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Bowlapalooza 2015: Cotton Bowl, Michigan State Spartans vs Alabama Crimson Tide


Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Dantonio and Michigan State's path to the championship now leads them to confront the Vaderian betrayer who left the program 16 years ago and created a behemoth in Tuscaloosa.

Where Is This Bowl Game?

Dallas, Texas, in the football spaceship Jerry Jones dropped in the middle of a concrete ocean.

When Is This Bowl Game?

New Years Eve, 8:00 EST, ESPN.

Who Is In This Game?

What, have you been living under a rock for the last month? Your B1G Champion Michigan State Spartans, standing at 12-1, challenge college football's gold standard program, the SEC Champion Crimson Tide.

What's In It For The Participants?

The storylines abound; former assistant brings the program he's built from the ground to take another swing at his former mentor, who left East Lansing under the impression that this kind of success wasn't possible there. Michigan State gets to show whether it's ready for the challenge Alabama poses 5 years after a horrendous embarrassment. Alabama gets to, I don't know, satiate its fanbase with yet another national championship opportunity.

The short and obvious answer, though, is that the winner of this game plays the winner of Oklahoma/Clemson in Arizona a week later for the national championship.

What's In It For The Fans?

For MSU fans, the program's first national title in almost 50 years, ascendance into the national elite with no asterisks, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

For Bammers? A hit of the only drug that can still make them feel alive, one supposes.

The Pick

...was very difficult to figure. Bama is heavily favored, has rolled comfortably for most of the year, and you never want to give Lord Saban this much time to contemplate your team's strengths and weaknesses.

And yet. I don't need to discuss the edge Michigan State wields when it's the underdog, disrespected, able to find any angle whatsoever to affix a chip to its collective shoulder. After the savage beating his team took from the Tide in the 2011 Capital One Bowl, Mark Dantonio looked his program over and saw its inability to go toe to toe with a program like Bama - and he adjusted accordingly. He spent the interceding 5 years shoring up his team's depth and strength, especially on the lines. That period has featured MSU winning the large majority of the meaningful games they've played. And...yes, Derrick Henry is great, the front seven is still nasty, but...this Bama team just doesn't look as intimidating as that '11 outfit.

So I think this game is close. And because my Full Homersparty approach has yet to fail me, I do predict a Spartan victory by the count of 27-21.