The 2010 Heartbreak kids of Michigan State were one of the best stories of the 2010 NCAA football season. The team that brought us “Little Giants,” “Mousetrap,” and this season’s only victory over Wisconsin to date was passed over by the BCS bowls for conference mates Wisconsin and Ohio State despite having the most legitimate claim to the Rose Bowl based on the overall season. The Spartans find themselves in the Capital One Bowl facing the University of Alabama, headed by former Spartan coach Nick Saban. The defending national champions had a disappointing season by Alabama standards. Ultimately falling victory to the best conference in college football Alabama finished with 3 losses and a sense of something left to accomplish.
3 Keys from the scouts
1. Michigan State must run the ball to stay in the game. Spartan running backs Edwin Baker and Le’Von Bell have combined for over 1700 yards and 21 touch downs. They have not yet faced a rushing defense as good as Alabama has, nor a defense with as much talent. Kirk Cousins has been efficient throwing the ball all year but Alabama will be harassing him all day. The only shot for the Spartans is to keep the Crimson Tide defense honest by running the ball effectively and working the play action passing game down the field.
2. Alabama’s offensive line must take control of the line of scrimmage. Spartan linebacker Greg Jones is as good as they come in college football. Alabama has two of the country’s best tailbacks and a senior quarterback that can effectively pick apart zone defenses if he’s given time. McElroy has been sacked 32 times this season and when he is pressured he is prone to making mistakes. Alabama must exert their will in this game and punish the Spartan front 7 by hammering them with Ingram and Richardson. That will open up man coverage opportunities for Julio Jones and company.
3. Does Michigan State have another special teams trump card? Alabama is susceptible to trick plays, as evidenced in the LSU game. Saban and company like to use their defensive starters on special teams and will probably do so in this game. Both teams are protective of the football and turnovers figure to come at a premium in this game. Field position will be key and the best opportunity to change field position is with trick plays on special teams.
Bold Prediction: Michigan State should have a chip on its shoulder after being snubbed by the BCS. Alabama likewise should be out to prove something after a disappointing season. As good as the Spartans are Alabama, at its best, is a much better team. Alabama not at its best is a slightly worse team. I wouldn’t bet against Nick Saban having his guys prepared. If Alabama is prepared the game won’t be close. Alabama 42 Michigan State 24
|1st||Marcell Dareus||DE||57||3Jr||Tremendous defensive line prospect with a great amount of upside. Athletic, explosive and powerful. Can play a three technique position or be used as a two-gap end. The sky is the limit if he makes football and priority. Will enter the draft and be an early pick.|
|1st||Mark Ingram||RB||22||3Jr||Terrific ball carrier and one of the few feature runners in next April’s draft. Has the power to pound it on the inside as well as the agility to run around tackle.|
|1st||Julio Jones||WR||8||3Jr||Dominant game controlling receiver that can be a one man show when focused on the task at hand. Has all the makings of a number one wide out.|
|3rd||Don’ta Hightower||OLB||30||3So||Athletic linebacker with a nice degree of upside. Did a nice job returning form injury this season but still needs to develop to complete game. 50/50 on entering the draft at present time.|
|3-4||James Carpenter||T||77||4Sr||Solid college tackle that projects to guard. Moving up draft boards.|
|4th||Mark Barron||S||4||3Jr||One time highly rated safety coming off a disappointing campaign. Looking more like a run defending/downhill safety. Would be a bad move if he enters.|
|5-6||Marquis Maze||WR||4||4Jr||Productive wide out that projects as a 3rd/4th receiver for the next level. Has a solid game. Likely to enter the draft.|
|7-FA||Darius Hanks||WR||15||4Sr||Nice sized possession receiver.|
|7-FA||Greg McElroy||QB||12||5Sr||Nice college signal caller growing on NFL scouts. Senior Bowl is big for him.|
|3rd||Greg Jones||ILB||53||4Sr||Productive middle linebacker prospect with a tremendous head for the game. Size is an issue but a three down starter at the next level.|
|4th||Chris L. Rucker||CB||29||4Sr||Mechanically sound cornerback with good ball skills. Off the field issues will send up red flags but a potential nickel back/number two starter for the next level.|
|5-6||Charlie Gantt||TE||83||5Sr||Complete tight end that really stands out as a blocker and short yardage target. Definite second tight end for the next level.|
|6th||Eric Gordon||OLB||43||5Sr||Underrated linebacker with a nice game. Smart, tough and a better athlete than given credit for.|
|6th||B.J. Cunningham||WR||3||4Jr||Productive wide out that will miss the bowl game due to injury.|
|7-FA||Mark Dell||WR||2||5Sr||Natural receiver coming off a terrific campaign. Lays out for the tough reception and shows good eye/hand coordination. Possible number three at the next level.|
|FA||Kirk Cousins||QB||8||4Jr||Solid college quarterback who runs hot and cold. Marginal NFL prospect.|
|FA||DJ Young||T||59||5Sr||Adequately sized tackle who runs hot and cold.|
Game Preview: Brent Foshee
Prospect Preview: Tony Pauline