For the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, closing out the 2010 season with a win in the Capital One Bowl Saturday in Orlando (1 p.m. ET, ESPN) would somewhat ease what could have been following November’s debacle against arch-rival Auburn.
Crimson Tide fans clearly remember that painful Saturday after Thanksgiving when ‘Bama saw a 24-0 lead against the Tigers fade away, leading to a 28-27 heartbreaking loss. My, what could have been.
On New Year’s Day, 15th-ranked ’Bama hopes a win over Big Ten power and 7th-ranked Michigan State (earned a share of the league title with Wisconsin and Ohio State) will take some of the sting away from a three-loss season (South Carolina 35-21, LSU 24-21).
The game matches up ‘Bama Head Coach Nick Saban against his former assistant during his time as head coach in East Lansing, Mark Dantonio. The latter was Saban’s assistant at Michigan State from 1995-99 until Saban left for LSU, where he won the first of his two national titles.
“(Dantonio) has done a fabulous job with his team and what they have accomplished this year and how he has built the program back to national prominence,” Saban told the media. “I never really look forward to competing against my friends but this is a great opportunity for our team.”
For Dantonio and the Spartans, a meeting with the 2009 national champs and 2010 pre-season number one is a great measuring stick.
“They (Alabama) are a football team who has lost two of their three games by four points total,” Dantonio noted. “So when you look at BCS-type teams and the teams we would have played had we gotten the opportunity to go to a BCS (game), I don’t think we could have picked a better team than Alabama.”
Michigan State goes into the battle without top receiver B.J. Cunningham, who broke his foot in preparations for the game the week before Christmas.
Cunningham led the Spartans with 50 receptions for 611 yards and nine touchdowns.
Alabama (9-3) paced the SEC giving up 14.1 points and 296.0 yards per game. Alabama also forced 21 interceptions, and Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins has thrown five of them in his last four outings.
While MSU running back Edwin Baker ranked third in the Big Ten with 1,187 yards, the Crimson Tide’s rush defense allowed 33.9 per game.
On defense, Spartans senior linebacker Greg Jones led the team with 98 tackles and will look to assist in slowing an Alabama offense averaging 435.6 yards. Michigan State ranked third in the Big Ten in total defense, allowing 337.8 yards per game.
Michigan State has lost its last four bowl games, while Alabama is 4-4 in its past eight, with the biggest win coming this past January in the national title game versus Texas.
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Written by Dave Thomas