(16) Georgia (9-3) vs. (19) Michigan State (9-3)|
Thursday, January 1st, 1:00 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The Georgia Bulldogs of the SEC and the Michigan State Spartans of
the Big Ten Conference will duke it out in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando,
Florida on New Year's Day.
Georgia is making its 12th consecutive bowl appearance, and the program is
playing in its 44th bowl game all-time. The Bulldogs own a 24-16-3 record in
bowl games, and they have played in 18 different bowls, more than any other
team in the nation. Mark Richt is Georgia's head coach, and he is one of only
six head coaches to win 80 or more Division I games in his first eight
seasons. The Bulldogs, who suffered 19 season-ending injuries during the
course of the 2008 campaign, still own a solid 9-3 overall record, although
the regular season did end with a heart-breaking loss to in-state rival
The Big Ten hasn't had much success recently against SEC opposition in bowl
games, and for that reason the Spartans have extra motivation heading into
this contest. "I don't know that we are carrying the banner, but I think it's
important that we represent the Big Ten in terms of making a statement, as we
move forward," says Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio.
The Spartans are making their 19th bowl appearance and hope to improve their
7-11 record in post-season play. They are playing in the Capital One Bowl,
formerly known as the Florida Citrus and Tangerine Bowls, for the second time,
as the team won the 2000 version of this game. Michigan State owns a 9-3
overall record this season, and the club has a three-game win streak halted in
the season finale against Penn State.
Georgia and Michigan State have met on the gridiron just one time, as the
Bulldogs beat the Spartans in the 1989 Gator Bowl.
This Capital One Bowl features two of the nation's truly elite tailbacks. For
Georgia, Knowshon Moreno possesses both speed and power, and that combination
helped him rack up 1,338 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per
attempt. Moreno also made 27 catches, proof of his versatility.
The man pulling the trigger for Georgia from the quarterback position is
Matthew Stafford, who certainly has the arm strength to play at the next
level. Stafford has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 3,209 yards and
22 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He has a pair of outstanding
receivers to throw to in Mohamed Massaquoi and A.J. Green, who both have eight
touchdowns receptions to their credit. Massaquoi has posted 57 catches for 910
yards, while Green, the SEC Freshman of the Year, has caught 55 balls for 951
yards. They are averaging 16.0 ypc and 17.3 ypc, respectively, proof of the
big-play ability that both players possess.
"I think we are playing a good opponent in Michigan State," says Massaquoi, a
senior. "But more so I think we have a lot to prove. I think it's a great way
to close off our season."
Georgia is racking up 32.1 ppg and 433.9 total ypg, and the team is making
good on 42 percent of its third-down conversion attempts.
Opponents are scoring 25.6 ppg against Georgia, which has not played nearly as
well defensively as most expected entering this season. The Bulldogs are only
allowing 318.3 total ypg, but they have given up 40 touchdowns to opposing
offenses, including 23 rushing scores. A total of 15 takeaways in 12 games
simply isn't good enough, and neither is the fact that foes are gaining 12
yards per pass completion.
Rennie Curran is a sensational performer for Georgia, as he has made 109 total
tackles, 37 more than his closest teammate. Curran has nine TFLs, including
three sacks, and he has forced a pair of fumbles. Reshad Jones has four
interceptions to his credit, the highest total on the roster.
Curran, who is just a sophomore, knows that Michigan State relies heavily on
tailback Javon Ringer and the ground attack. "We need to make them one
dimensional and take away that aspect of their offense," says Curran. "He
(Ringer) likes to get the ball 20-30 times a game so that is one point of
emphasis, stopping the run and containing them."
Ringer is the true definition of a workhorse back, as the Michigan State
standout has 370 rushing attempts through 12 games, an average of over 30
carries per contest. He has rushed for 1,590 yards and 21 touchdowns, and his
average of 4.3 yards per carry would certainly be better if not for the fact
that opponents load the box to stop the run every week.
There is no substitute for experience at the quarterback position, and
Michigan State has senior Brian Hoyer under center. "I expect Brian Hoyer to
have a tremendous football game," says coach Dantonio. "He's been very good
when challenges have been brought right to him." Hoyer has only completed 50.8
percent of his passes for 2,235 yards and nine touchdowns against eight
interceptions this season, numbers that certainly won't scare Georgia.
Blair White leads the Spartans with 39 catches for 628 yards, but he has
reached the end zone only once.
Opponents are scoring 21.9 ppg against the Spartans, who are allowing 357.9
total ypg. The overall play of the defense, with the exception of a few shaky
performances, has been solid, and considering the explosive ability of the
Georgia offense, the unit will undoubtedly be tested in this bowl game.
Michigan State is yielding 4.2 yards per rushing attempt, and the team would
love to be able to limit Moreno to that mark.
Against the pass, the Spartans are permitting 12.4 yards per completion. Greg
Jones continues to lead coach Dantionio's team in tackles, as he has
registered 115 total stops, including 12.5 TFLs. Otis Wiley paces the squad
with four interceptions, and Trevor Anderson has eight sacks.
When predicting the outcome of this game, the decision rests solely on the
quarterbacks. While Stafford is capable of making the necessary plays to win
this game, Hoyer is not suited to do so. Therefore, go with the 'Dawgs in what
should be a physical contest.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia 34, Michigan State 20
12/29 12:17:46 ET