Newton, watching
helplessly as the Heisman Trophy winner rallied the Tigers for a
huge, 28-27, victory to knock Alabama out of contention and back into
a New Years Day bowl.
Even with three losses the respect that coach Nick Saban, Alabama and
the SEC continue to get from oddsmakers is reflected in the opening
betting line, as the Crimson Tide started as 10.5-point favorites.
With the betting windows only open for a week so far the line has
only adjusted itself slightly, as most online sportsbooks have dropped the
hook and are currently listing Alabama a 10-point favorites on the
Most of the early sharp money at the window has been on the over/
under total in this game, since it opened at 50.5 originally and has
already climbed up to 52 at most sportsbooks on the Web.
Offensively both of these teams run similar pro-style schemes that
rely on multiple running backs pounding it away on early downs to set
up the play-action passing game. In fact, when you break down the
tale of the tape offensively the numbers for both teams are virtually
the same a lot of yards (Bama 436 ypg; Mich. St. 408 ypg), mainly
on the ground (Bama 175 ypg; Mich. St. 170 ypg), with a lot of big
play potential on the perimeter that translates to high point totals
on the scoreboard (Bama 34.6 ppg; Mich. St. 31.3 ppg).
This game with also feature to senior quarterbacks that spread the
ball around to all of their weapons very effectively.
Alabamas Greg McElroy (2,767 yards, 19 TD, 5 INT) is at his best
when he just turns around to hand it to either Mark Ingram (816
yards, 12 TD) or Trent Richardson, but when the running game is
stuffed he relies on Julio Jones (1,084 yards, 7 TD), perhaps the
best receiver in the college game right now. McElroy had some
concussion issues late in the season, but hell have plenty of time
to rest and is listed as probable on the injury report.
For Michigan State its senior quarterback Kirk Cousins (2,705 yards,
20 TD, 9 INT) that is responsible for getting running backs Edwin
Baker (1,187 yards, 13 TD) and LeVeon Bell (9 TD) involved on the
early downs. But unlike Bama, which relies mostly on Jones to be the
game-changer in the passing game, the Spartans have a duo of
receivers in Mark Dell (761 yards, 6 TD) and B.J. Cunningham (611
yards, 9 TD) that seem to share the responsibility of getting open
So with all of the offense on the field this game is likely going to
depend on which defense is up to the task of stopping them, and on
paper the Crimson Tide appears to hold an advantage over the Spartans.
Alabamas defensive unit finished the season ranked 6th in overall
defense (289.8 ypg), and together they were one of the hardest teams
to score on allowing just an average of 14.1 points per game during
their 12 game regular season. If the Tide is able to limit the damage
done by Baker and Bell on the ground, the speed in their secondary
and linebacking core could give Cousins a hard time since the Tide
allowed just 172 yards per game in the pass-happy SEC this season.
Michigan States unit was more of a bend-but-dont-break type of team
during the season giving up plenty of yardage week to week (329.8
ypg), but they did seem to have the ability to tighten up in the red
zone when it mattered (20.1 ppg).
Without any head-to-head history to look at, most of the betting trends in this game consist of small and limited samples.
Alabama is a perfect 5-0 ATS in their last five non-conference games
and a strong 5-2 ATS in their last seven games played at a neutral site.
The over wager has the best trends attached to it, as it is 6-1 in
the Spartans last seven non-conference games and its also
traditionally a strong play when the Spartans are listed as the
underdog (42-19-2 in last 63 games as the underdog). The over is also
4-0 in the Tides last four bowl games, 4-0 in their last four
neutral site games, and 6-1-1 in the Tides last eight non-conference
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This line is a little high in my opinion due to the notoriety and hype surrounding the defending champs in Alabama, but
when you look at it on paper the Tide does have the superior talent
and depth. But one year removed from the title game, the Tide may not
be as fired up to play in the Capital One Bowl as the Spartans will
be to prove they belong. Im taking the Spartans to cover in a game
that creeps over the total late in backdoor fashion. Take Michigan
State plus the 10 points.