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2012 Outback Bowl - MSU 33, Georgia 30 3OT

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 2, 2012


2011-2012 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2012 Outback Bowl

2012 Outback

Michigan St vs. Georgia

- 2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
G M
39th Total Offense 60th
3rd Total Defense 5th
33rd Scoring Offense 38th
17th Scoring Defense 9th
40th Rushing Offense 76th
9th Run Defense 12th
50th Passing Offense 45th
8th Passing Defense 12th
23rd Turnover Margin 23rd
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
G   M
4 Quarterbacks 4
4 RBs 4
3 Receivers 4.5
2.5 O Line 3.5
4 D Line 4
4.5 Linebackers 4
4 Secondary 4.5
4 Spec Teams 4
4 Coaching 4
Outback Bowl
Michigan State 33 … Georgia 30 3OT

- CFN Thoughts on the Outback

Michigan State: The Spartans held Georgia to 51 yards. … Kirk Cousins completed 27-of-50 passes for 300 yards and a score with three picks. … Le’Veon Bell ran 17 times for 48 yards and two scores. … Brian Linthicum caught seven passes for 115 yards … P Mike Sadler averaged 50.1 yards per kick on eight kicks putting four inside of the 20. … William Gholston made seven tackles, two sacks, five tackles for loss, recovered a fumble, and broke up a pass. … Darqueze Dennard made four tackles with two picks.

Georgia: The Bulldogs forced three picks. … Aaron Murray completed 20-of-32 passes for 288 yards and two scores with two picks. … Ken Malcome ran 12 times for 51 yards. … Malcolm Mitchell caught seven apsses for 51 yards, and Tavarres King caught six passes for 205 yards and a score. … Brandon Boykin returnd a punt 92 yards for a score and four kickoffs for 70 yards. … Alec Ogletree made 13 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss with two broken up passes.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Kirk Cousins gave Michigan State a parting gift - its first bowl win in more than a decade.

Cousins threw for 300 yards and led a late rally to tie it, then Dan Conroy kicked a 28-yard field goal in the third overtime that lifted the 12th-ranked Spartans over No. 18 Georgia 33-30 Monday in the Outback Bowl.

Georgia's Blair Walsh became the Southeastern Conference's career scoring leader with a field goal in the second extra period. But he missed a 42-yarder in the first overtime after conservative play-calling and had a 47-yard attempt blocked on the final play of the game.

Michigan State (11-3) ended a five-game bowl losing streak with its first postseason win since beating Fresno State in the 2001 Silicon Valley Bowl. The Spartans overcame a 16-0 halftime deficit and scored the tying touchdown with 14 seconds left in regulation.

The Spartans handed the Big Ten its lone win in three bowl matchups Monday against SEC opponents - Florida beat Ohio State and South Carolina stopped Nebraska.

Georgia (10-4) finished on a two-game losing streak, including a lopsided loss to top-ranked LSU in the SEC championship game.

Cousins led a 10-play, 85-yard drive without the aid of any timeouts to wipe out a 27-20 deficit on Le'Veon Bell's second touchdown of the game in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. Cousins threw a 7-yard TD pass to Keith Nichol midway through the period and finished the day as Michigan State's career passing and total offense leader.

Cousins was intercepted in the first overtime, giving the ball to Georgia. After the Bulldogs had a short run on their first play in overtime, coach Mark Richt elected to simply center the ball for a field goal try on third down, and Walsh's kick was wide.

The Spartans' comeback overshadowed a standout performance by Georgia's Mr. Everything, Brandon Boykin. The Bulldogs cornerback scored a safety, returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown and caught a 13-yard TD pass that helped the Bulldogs take a late lead that one of the nation's stingiest defense couldn't protect down the stretch.

Aaron Murray threw for 288 yards and one touchdown for Georgia. He threw an 80-yard scoring pass to Tavarres King, who had six receptions for 205 yards.

Both teams entered the game coming off losses in their conference championship games.

The Bulldogs began their year with losses to Boise State and South Carolina before rebounding to win the final 10 games of the regular season. Georgia led top-ranked LSU early in the SEC title game before being dominated over the last three quarters to lose a shot at a spot in a Bowl Championship Series game.

