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NCAA Bowl Previews 2015/16: Goodyear Cotton Bowl

One half of the National Championship has pretty much been decided, time to decide the other. It’s the Cotton Bowl and time for the (2) Al


One half of the National Championship has pretty much been decided, time to decide the other. It’s the Cotton Bowl and time for the (2) Alabama Crimson Tide to do battle with the (3) Michigan State Spartans to decide who’ll be going to the Natty! It should never be a surprise to see the Crimson Tide in the top-4 come the end of the year. Last year they made the College Football Playoffs but were upset by the eventual National Champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes. This year they’ll be looking to reach their 3 National Championship in 5 years. Offensively, this team’s success is focused around Heisman Trophy winner, RB Derrick Henry, thus, their offensive stats are as balanced, but they are by means bad. They rank 51st in total yards per game (423 YPG), 73rd in passing yards per game (214.3 PYG), 28th in rushing yards per game (208 RYG) and 33rd in points per game (34.1 PPG). Defensively though, they’re incredible. They rank 2nd in total defense (258 YPG), 17th in passing (184.2 PYG), 1st in rushing (74 RYG) and 3rd in scoring (14.4 PPG). Their defensive prowess, particularly against the run, should not come as a surprise as they have 4 potential 1st-rounders in their front-7. That group is led by ILB Reggie Ragland. Ragland is big, strong, physical and a better runner than you may think. He excels against the run but does need to improve in coverage, though he has the instincts to be an NFL linebacker, and that’s key for scouts. DT A’Shawn Robinson looks like an NFL DT. He is immensely strong and dominated against the run and pass. Lining up next to him is Jarran Reed. Where he doesn’t receive as much attention as Robinson, he is the anchor of the defensive line. He is excellent at the point of attack with great leverage and awareness to know where bodies are around him. Last but not least is DE Jonathan Allen. Allen brings versatility to this d-line. He can pressure the QB off the edge or line up inside as a 3-technique an cause just as much disruption. He has good length and he uses his hands very well. Don’t be surprised to see all 4 of these guys go in the 1st/2nd round. It’s Alabama, so naturally they have a ton of NFL prospects; RB Derrick Henry (if he declares), C Ryan Kelly, CB Cyrus Jones, OT Dominick Jackson, QB Jake Coker, LLB Dillon Lee, LB Denzel Devall, DE D.J. Pettway, TE Ty Flournoy-Smith, WR Richard Mullaney, CB Bradley Sylve and SS Geno Matias-Smith will all be looking to put on a show to carry the Tide to the National Championship. Whilst Michigan State haven’t been as successful as ‘Bama, at least historically, under the guidance of head coach Mark Dantonio they have become one of the best teams in the nation. The Spartans will be looking to build from their Big-10 Championship, to try to go on to win their first National Championship since 1966. Offensively, they rank 68th in total yards (397 YPG), 53rd in passing (236.1 PYG), 80th in rushing (160.7 RYG) and 33rd in scoring (34.1 PPG). Defensively, they certainly make up for their average offensive numbers. They rank 26th in total yards (343 YPG), 75th in passing (229.8 PYG), 7th in rushing (113.1 RYG) and tied for 19th in scoring (20.5 PPG). Now, they may not blow you away with their stats, but they sure as hell know how to win, so don’t let these stats trick you into thinking they’ve already lost. One of the reasons for Michigan State’s success is the strength of their senior class, headlined by redshirt senior QB Conner Cook. Cook is in the discussion for the top QB of the draft but I think is ultimately behind Goff in that respect. Nevertheless, he is still a good candidate to be a 1st round pick as he has something that none of the others do: sustained success in a pro-style system. Though there are worries about his character, he has plenty of tape to show that he can make lots of NFL-type throws, has effortless arm strength and can throw with touch and anticipation. He has the physical traits to make him very attractive the NFL scouts. Joining Cook in looking to make to make sure this isn’t their last game as a Spartan are; OT Jack Conklin, DE Shilique Calhoun, WR Aaron Burbridge, C Jack Allen, DT Joel Heath, CB Arjen Colquhoun, WR DeAnthony Arnett, FB Trevon Pendleton, LB Darien Harris, LS Taybor Pepper, DT Lawrence Thomas, OG Donavon Clark and WR Macgarrett Kings Jr. If you want to watch this game, or any of the other Bowl games, the complete Bowl schedule can be found here, where you’ll be able to see how and when you can watch every game.  

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Remy Cabache

Lifetime sports fan. I have written with RealSport since the NFL section started and I have also written for my own blog, EbonyBird.com and I have had several articles published in local newspapers covering my local (American) football team.

NCAA Bowl Previews 2015/16: Goodyear Cotton Bowl

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