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Unlike our last bowl meeting with Michigan State, nobody gets to come out of this one feeling good about themselves. If that's what it takes to motivate us to do better, then so be it.
Mark Richt made an indefensible decision in the overtime period against Michigan State. How much weight should we give to that mistake in evaluating Richt?
The No. 16 Georgia Bulldogs faced off against the No. 17 Michigan State Spartans on Sunday in the 2012 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. The end result was a wild, triple-overtime affair that saw Michigan State come from behind and ultimately emerge victorious, 33-30.
The first half of the game was all Georgia, as the Bulldogs racked up a 16-0 lead on a safety, an 80-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Tavarres King and a 92-yard punt return from Brandon Boykin.
The third quarter was all Michigan State as Le'Veon Bell had an 8-yard rushing touchdown and Darqueze Dennard grabbed a Murray interception and returned it for a pick-six. The fourth quarter opened with the Spartans only down 16-14.
In the fourth quarter, a 32-yard field goal by Blair Walsh pushed the Georgia lead to 19-14. Just 96 seconds later, the Spartans completed a four-play, 59-yard drive when Kirk Cousins completed a touchdown pass to Keith Nichol from seven yards out. A two-point conversion failed, but the Spartans took the lead for the first time in the game, 20-19. The Bulldogs answered back with a touchdown pass of their own, from Murray to Boykin from 17 yards out to once again take the lead, 27-20. The Bulldogs took over again on an interception, but were unable to move the ball and run out the clock and the Spartans got another chance to tie the game. They succeeded this time, when Bell pushed through with a goal-line touchdown to knot the game at 27-27 and send it to overtime.
The Spartans were able to take the first possession in first overtime, but the Bulldogs held them to third down and Bacarri Rambo then grabbed an interception to take control and have their first opportunity to score and potentially end the game.The Bulldogs went for a 42-yard field goal attempt on third down of their possession, but missed wide right, sending the game to a second overtime.
The Bulldogs had first possession this time, but the Spartans defense pushed them back to a 4th-and-15 situation and had to attempt a 47-yard field goal into the wind. This time, Walsh hooked it in to take the 30-27 lead and forcing the Spartans to score a touchdown in order to win. The Bulldogs defense was able to force the Spartans to try for a 35-yard field goal on 4th and 3. The snap was bad, but the kick was good, sending the game to third overtime, tied 30-30.
The Spartans took over first on offense in the third overtime, knowing that both teams have mandatory two-point conversion attempts following touchdowns for the rest of the game. Keshawn Martin dropped a third-down pass with an open route to the end zone, giving Dan Conroy yet another field goal attempt. A delay of game penalty on Michigan State made it a 28-yard attempt, but the kick was good, giving the ball to Georgia with the Spartans ahead 33-30.
Georgia quarterback Murray was sacked on third down of the Bulldogs possession, resulting in a 47-yard field goal attempt to keep Georgia alive. Walsh's kick was blocked, resulting in a 33-30 Michigan State win.
The Georgia Bulldogs held a 27-20 lead over the Michigan State Spartans in the fourth quarter of the Outback Bowl and followed that up with a big interception. It seemed as though they were all ready to walk away with a win.
Unfortunately, the Spartans defense was able to stymie the Bulldogs and keep them from running out the clock. The Bulldogs were forced to punt and that's when the Spartans began one last drive, led by quarterback Kirk Cousins.
The Spartans appeared to score with 34 seconds left, but replays showed that the running back's knee was down just a couple yards shy of the goal. The Bulldogs were charged with a facemask penalty and an offsides penalty to move the Spartans to 2nd and inches, which is when Michigan State was able to punch through on a short run by Le'Veon Bell. An extra point later (on a terrific job by the holder on a terrible snap) and the game was tied 27-27 and headed to overtime.
The Georgia Bulldogs led 16-0 at halftime, but the Michigan State Spartans climbed back into the game in the third and fourth quarters of the 2012 Outback Bowl.
Currently in the final quarter, the Bulldogs are clinging to a 27-20 lead and have just picked up a huge interception on a Spartans offensive drive.