Michigan State was impressive, too, in recovering from an early-season loss to Notre Dame to finish with at least 10 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time in the program's 115-year history. Cousins leaves as the winningest quarterback in school history with 27, and 37 wins for the Spartans' outgoing senior class is a school record, too.

Boykin tackled Keshawn Martin in the end zone for a safety on Michigan State's first offensive play, converging on the receiver at almost the same time as Cousins' side screen. The 2-0 lead stood for Georgia until Murray made his long TD throw to King, who settled under the perfectly thrown pass at the Spartans 25 and never broke stride to get into the end zone.

Less than two minutes later, Boykin brought Georgia fans to their feet when he settled under Mike Sadler's punt at his own 8-yard line and retreated to the 5 before cutting back toward the middle of the field, finding his way through a maze of defenders and outrunning the pursuit to score on the longest punt return in Outback Bowl history.

Boykin's second TD, finishing a five-play, 81-yard drive fueled by Murray's 53-yard completion to King, put Georgia up 25-20. Murray's 2-point conversion pass to Malcolm Mitchell gave the Bulldogs a 7-point advantage before Cousins went to work and revived Michigan State's hopes.

The Spartans were limited to two first downs and just 72 yards total offense to trail 16-0 at the half. Cousins finally got them on track after the first of Darqueze Dennard's two interceptions set up a nine-play, 48-yard drive that Bell finished with an 8-yard touchdown run.

Dennard's 38-yard interception return for a touchdown threw Michigan State within 16-14, and Cousins' TD pass to Nichol gave the Spartans a short-lived 20-19 lead.

Michigan State (10-3) vs. Georgia (10-3) Jan. 2, 1 pm, ESPN

Here’s The Deal … If you’re still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder over the last time Michigan State played an SEC team in a bowl game, you’re not alone.

All the good things the Spartans did in 2010 were unraveled by one of the most miserable first 20 minutes in the history of decent bowl games on the way to a 49-7 Capital One Bowl loss to Alabama – and it wasn’t even that close. Every myth and every stereotype about the Big Ten’s inferiority to the SEC came true last New Year’s Day, and no one knows that more than Michigan State itself.

“We stunk. We couldn’t have been more awful,” said Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins. “But it was also a motivating factor for us this offseason.”

As it turned out, MSU was even better in 2011, even if the results didn’t necessarily show it with didn’t-get-off-the-bus losses to Notre Dame and Nebraska. The defense was stellar, the offense efficient and terrific, and there were even a few magical moments like the miracle to beat Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the Badgers got their own big play to win the inaugural Big Ten title game and MSU ended up in Tampa instead of Pasadena. However, because of last year’s loss to Alabama, motivation doesn’t appear to be an issue.

While the Spartans are searching for redemption, Georgia is looking to prove that it’s actually good. The 10-3 record looks nice, and going to the SEC title game was a job-saver for head coach Mark Richt, but it helped that the SEC East was miserable and the Dawgs didn’t have to play the league’s three best teams – Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas – in the regular season. The best win came against a mediocre Georgia Tech team, and the second best win was over either Auburn or Florida – who weren’t exactly Auburn and Florida. Georgia’s three prove-it games against Boise State, South Carolina, and in the SEC title game against LSU, were all losses.

The light schedule was part of the reason Richt is still around, but he also put together a nice team full of tremendous defensive talents and enough good skill players to get by. The running game is fine when everyone is healthy, and quarterback Aaron Murray made up for A.J. Green’s early departure to the NFL by making everyone around him better. But the knock on Richt is that he’s been great at making Georgia very good, but he hasn’t been able to take the program from Point B to C. The first 11-win season since 2007, no matter how it happened, would make this a special year, while a loss would put the pressure back on Richt.

The Dawgs have been fantastic in bowls under Richt, even with last year’s 10-6 clunker to UCF in the Liberty. They’ve won seven of their last nine and 11 of their last 14 bowls. Michigan State has lost its last five bowl games and nine of the last 11 going back to 1990 including a 24-12 2009 Capital One Bowl to the Dawgs.

The Big Ten needs this bowl win after losing three of the last four Outbacks to the SEC and five of the last seven. Since 2000, the game has usually been decent with seven of the 12 decided by eight points or fewer and last year’s 37-24 Florida win over Penn State opened up on a late pick six.

