Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 5:00 PM
Based on all the media reports you’ve been hearing, there’s NO WAY that the Alabama Crimson Tide are going to make the mistake of looking past another Big 10 opponent in the National Semifinal. They took Ohio State for granted last year. Ohio State took home a trophy! Nick Saban has been adamant. The players are saying the right things. Yet, those players have also been watching game films of:
*Michigan State struggling badly on offense in what was ultimately a 17-14 win over Ohio State to win the Big 10 West…
*Michigan state struggling badly on offense in what was ultimately a 16-13 win over Iowa in the Big 10 Championship game…
Alabama players KNOW they have a better defense than Ohio State and Iowa. This have one of the best defenses the sport has seen in recent years. Anything Sparty can do to scare them? If so, that innovation would have shown up in MSU’s two biggest games of the year.
So, no matter what the coaches and players say about Thursday night’s Cotton Bowl, there’s a danger of relaxing at the wrong time once again. Michigan State has nothing to lose. Michigan State is sick and tired of hearing they don’t have a chance in this one. Michigan State just spent a few weeks learning from what Ohio State did last year to stem the Tide.
Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the second National Semifinal…and the ultimate championship hopes of the Cotton Bowl winner…
Alabama: 12-1 (7-1 in the SEC West, faced #4 schedule in Sagarin)
Michigan State: 12-1 (7-1 in the Big 10 East, faced #44 schedule in Sagarin)
Very similar records…but a big difference in schedules. Alabama thrived against one of the toughest slates in the nation. They mostly dominated except for a five-turnover debacle in a home loss to Ole Miss. Michigan State had a very weak schedule outside of Ohio State and Iowa (catching Oregon at a good time). The offense had serious troubles in those two nailbiter wins.
Alabama: 5.8 on offense, 4.1 on defense
Michigan State: 5.6 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Interesting that the offenses are almost the same. Alabama doesn’t focus on big plays. Well, after that five-turnover disaster they stopped trying high risk passes so often. Both offenses hope to march down the field on you. Both can be stopped from marching by good defenses. Obviously Alabama has the superior defense. Amazing performance this year on that side of the ball considering how many talented weapons they faced on opposing SEC teams.
2015 Turnover Differential
Michigan State: +16
This is where Michigan State has a chance to make it interesting. This offense may not sparkle, but it doesn’t make fatal mistakes either. If Sparty plays clean…and maybe forces a turnover or two from the Tide…we will have an upset in the making. We should note that Alabama did improve in this stat after a sluggish start. Easy to do that if you just keep handing off to a stud running back all night. Michigan State must deny, or at least discourage that option.
2015 Market Performance
Alabama: 7-6 ATS
Michigan State: 5-7-1 ATS
Alabama is typically priced to perfection. They won a few cents anyway! More importantly, they really shone in “big” games after learning some lessons in September. Michigan State was slightly overrated this year. The bulk of that issue involved an offense that just couldn’t score enough to clear big hurdles. That’s less of a problem when you’re a big dog.
Alabama: Jake Coker (222-338-8-2489 with 17 TDs)
Michigan State: Connor Cook (210-369-5-2921 with 24 TDs)
Not a lot was being asked of Jake Coker after that first month. He went back to being a game manager. Connor Cook has playmaking potential given that 24-5 TD/INT ratio. But, he also has a tendency to try to run to daylight when a first down is needed. He’d better not run himself into a collision and injury or the Spartans will have no chance to get on the board.
Current Line: Alabama by 10, total of 47
That’s a projected final score of 28.5 to 18.5. Michigan State couldn’t make it to 18.5 vs. Ohio State and Iowa. They may need a cheap TD or two to make it that high Thursday. Though, if this is going to be a smash mouth wrestling match in the trenches…Alabama may have some trouble getting past 28.5 themselves. Both teams will be running clock and playing the percentages. Sharps have already moved the total down two points with early betting action (from 49 to 47).
JIM HURLEY knows how important New Year’s Eve is to making a big score this year. You have the two National Semifinals plus Houston/Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl…and that sets up the FIVE-GAME NEW YEAR’S BASH the next day. He understand that his clients expect BIG, JUICY WINNERS and he’s ready to deliver!
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We’ll bounce back to the NFL once the Final Four is in the rearview mirror…and start gearing up for conference play in college hoops…
Weekend: NFL TV Preview…Minnesota at Green Bay on NBC
Monday: College Basketball Conference Report
Midweek and Weekend: NFL Wildcard Previews!
Monday January 11: College Football Championship Preview!
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