In the fourth quarter, after Blair Walsh kicked a 41-yard field goal to push Georgia's lead to 19-14, Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins completed a touchdown pass to Keith Nichol. After a two-point conversion failed, the Spartans were up by a score of 20-19.
The Bulldogs answered right back with a touchdown pass of their own from Aaron Murray to Brandon Boykin to reclaim the lead, 27-20. The Spartans appeared to be threatening again with a drive, but the Bulldogs were able to grab an interception to take over once again.
With their offense unable to get anything going against a dominant Georgia defense, Michigan State's defense stepped up in the third quarter of the Outback Bowl.
Spartans sophomore CB Darqueze Dennard got his first career interception on a miscommunication between Aaron Murray and Tavarres King, as King began blocking on a Murray scramble, gift-wrapping an interception for Dennard.
Michigan State quickly took advantage of their field position, with Le'Veon Bell rushing for a 8-yard TD and Kirk Cousins finding TE Brian Linthicum in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion.
Later in the quarter, Dennard got Murray again, returning a pass 38 yards for a TD. However, Michigan State was unable to convert on their second two-point conversion, ending the third quarter down 16-14 to the Bulldogs.
With both defenses continuing to play extremely stout, Murray's two mistakes have turned a comfortable Georgia victory into a nail-biter likely to go down to the final minutes.
Isaiah Crowell's Outback Bowl is over, as Georgia's star RB has been ruled out of the second half after re-injuring his ankle in the second quarter.
Crowell had only 3 yards on 3 carries, but there hasn't been much running room for any of the Bulldogs backs against a tough Michigan State defensive line, with five different Georgia players rushing for only 21 yards on 16 carries so far.
The injury ends the highly touted 5'11 215 RB's freshman season.
Despite not quite living up to all the hype surrounding his decision to come to Athens, Crowell had a strong year, rushing for 847 yards and 5 TD's on 4.7 yards per carry while struggling through an ankle injury that kept him out of the Georgia Tech game.
With Crowell out, the Bulldogs will turn to fellow freshman Ken Malcome, who has had 18 yards on 6 carries in the game.
With Michigan State's highly-rated defense preventing Georgia from putting together long drives, the Bulldogs have opened up the Outback Bowl with big plays on both offense and special teams.
Late in the second quarter, Georgia CB Brandon Boykin returned a Mike Sadler punt 92 yards for a TD, running all the way back to the Bulldogs two-yard line before weaving his way untouched through the over-extended Spartans punt return team:
The play gives Boykin five career punt returns TD's, and it may end up being the final highlight of an excellent four-year career in Athens.
The 5'10 183 CB is already the career kickoff return leader at Georgia, and he is the only player in SEC history with three plays of 100+ yards.
A three-year starter in the defensive back-field, Boykin was named as a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as a senior.
He has 9 career interceptions and 152 tackles, including a textbook tackle on a bubble screen for a safety that gave the Bulldogs an early 2-0 lead.
After a first half dominated by two top-rated defenses, with Georgia and Michigan State combining for over a dozen tackles behind the line of scrimmage, Aaron Murray blew the Outback Bowl wide open on a beautiful 80-yard bomb that traveled 55 yards through the air to Tavarres King:
Neither team has been able to get anything going through the ground, as both defensive lines have controlled the line of scrimmage.
Murray, meanwhile, has managed the game while still connecting for big plays, completing 13 of 16 passes for 186 yards and 1 TD.
Despite how well the Spartans defense played in the first half, the Bulldogs have left a lot of points on the field, as they were stopped on a 4rth-and-1 at the Michigan State six-yard line while Murray coughed up a fumble on another drive in Michigan State territory.
With the way the Georgia defense has been playing, it could be a long second half for Kirk Cousins, who will have to lead Michigan State back through the air while the Bulldogs defensive line pins their ears back and rushes the passer.
The first few drives of the 2012 Outback Bowl couldn't have gone better for Georgia, as the Bulldogs pinned Michigan State on their own 1-yard line and forced a safety.
