5 Thoughts - 2009 Capital One Bowl
Michigan State RB Javon Ringer
Michigan State RB Javon Ringer
Posted Jan 1, 2009

Georgia beats Michigan State 24-12 ... 5 Thoughts on the 2009 Capital One Bowl

2009 Capital One Bowl

Georgia 24 ... Michigan State 12

GAME RECAP: Georgia & Stafford come through late
2009 CFN Capital One Bowl Preview 
2009 Capital One 2009 Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More

1. The three early games on New Year's Day were not very complicated at all. Iowa woke up for an 11 a.m. kickoff in the Outback Bowl. Nebraska and Clemson fought to see who would make fewer colossal mistakes in the Gator Bowl. In this battle between Georgia and Michigan State, the game turned when Bulldog signal caller Matthew Stafford snapped out of a funk, flipped the focus switch in the third quarter, and generally decided to compete. After two and a half quarters of looking like Jeff George, Stafford made a conscious choice to regain the form of the best NFL quarterback prospect in the country. The Spartans didn't fare too badly at most positions--much better than I expected, in fact--but the one spot on the field where they simply couldn't match up was under center. When Stafford got fed up with mediocrity and rediscovered excellence, Georgia pulled away. - Matthew Zemek

The old adage is that coaches like the bowls because 34 teams end on a high note, but that means there are 34 teams that end the year down. It's the hard part of the bowl season that a great year can suddenly look in a different light by losing the final game, but Michigan State needs to take the season half-full approach. Three years ago, MSU was a flaky program that showed no ability to bounceback from any adversity. Two years ago, under head coach Mark Dantonio, the team couldn't win the close games. This year, MSU couldn't beat the big boys. However, MSU made a great step forward in the progression to get to a New Year's Day, and now the tweaking has to continue for a team that had a fantastic year that can't be cast in a poor light just because of a loss like this. Georgia's defense swarmed, MSU didn't have the passing game to get things going to take the heat off of Javon Ringer, and the defense, while it held up for the most part, couldn't stop the possible No. 1 pick in the draft, Matthew Stafford, in the final 20 minutes. It was that simple, but it also showed that the team isn't that far off from being good enough to be a regular on the New Year's Day bowl circuit. - Pete Fiutak 

. While it came a little late in the season, the Georgia defense and its coordinator, Willie Martinez, gained some redemption in the Capital One Bowl. The unit kept the Dawgs in the game in the first half and then ended any chance for a Michigan State comeback in the final two quarters. The front four, in particular, was fantastic, harassing Brian Hoyer all afternoon and holding Javon Ringer to his worst game of the 2008 season. Knowshon Moreno and Matt Stafford will be featured in most of the recap footage, but some of the lesser-known Bulldogs, like senior linemen Jarius Wynn and Corvey Irvin, were the unsung heroes of this victory. - Richard Cirminiello 
4. Yes, Georgia made loads of miscues in the first half, but all in all, the coaching in this game proved to be very good. Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State staff came up with a great defensive scheme to contain Knowshon Moreno while confusing Matthew Stafford. It was hard for UGA coach Mark Richt to face the fact that he couldn't consistently run his stud tailback between the tackles, and with Stafford in a fog, it took a long time for Georgia to get going. 
To his credit, Richt finally got the memo, and in the third quarter, a steady diet of bubble screens--quick, safe passes designed to stretch the MSU defense while also blunting the forward push of the Spartans' superb front four--enabled Georgia to find an opening and hit paydirt. Shortly after a few of these bubble screens, Stafford used pump fakes and ball fakes to set up post patterns and wheel routes that scored touchdowns. Richt's offensive adjustment proved to be crucial in paving the way for Georgia's second-half surge.
Dantonio--while having a quality defensive plan--also used some big-league thinking on the offensive side of the ball. With 11 minutes left in the game, Dantonio ordered his team to go into hurry-up mode. Instead of waiting until the final few minutes of regulation, the Spartan boss boldly opted to change up the pace sooner than 98 percent of other coaches. The sped-up approach clearly allowed the Spartans to hold off Georgia's defensive front, which completely dominated Michigan State's offensive line for most of the afternoon. It was not an idle coincidence that MSU's one hurry-up drive was the one touchdown drive the Spartans mustered. Georgia was the better team, but Dantonio's alert mind kept his team competitive deep into the fourth quarter. 

2. Earlier in the week, I was told on the air that I had a man-crush on Matt Stafford. Yeah, I believe he has all of the tools to be an elite NFL quarterback, and apparently I’ve made that point a few too many times. That said, I think he should return to Athens for his senior year. I realize I’m in the minority and he’s likely to be a top 5 pick, but he still has plenty to learn. Why go through that education process as a member of the Detroit Lions or Kansas City Chiefs? The money will still be there in 2010, and with injuries forcing so much youth to the top of the depth chart, the Dawgs will be right back in the national title picture next fall. - Richard Cirminiello