MSU has BCS-type game against defending national champion Alabama in Capital One Bowl
As expected, Mark Dantonio and his No. 7 MSU football team were denied a BCS bid in favor of fellow conference champions Ohio State and Wisconsin.
And yet, when the Spartans take on No. 15 Alabama in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2011, in Orlando, Fla., Dantonio said he believes it will be MSU’s bowl game that is the best matchup involving any Big Ten team, including the Rose and Sugar bowls.
“When I look at football teams across this country, and I talk about the greatest teams playing at this time of year, Alabama’s name is going to come up,” Dantonio said.
“This Capital One Bowl is as good as any bowl in America.”
The game between the Spartans (11-1) and Crimson Tide (9-3) will mark the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
Senior wide receiver Mark Dell stiff-arms Wisconsin defensive back Niles Brinkley on Oct. 2 at Spartan Stadium. Dell recorded 91 receiving yards in the Spartans’ 34-24 victory over the Badgers.
It also will be the second New Year’s Day bowl in four years for MSU under Dantonio. However, MSU is 0-3 in bowls under Dantonio.
Senior linebacker Greg Jones said he did not feel any disappointment in regards to playing in a bowl game without the BCS label. Instead, Jones said he is excited to have an opportunity to take on the defending national champion Crimson Tide.
“Like most guys, we want to be playing in a big-time game at the end of the year, and we got Alabama,” Jones said.
“I feel like that’s pretty good.”
The Crimson Tide came into the 2010 season as the No. 1 team in the country and were picked by many as favorites to repeat as national champions.
However, beginning with an Oct. 9 loss to No. 19 South Carolina, Alabama lost three of its final seven games this season, which dropped the Crimson Tide out of the Southeastern Conference championship race.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who spent five years as the head coach at MSU (1995-99), said he hopes his team can take the ups and downs of this season and use them to its advantage against the Spartans.
“I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from what happened this season,” Saban said in a conference call earlier this week. “To be dominant, we have to play at our best and harder than the other team, and hopefully we learned that.”
Saban’s team usually is at its best when running the ball with either last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram or Trent Richardson.
However, the Crimson Tide also have one of the best receivers in the country in Julio Jones, who ranks in the top 20 nationally in catches (6.25) and yards per game (90.33).
“I really feel like they have a lot of weapons on offense,” Jones said of Alabama. “Really excited about the challenge we have in front of us, especially just the defense.”
Offensively, junior quarterback Kirk Cousins said he doesn’t anticipate getting anything easy from a team that ranks No. 6 in the country in total defense.
“I know a Coach Saban-led defense is going to be very solid and very difficult to play against,” Cousins said. “And that’s what we expect.”
With an opponent as good as the Crimson Tide waiting to take on the Spartans in Orlando, both Dantonio and his players said they will treat this game exactly the way they would if it were a BCS bowl.
Dantonio also said that, much like heading into MSU’s regular season finale against Penn State, he and his players want to end one of the best seasons in school history on a positive note. And if the Spartans can do that, he said nobody will be thinking about the BCS anymore.
“It’s important that we win our last football game, we’ve been saying that now for quite some time,” Dantonio said. “If we win this game and we move forward at 12-1, we’ll get our just due.”