Then, with the field position they received from returning the safety punt, Georgia moved the ball deep into the Spartans red zone.
However, with a fourth-and-1 at the Michigan State 6-yard line, Mark Richt's gamble came up short, as RB Ken Malcome was stopped behind the line of scrimmage by an aggressive Spartans defensive line.
The Spartans only drive into Georgia territory was ended when Bulldogs S Shawn Williams sniffed out a double reverse for a 9-yard loss. Michigan State has been known for their use of gadget plays under fifth-year head coach Mark Dantonio.
Michigan State tried a quick bubble screen to give themselves some breathing room, but Georgia, and their star senior CB Brandon Boykin, was ready for it:
Boykin was down on the field for a minute, but he walked off seemingly unhurt.
Monday's Outback bowl match-up between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Michigan State Spartans will pit two of the nation's top five defenses against each other. Michigan State finished fifth in the country allowing 272.7 yards per game while the Bulldogs finished third allowing just 268.5.
A win by the Bulldogs would be their No. 27 in 47 career appearances trailing only Alabama, USC and Oklahoma. It woud also give Georgia its fourth season of at least 11 victories under Mark Richt. Michigan State is looking for its first bowl victory under head coach Mark Dantonio who is 0-4.
Game date/time: Monday, January 2, 2012, 1:00 p.m. ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Spread: Georgia favored by three points
Series History: Georgia leads all-time series 2-0 with both meetings occurring in bowl games. Georgia defeated Michigan State 34-27 in the 1989 Gator Bowl and 24-12 in the 2009 Capital One Bowl.
Quite a turnaround for Georgia Bulldogs running back Ken Malcome. After being upset with his playing time in Week 1, threatening a transfer weeks later, and being suspended in early November, Malcome is now expected to start against the Michigan St. Spartans in the 2012 Outback Bowl.
Malcome ranks No. 6 on the team in rushing yards this year, behind former walk-on Brandon Harton, quarterback Aaron Murray and Richard Samuel, who's been injured since the Florida game. He has only 30 carries -- just 19 more than cornerback Branden Smith -- but has taken a larger role at the end of the year, totaling 21 in Weeks 11 and 12 and five in the SEC Championship Game.
After a lackluster 2010 season, Mark Richt helped guide the Bulldogs to a 10 win season in 2011 culminating in an appearance in the SEC Championship game and a trip to the Outback Bowl. Richt was recently asked about criticisms he routinely receives from inside his own state about his program and and how he handles them.
Richt offered a well thought out answer to the question and added a nugget promising bigger and better things for the Bulldogs program in the future.
"As the leader of the program if I act like I'm fretting or if I act like I'm mad at something, it doesn't help the staff, it doesn't help the players, it doesn't help recruiting. It doesn't help anything. I know the University of Georgia is a great place to be. We've got tremendous facilities, great support from our fans, great support from our administration. We've got a bunch of coaches that know what we're doing."
Then he added this: "We're going to be knocking on the door of the greatest success that you can have in college football. If we keep knocking hard enough, one day we'll get there. That's kind of how I see it."
With a young nucleus intact, Richt appears justified in his future claims about the program and where it is going.
Another year, another slate of bowl games pitting the SEC against the Big Ten and other lower-tier conferences. Here's why Mike Slive needs to bite the bullet and step up the SEC's game.
In yet another sign that the Georgia football program is putting the 2010 season behind them, the Bulldogs arrived to Tampa Bay to practice for the Outback Bowl without any academically ineligible players.
Before last year's Liberty Bowl, three Bulldogs, including RB Caleb King, were ruled out because of academic problems.
Georgia went on to lose the game 10-6 to Central Florida and finish the year 6-7, giving Mark Richt his first below-.500 season in 11 seasons in Athens:
"It gets rid of a lot of distractions," quarterback Aaron Murray said. "We had a couple last season, and we don’t have to worry about that now. We just have to worry about practicing, getting ready for the bowl game."
With their team at full strength, a win over Michigan State on Jan. 2 would give the Bulldogs 11 wins and put them in position for a top 10 ranking in next season's preseason polls.