Considering what’s at stake for both teams, this should be another good one.

Why Georgia Might Win: The Dawg defensive front seven should be able to generate consistent pressure on Cousins. The MSU offensive line has been strong all year, but Cousins struggled and the passing game fizzled against Nebraska when Eric Martin and company started getting into the backfield. Notre Dame only came up with two sacks in its 31-13 win, but Cousins had to hurry most of his 53 throws. While he threw for 329 yards against the Irish, he wasn’t effective at keeping drives moving. Georgia brings the heat from all angles – led by linebackers Jarvis Jones and Cornelius Washington from the outside. Cousins doesn’t move, so he has to read the pressure and get the ball out of his hands in a hurry, even though he’s at his best when he gets time to let his great receivers work their way down the field.

The MSU secondary can be beaten. The stats are fantastic with the tenth-ranked pass defense in college football, but only a few teams on the slate could throw. Northwestern and Iowa each cranked out over 250 yards, and Minnesota stunningly threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Russell Wilson needed a miraculous heave to get over the 200-yard mark, but he and Wisconsin combined for 442 yards and five scores in the two games. Aaron Murray isn’t as efficient as Wilson, but he can spread the ball around and is used to operating under pressure. He’s great at getting the ball out quickly and he won’t be as bothered by the pass rush as Cousins will be on the other side. However …

Why Michigan State Might Win: The MSU pass defense stats might be a bit misleading, but the Georgia defensive stats are truly a mirage. The SEC was miserable at throwing the ball, and Georgia took advantage with 17 picks on the season while allowing just 11 scoring passes and 200+ yards four times. However, Boise State’s Kellen Moore and Tennessee’s Tyler Bray didn’t have any problems, and playing LSU, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Coastal Carolina helped give the pass defense a rest. The Dawgs haven’t seen a receiving corps as good as Michigan State’s and they’re about to be pushed.

Yes, Murray is good at producing under pressure, and yes, he’s used to being hit, but that doesn’t mean he’s as good against teams that can get to the quarterback. The Georgia offensive line has struggled in pass protection all season all season long, and with time to prepare, the Spartan defense should be frothing. With 40 sacks on the year including six against Northwestern, nine against Ohio State, and seven against Michigan, the Spartans shouldn’t have too many problems getting to Murray.

The run defense has held up all year allowing more than 200 yards just once – the regular season win over Wisconsin. Nine of the 11 rushing scores allowed came in four games – the two against the Badgers and the losses to Notre Dame and Nebraska. The Spartans are 9-0 when allowing fewer than two rushing touchdowns, and Georgia has only run for two or more against Coastal Carolina, Tennessee and New Mexico State. The Dawgs haven’t run for a score in their last three games.

What To Watch Out For: Is Aaron Murray ready for the NFL now? The third-year sophomore isn’t that big, but 2009’s star recruit out of Tampa has a cannon for a right arm and decent mobility and toughness. Without A.J. Green to throw to, Murray threw 33 touchdown passes and should surpass the 3,049 yards of last year with a decent performance against the Spartans, and the pressure will be on to carry the attack. He struggled under the pressure against LSU – everyone does – completing just 16-of-40 passes with two picks, and he threw three interceptions in the win over Mississippi State, but for the most part he’s been careful with the ball and he can’t force his passes against the swarming MSU secondary. Georgia is 1-3 over the last two years when he throws more than one pick; he gave up two in the bowl loss to UCF.

LSU ended up making the SEC championship a blowout with a big punt return for a score from Tyrann Mathieu and a bruising, pounding ground game that pummeled the Dawgs into the ground in the second half. Michigan State might be able to get the same thing with Keshawn Martin one of the nation’s most explosive punt returners and running back Le’Vion Bell on a roll.

Martin broke open the Northwestern game with a 57-yard return for a score and he finished the regular season averaging close to 12 yards per return. He should break one against Georgia’s soft punt coverage team, while Bell needs to balance out the Spartan offense after running for a bruising 106 yards and a score against Wisconsin. With 900 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year, he’s the most productive runner in the MSU rotation, and he’ll be fed the ball from the start. The Spartans are 4-0 when he runs for 100 yards.

