Cotton Bowl Semifinals
The playoff semifinals at the Cotton Bowl will include the Michigan State Spartans and the Alabama Crimson Tide. No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Michigan State Thursday, December 31 @ 8:00 P.M. EST Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX TV: ESPN
Roll Tide! The Alabama Crimson Tide is back in the College Football Playoff for the second straight year. They are also matched up against another Big Ten team for the second straight year. This year, it is the Michigan State Spartans. They are looking to atone for last year’s CFP loss to eventual champion Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The Spartans are having a very fantastic year. Both teams finished the regular season with 12-1 records. They both captured the SEC and Big Ten crowns respectively. Alabama is seeking is first National title in four years while Michigan State is seeking is first title in almost 50 years.
Alabama quarterback Jake Coker has had a real good season. Coker has averaged 2,489 yards, 17 touchdowns and 8 interceptions this season. Coker has a great presence in the pocket. He loves to throw the play-action pass for deep balls to open receivers. But, Coker is also crafty getting out of the pocket and keeping drives alive. But, the main bright spot for the Tide is running back Derrick Henry. He had a great year averaging 1,986 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, a soon-to-be top NFL draft pick, had a Heisman-like year. Cook averaged 2,921 yards, 24 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions during the season. He has tremendous presence in the pocket. He can also elude pressure from the linebackers to keep plays alive. Wide receiver Aaron Burbridge has had a stellar year. Burbridge had 1,219 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns on the season. Running back L.J. Scott had a pretty solid with 691 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Edge: Michigan State (slightly)
Both teams have some excellent defenses. In fact, the defense for both teams is their biggest strengths. Alabama has a tough, aggressive defense that has Nick Saban’s fingerprints all over it. The Tide is ranked 2nd in the country in overall defense. Alabama is 1st in defending the run and 16th in defending the pass.
Michigan State also has a great defense where Mark Dantonio has his stamp on it. Don’t be deceived by the Spartans being ranked 26th in the country in overall defense. They can really stop the run and apply pressure to the quarterback. Michigan State is 7th in defending the run, but only 70th defending the pass.
Prediction: Upset Alert – Michigan State over Alabama
By Quentin Congress