Even if you take into account a down year for the SEC's offenses, Georgia's performance on defense in 2011 was extraordinary.
Michigan State, the Big Ten's runner-up, is understandably vexed by the perception that it plays in a conference inferior to that of its 2012 Outback Bowl opponent, Georgia. Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins says Michigan State is looking for respect and a win over Georgia:
"You want to be a program that is well respected around the country, you have to beat the teams that already are, and Georgia’s certainly one of those teams," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "We feel like a win in this game will go a long ways."
Certainly, a win would help the Spartans' stature, at least on a national stage, but that's in part because the last time Michigan State met an SEC team, Alabama eviscerated it, 49-7, in the 2011 Capital One Bowl. And there was some optimism on the Spartans' side back then, too.
Maybe its a slight dig at the Michigan Wolverines, or maybe he actually means it, but Michigan State wide receiver Keith Nichol is not taking anything for granted in the 2012 Outback Bowl versus the Georgia Bulldogs.
WR Keith Nichol said beating Georgia in the Outback Bowl would mean more than the team’s fourth straight victory over Michigan this season. "People know what it takes to beat Michigan now. People don’t know what it takes to win a bowl game yet. That would set a great example for the younger guys."
The showdown between the Spartans and the Bulldogs will commence in Tampa, Florida at 1:00 pm ET, Monday, January 2nd on ABC.
Could Aaron Murray's backup be leaving Athens? The Marietta native is considering a transfer out of UGA for a shot at starting.
He may not have posted the eye-popping stats of 2010, but Murray deserves credit for keeping it together with his receiving corps in major rebuilding mode.
Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said on Tuesday that he would be shocked if his defense didn't have to face Georgia Bulldogs running back Isaiah Crowell when the two teams face off on New Years Day in the Outback Bowl.
Crowell is Georgia's top rusher, accumulating 847 rushing yards and five touchdowns throughout his freshman season. He was named the South East Conferences Freshman of the Year in 2011 despite being benched in the team's Oct. 15 game against Vanderbilt and missing the team's Nov. 5 game against New Mexico State for allegedly failing a drug test.
Rumors circulated that Crowell was going to seek a transfer from Georgia but he denied the rumors saying that he is happy in Georgia.
Crowell has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in 2011 and the Spartans' fifth-ranked defense will likely have its hands full.
With the Georgia Bulldogs wrapping up on-campus practices for the 2011 Outback Bowl Tuesday, the injury status of a few of their players is still unclear:
marcweiszer Marc WeiszerRicht uncertain if DE DeAngelo Tyson & LB Mike Gilliard will play in Outback Bowl. P Drew Butler expected to play. All w/ ankle injuries.
Gilliard, a 6'2 220 junior LB, started 11 games for Georgia this year, with 64 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 INT, and was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week after the Tennessee game.
Tyson, a 6'2 306 senior DE, has 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks this season, despite missing the last four games with the same ankle injury.
Butler, a 6'2 215 senior punter, has been one of the Bulldogs' most consistent performers all season, booting 51 punts for a net average of 44.3 yards.
The Outback Bowl will be the last game of Tyson and Butler's college careers, so you would expect that they would make every effort to get themselves ready to play on Jan. 2.
The Athens-Banner Herald profiled Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's rise through the coaching ranks - a career boosted in large part by a three-year tenure with Nick Saban at Michigan State, the Dawgs' Outback Bowl opponent:
"Nick Saban’s probably been as a big an influence on my career as anybody," Grantham said. "Just the three years I was able to spend with him and his coaching and the way he ran his program and the way we did things there. … The volume of stuff we did, the way we called things and that whole process. Everything from the way we recruited to the way we game-planned. There’s a reason Nick’s won, and I was fortunate enough to be with him for three years. I owe a lot to him for my success."
