2008 Capital One Bowl Preview
#15 Georgia (9-3, 6-2 SEC) vs. #14 Michigan State (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten)
January 1st, 2009 @ 1:00 PM (EST) – ABC – Orlando, Florida
One of the biggest non-BCS showcases every year takes place in Orlando and pits the Big Ten against the SEC in the Capital One Bowl. This year, the #3 team from each conference is represented as both conferences put two teams into the BCS. Michigan State and Georgia enter with identical 9-3 records but sit on the complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to fan satisfaction. Michigan State went 7-6 last season and improved to 9-3 this year, defeating archrival Michigan for the first time in six years in only head coach Mark Dantonio’s second season. Their fans are quite pleased with the program’s standing. Meanwhile, Georgia was the #1 preseason team but was blown out by the SEC’s top two teams and lost to rival Georgia Tech for the first time this millennium. Their fans are not happy, especially with defensive coordinator Willie Martinez.
Michigan State opened the year with a 38-31 loss at Cal before running off six straight wins. However, the Spartans could not compete with Ohio State or Penn State (losing by a combined score of 94-25), so the question lingers whether they can beat a team with elite talent despite their record. Michigan State’s heart and soul is tailback Javon Ringer, who carried the ball 370 times this season and will almost certainly break the 400 mark against the Bulldogs. Ringer ran for nearly 1,600 yards and 21 Touchdowns this season. The Spartans are also efficient passing the ball but everything is created for them off of Ringer’s ability to churn out yards and force opponents to bring more defenders into the box. Unsurprisingly, Michigan State’s defense has been solid this year, allowing less than 21 points per game. However, the Spartans’ worst three outings this year have resulted in the team’s three losses so the defense will have to play their best if they want to beat the Bulldogs.
Georgia began the year with extremely high hopes but things fell apart quickly. The Bulldogs lost left tackle Trindan Sturdivant before the season began, sparking a trend of injuries that would certainly hurt their season. However, the Bulldogs opened up unbeaten in their first four games before being run out of their own building by Alabama. The Dawgs also were non-competitive with Florida while in the midst of a stretch where they won five of six games. Georgia’s season can be summed up by watching the Georgia Tech game. The Bulldogs moved the ball well on offense but they were unable to stop the run and found themselves in a tough game before losing. In fact, Georgia didn’t beat a single SEC foe by more than two touchdowns in a year where the bottom of the league was brutal, largely thanks to struggles on their lines of scrimmage. If the SEC hadn’t had such a down year, Georgia might have found themselves with a few less bones on their helmets.
This game will be very interesting as both teams will view a win as a validation on their season. A Georgia wins confirms the talent of the team and gives their fans hope for next year while a Michigan State win signals a Spartan arrival on the national scene. On the flip side, a Spartan win will have Georgia fans marching in the streets for a staff shake up. My controversial preseason prediction of a four loss Georgia team would also come to fruition. There are a few telling statistics in this game, one of which is the 226 yards per game allowed by Georgia on the ground over the final five games of the year. That bodes very well for Michigan State and their power running attack. Another set of telling statistics belong to Georgia receivers AJ Green and Mohammed Massaqoui, who both have 55+ catches, 900+ yards and 8 Touchdowns. Michigan State can put star safety Otis Wiley on one but they will not be able to double cover both. That means that Georgia is going to be able to air it out. If Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford can avoid throwing bad interceptions, that bodes very well for Georgia. I expect both teams to put up some points in this game but Georgia has more playmakers on offense and that will be the deciding factor. In what will probably be the final game for a large group of Georgia stars, I expect Georgia’s vertical passing game to be the difference and send the Bulldogs out with a win over Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl.
Capital One Bowl Pick: Georgia 31 - Michigan State 26
by Matt Baxendell
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