Could Georgia get a huge game out of its star back? Freshman Isaiah Crowell showed flashes of brilliance early on, and he tore off 132 yards and a score against Auburn, but he’s been dinged up throughout the year with an ankle problem. The rest should make a huge difference after being held to just 26 yards on 12 carries over the final three games, and now he should be more explosive and be back to form.

What Will Happen: You’ll know within the first ten minutes whether or not Michigan State has it. Against Notre Dame and Nebraska it was obvious from the opening snap that the energy and fire weren’t there, and the results weren’t pretty. If the defense is swarming and Cousins gets a little bit of time – helped by the running of Bell – the Spartan offense will do just enough to get by. It’ll be a nip-and-tuck game throughout with MSU pulling out the win – and redemption – on a late field goal.

CFN Prediction: Michigan State 27 … Georgia 24
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Georgia -3.5   O/U: 52
Confidence Picks
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This is a win the Big Ten has to have. After last year's wipeout against Alabama, the veteran Spartans will show up and expose a Georgia team that waltzed through a soft schedule to get to the SEC title game. This is an angry MSU squad after being passed over by Michigan for a BCS game.

By Richard Cirminiello 
Battle of the runner-ups. One of a handful of huge games for the Big Ten, which has something to prove this postseason.

By Matt Zemek
Fun, fun, fun – that’s what this game will be. Aaron Murray and Kirk Cousins are going to sling the pigskin all over the ballyard and light up the scoreboard.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee  
These two teams played well down the stretch, but lost their respective conference championship games. Consider this a stepping stone for copious amounts of offseason hype.

By Russ Mitchell
Georgia got exposed by LSU at the SECCG. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, MSU lacks the running strength of the Tigers. But they have a a defense to rival the boys from the Bayou...MSU's pass efficiency defense is ranked tenth in the nation, run defense is twelfth, and total defense is fifth... Both teams had a soft second half, and both were whipped by their conference champion. Whichever teams comes out hungriest wins.

By Terry Johnson
Expect a defensive struggle in this game, as both Georgia (third) and Michigan State (fifth) rank in the top five nationally in total defense.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
Okay Sparty, are you for real or not. Beat a very good Georgia team and we’ll all finally believe.

Best Bowl Moments
 
Best Spartan Bowl Moment: While rival Michigan has a timeshare in Pasadena, it’s been a long time since Michigan State has played a meaningful game in January. The Spartans are 3-1 in the Rose Bowl, including a couple of wins over UCLA in the 1950s. In the 1954 game, No. 3 Michigan State rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit to pull out the win, getting a touchdown run and a back-breaking punt return for a score from running back Billy Wells.

Best Bulldog Bowl Moment: Georgia has a very rich bowl tradition that includes 45 invites and victories in the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Gator Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. Fueled by freshman sensation Herschel Walker, the Dawgs took a perfect mark into the 1981 Sugar Bowl, where No. 7 Notre Dame awaited. Walker shook off a dislocated shoulder in the first quarter to score a pair of touchdowns, leading Georgia to a 17-10 win and the national title.

Outback Bowl History
2011 Florida 37, Penn State 24
2010 Auburn 38, Northwestern 35 OT
2009 Tennessee 21, Wisconsin 17
2008 Iowa 31, South Carolina 10
2007 Penn State 20, Tennessee 10
2006 Florida 31, Iowa 24
2005 Georgia 24, Wisconsin 21
2004 Iowa 37, Florida 17
2003 Michigan 38, Florida 30
2002 South Carolina 31, Ohio St 28
2001 South Carolina 24, Ohio State 7
2000 Georgia 28, Purdue 25  OT
1999 Penn State 26, Kentucky 14
1998 Georgia 33, Wisconsin 6
1997 Alabama 17, Michigan 14
1996 Penn State 43, Auburn 14
1995 Wisconsin 34, Duke 20
1994 Michigan 42, NC State 7
1993 Tennessee 38, Boston Coll 23
1991 Clemson 30, Illinois 0
1990 Auburn 31, Ohio State 14
1989 Syracuse 23, LSU 10
1988 Michigan 28, Alabama 24
1986 Boston College 27, Georgia 24

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