The profile goes on to note the similarities between Saban's work at MSU and its influence on both Grantham's schemes at Georgia and the current MSU system. But it wouldn't be a Todd Grantham profile without a shred of controversy would it? Behold, band smack:
"There’s a lot of tradition in that conference," Grantham said of the Big Ten. "There’s a lot of passion up there from the fans. It is important to do well. Big Ten bands are cool, too."
Yeah, but has a B1G band covered Cee-Lo with indie darlings Band of Horses? Advantage: Redcoats.
Freshman running back Isaiah Crowell acknowledged that the ankle sprain that bothered him at the end of the season is no longer an issue but the Bulldogs leading rusher is still taking snaps with the second-team as they prepare for the Outback Bowl against Michigan State.
"I think I need to be more accountable and just handle my responsibilities better, Teammates and coaches are counting on me to do what I'm supposed to do."
Injuries and suspensions have overshadowed a season in which Crowell is still on pace to finish with the third-most rushing yards all time by a freshman. With 44 yards, Crowell will move past Rodney Hampton and trail only Knowshon Moreno and Herschel Walker.
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo says that Malcome and Crowell are competing for the starting job with Brandon Harton working as the third-team running back. Both Richard Samuel and Carlton Thomas are limited and recovering from injuries although both could figure into the picture in time to play in the game.
For more on the Isaiah Crowell and the Georgia running back situation, be sure to visit Dawg Sports.
Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that despite denials he's planning to leave the University of Georgia early, All-SEC tight end Orson Charles will seek a draft evaluation along with his teammates.
Joining Charles in seeking a draft evaluation - which does not constitute an official declaration, and does not hinder a student athlete from returning to college - is junior safety Bacarri Rambo and yes, even redshirt sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who the AJC reports "isn't seriously considering" a jump to the NFL.
Rambo, a first-team Associated Press All-America selection, said he would wait until after the bowl game to decided if he would return for his senior season. Georgia's other All-America defender, linebacker Jarvis Jones, has stated emphatically he will return for the 2012 season.
Of the players filing for evaluations, Charles seems to be the most serious about a potential declaration:
"To tell you the truth, I'm blessed to have a decision in the first place," he said. "I grew up just hoping to have a decision like this. It's really going to come down to what the Lord wants me to do. I'm going to pray about it, talk to my family and definitely wait until after the Michigan State game, and take it from there."
Draft-eligible players have until January 15 to submit paperwork to officially declare for the NFL Draft, and until January 18 to withdraw.
The Georgia Bulldogs and Michigan State Spartans will meet in a bowl game for the third time in the 2012 Outback Bowl. Georgia has a 2-0 record in those two games, and will be looking to stay spotless.
The two teams' first match-up came in the first of two 1989 Gator Bowls, a 34-27 Georgia win; the Gator Bowl after the 1988 season was held in January 1989, while the 1989 season's Gator Bowl was held in December. Georgia quarterback Wayne Johnson was named MVP.
The other Bulldogs-Spartans battle is significantly more recent: Georgia topped Michigan State, 24-12, in the 2008 Capital One Bowl. Knowshon Moreno and Javon Ringer both disappointed in the game, combining for just over 100 yards on the ground, and the Bulldogs pulled away late with a touchdown pass from MVP Matt Stafford to Moreno.
After missing the last five games of the regular season with an ankle injury, Georgia RB Richard Samuel is expected to play in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2:
marcweiszer Marc WeiszerRicht expects TB Richard Samuel (ankle) to play in bowl. Will go full speed when team practices in Tampa. Will stay at TB next year.
Samuel, a 6'2 243 junior, rushed for 240 yards and 1 TD on 70 carries as part of the Bulldogs' tailback by committee approach this season.
However, he had the lowest yards per attempt (3.3) of the four Georgia RB's who got more than 50 carries this season, behind junior Carlton Thomas (5.1) and the freshman duo of Isaiah Crowell (4.7) and Brandon Harton (4.7).
The Bulldogs will need all of their offensive threats against Michigan State's defense, which has given up only 17.5 points a game this season, ninth best in the nation.
