In recent years, Alabama has struggled against mobile quarterbacks and spread offenses. Well, the Tide won’t have to face either in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State.
The Spartans defeated Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa, among others, by running the ball and playing tough, physical defense. In other words, by being Alabama.
Only Alabama has better athletes.
Who wins this game?
“I’ll tell you what: It’s interesting,” CBS Sports Network college football analyst Aaron Taylor said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think the simple easy answer would be Alabama, but all you do when you count out Michigan State is find a way for your team to go home unhappy. Michigan State’s done an excellent job (protecting) the football. They score points on offense and they get after it on defense. They find ways to win. They’re a tough team.”
The Spartans certainly showed that against Iowa, engineering a 22-play, 82-yard game-winning drive that ate up more than nine minutes of the fourth quarter. Michigan State ran the ball 11 straight times on that drive to win, 16-13, and secure a spot in the playoff.
“I’m not saying they can probably do that against an Alabama front seven defense,” Taylor said, “but I looked on the other side of the ball and there was some disruption that happened at times on Alabama offensively and they struggled to be able to move the ball. They’re not very good on third downs. There’s some things that Michigan State can exploit. And really, the thing (that hurt) the Spartans the most this year was injuries, and what’s going to happen is this time off before the playoff game is going to allow them to get themselves healthy. I think that’s going to be quite a bit better game than we expect, and right now, I think that Michigan State can probably win that game.”
Elsewhere in the SEC, Will Muschamp has been named head coach at South Carolina. Muschamp, 44, went 28-21 at Florida from 2011 to 2014 before getting fired. He served as Auburn’s defensive coordinator this season.
While Muschamp is probably happy to have another head-coaching gig in the SEC, Taylor has serious doubts about whether he can succeed in Columbia.
“I think he’s a heck of a coordinator, I think he’s a heck of a coach and he brings a lot of passion to the game,” Taylor said. “But I feel sorry for him taking that job. I think there’s a low ceiling at the University of South Carolina. You look at the combined records of what (Steve) Spurrier and (Lou) Holtz did – it’s just above .500. It might even be a losing record. It’s hard to win there – and those are two coaches that have won national championships and had tremendous success at other places. So I think South Carolina is a good job. I think that Will Muschamp can do a good job there, but I don’t know if it’s as easy to win there as people thought. Plus, he’s stepping into a situation – unlike Florida – where there’s a serious lack of talent as compared to what he stepped (into) when he was there in Gainesville. So his work is going to be cut out for him.”