The redshirt sophomore was a finalist for the Dick Butkus and voted the team's most valuable defensive player this season. Jones has started all 13 games and leads the Bulldogs with 69 tackles, including 19.5 TFL, 13.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and 42 QBPs. Jones is first in the SEC and third in NCAA in sacks (1.04 per game) and first in the SEC and tenth in the entire nation in TFL (1.50 per game). So, he good.
Joining Jones are Luke Kuechly of Boston College and Dont'a Hightower of Alabama, one of 12 SEC players picked by the SN Nation staff, by far the most of any conference.
In a sign of the renewed interest in Georgia football after the Bulldogs' bounce-back 10-3 season, the school announced they have sold out their allotment of 12,000 tickets from the Outback Bowl:
"We continue to move them, but our block is gone," Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said. "It’s reassuring and comforting to know that our fans have responded like that. I think it’s a reflection of the way our fans have responded not only to the Boise State game, the SEC championship game and season tickets. It’s a tremendous credit to our fans who do a great job. That helps you down the road with other bowls in the future."
As McGarity alluded to, the ability of a fan base to "travel well" is one of the main things bowl committees look for in selecting teams.
Georgia's ability to sell tickets stands in sharp contrast to their opponent, Michigan State, who have sold only 5,000 tickets so far.
With a re-invigorated fan base and a young team set to return most of its key players, the Bulldogs have set themselves up for a good shot at an at-large spot in a BCS bowl at minimum next year.
For the Michigan State Spartans, they were THIS close to reaching their ultimate prize for the season, an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately, the Wisconsin Badgers had different plans. So instead of facing off against the Oregon Ducks, the Spartans will have to settle for the Georgia Bulldogs (another loser in a conference championship) in the Outback Bowl.
Problem? Yes, the fans aren't nearly as eager to buy tickets as they would've been for the Rose Bowl. The Spartans have sold only 5,000 of its ticket allotment of 11,500 for the Outback Bowl thus far.
Per Detroit Free Press contributor George Sipple talking with Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis:
"It’s slower than you would want, but there’s some understanding of the temperature of the fan base right now," Hollis said. "Starting last night ... the marketing campaign hit Florida pretty hard. Trying to hit the 20,000 alums that live down there."
"The fan support in Indianapolis was off-the-charts. You’re sitting one play away from the Rose Bowl, but this is an outstanding bowl game and one of the best matchups out there."
The Georgia Bulldogs and the Michigan State Spartans will square off in the 2012 Outback Bowl on January 2nd.
For the latest news and analysis on Georgia football, check out Dawg Sports, and for more on Michigan State, head over to The Only Colors. For everything college football, check out SB Nation's college football news hub.
After a disappointing two-year down swing that had many questioning Mark Richt's job security, the Georgia Bulldogs rebounded with a 10-3 season, an SEC East title and a bid in a post-New Year's Day Bowl.
Another sign of Georgia's re-emergence came Wednesday, with most of the country's biggest media outlets releasing their NCAA All-American lists.
Charles, a 6'3 214 junior TE, finished with 44 catches for 572 yards and 5 TD's this season. One of QB Aaron Murray's favorite targets, he made the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) first-team and the Walter Camp second-team.
Jones, a 6'3 240 redshirt LB who sat out last season after transferring from USC, was a dominant force for the Bulldog defense. He finished with 69 tackles and 13.5 sacks this season, making four first-teams: the AP, FWAA (Football Writers Association of America), the AFCA and Walter Camp.
Rambo, a 6'0 218 junior S, had 53 tackles and 7 INT's this season. He made the AP first-team and the Walter Camp second-team.
Senior OT Cordy Glenn was also named to the AP All-American third team.
Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt stated on Monday that he will be opening up the starting job at running back the SEC runner-ups will begin preparations for their battle in the Outback Bowl versus the Michigan State Spartans on January 2nd.
Talented but oft injured freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell continued to struggle with a left ankle injury against LSU in the SEC Championship last Saturday. Crowell finished with just 15 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas, Ken Malcome, Branden Smith and Brandon Harton have all carried the ball for Mark Richt's offense. Samuel, Thomas and Smith have all started at running back along with Crowell who is considered as the No. 1 RB on the Georgia depth chart.
The Michigan State Spartans will bring the Big Ten's number one rushing defense into the Outback Bowl, so all hands on deck will be needed for the rushing attack to succeed.
In a match-up of two teams coming off losses in their respective conference championship games, the No. 18 Georgia Bulldogs are two-point favorites over the No. 13 Michigan State Spartans in the Outback Bowl.
Georgia's offense, which averages 32.2 points a game, will be tested by Michigan State's defense, which gave up only 17.5 points, 9th best in the nation.
Of course, most of that defensive success came in Big Ten play, as the Spartans only non-conference opponent of note, Notre Dame, defeated them 31-13.
The Outback Bowl will be the latest in a long-running feud between fans of the Big Ten and the SEC, the two most popular conferences in college football. Many Southern fans believe that players from the Midwest can't compete with the team speed in the SEC, an idea that gained weight after Florida's stunning upset of Ohio State in the 2006 national championship game.
Offensively, Michigan State is led by senior QB Kirk Cousins, a 6'3 205 senior who completed 65% of his passes for 3,016 yards, 34 TD's an 7 INT's.
Cousins, a three-year starter, will try to reverse the Spartans' recent bowl history under coach Mike Dantonio. Michigan State has lost four consecutive bowl games, including a 49-7 drubbing to Alabama in last year's Capital One Bowl.
The Bulldogs' young defense, after giving up 35 points to Boise State and 45 to South Carolina in their first two games, has improved as the season has progressed. They are currently ranked 17th in total defense, giving up an average of 19.2 points a game.
However, they haven't faced a passing attack as potent as the Spartans since those first two games, as SEC powers like Florida, Tennessee and Auburn went through down seasons that featured turmoil at the QB position.
After going through a two-year down-swing, this is the first post New Year's Day Bowl for Georgia since the 2008 Capital One Bowl, when they beat the Spartans 24-12 in Matthew Stafford's last college game.
The game will be widely be viewed as another referendum on the Big Ten's competitive viability with the SEC. Sparty got rolled last year by the Alabama Crimson Tide, and Georgia's 2011 defense is just a notch behind what Bama's was last year. Then again, MSU has a very good defense of its own. So this game will be like 37-34.
Two of the nation's top five defenses, making for the only game outside of the BCS National Championship Game to match such highly ranked Ds. Georgia's offense ranks No. 39, while MSU's ranks No. 60.
The Outback Bowl is taking the time to prepare a delicious meal for you, but it's time for a peek into the kitchen. It sounds like were getting exactly what we ordered: the Georgia Bulldogs against the Michigan St. Spartans.
@marcweiszer As everything indicated, it's Georgia vs. Michigan State in Outback Bowl, according to Detroit News. Official announcement at 8:20 p.m.
It's not the bowl the Dawgs had hoped for, but it's a January bowl against a Big Ten division champ. Last year, Sparty headed to Florida and got dismantled by the Alabama Crimson Tide, an outcome UGA fans are already surely hoping to see a repeat of.
Game date, time: 1:00 pm ET, Monday, January 2nd
Location: Tampa, Florida
TV channel: ABC
2010 winner and loser: Florida, Penn State
While things are shaky at the top of the BCS standings as to who will face off versus the LSU Tigers in the national championship game in New Orleans, things have become relatively crystal clear for the Georgia-based schools, based on the latest 2011 bowl projections.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, all signs point to the boys from Atlanta making a trip down to El Paso, Texas to play in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Their likely opponents will be the Utah Utes of the Pac-12, a 7-5 team who just missed out on playing on the conference championship.
For the Georgia Bulldogs, now 10-3, their valiant attempt at pulling off the upset versus LSU in the SEC title game was thoroughly squashed in the second half in a 42-10 loss. However, their reward for their successful 2011 turnaround season will likely be a New Years' Day bowl game. Georgia could look to face off versus the 10-3 Michigan State Spartans, who similarly lost in their conference title game versus Wisconsin on Saturday, in the Capital One Bowl game in Orlando.
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