The Outback Bowl features two teams who lost their conference championships and missed out on the opportunity to play in a BCS bowl, representing their leagues’ bids.
Michigan State was one game away from playing in the Rose Bowl, but could not defeat Wisconsin for the second time this season in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. The Spartans beat the Badgers 37-31 on an end-of-game Hail Mary as time expired on October 29th in the rematch in Indy, Wisconsin evened the season series winning 42-39. Michigan State will be seeking their first bowl victory under head coach Mark Dantonio, amassing a record of 0-4 in five years.
The offense is led by senior QB Kirk Cousins who is ranked 16th nationally in pass efficiency at 151.37. On the season, Cousins has 3016 yards, 24 TDs and only seven INTs and is the winningest QB in Michigan State history. His prime target is BJ Cunningham, the all-time school leader in receiving yards, who has caught 72 passes for 1240 yards and 12 TDs this season. RB Le’Veon Bell provides a balance to the Spartan’s passing game, rushing for 900 yards and 11 TDs and catching 30 passes for 228 yards. The Spartans were effective in protecting the football, committing only 15 turnovers all season.
Michigan State’s defense is led by two LBs and a DT that helped anchor a squad ranked ninth nationally holding opponents to 17.5 points per game. LB Denicos Allen was tied for eighth in the FBs with 10 sacks and tied for 18th with 17 TFL, LB William Gholston was 12th in the Big Ten with 11 TFL, and DT Jerel Worthy recorded 3.5 sacks. The Spartan’s hold opponents to an FBS 12th-best 104.31 yards per game and an 11th-best pass defense, allowing only 168.4 ypg.
After starting the season 0-2, the Bulldogs went on a 10-game winning streak that ended with a 42-10 loss to top-ranked LSU in the SEC championship December 3rd.
Georgia had a balanced offense rushing for 172.7 yards per game while throwing for 255.4. QB Aaron Murray spread the ball out, throwing touchdown passes to 10 different receivers this season. Murray threw for 2861 yards, 33 TDs and 12 INTs while rushing for 124 yards and two scores. RB Isaiah Crowell led all SEC freshmen in rushing with 847 yards, but has been inconsistent rushing for a season-high of 133 against Ole Miss and a low of 11 against Kentucky. Murray will need solid play from his top three targets Malcolm Mitchell, Orson Charles and Tavarres King as well as a productive outing from Crowell in order to loosen up the stingy Spartan defense.
Georgia’s defense is led by sophomore LB Jarvis Jones, who ranked third nationally in sacks with 1.04 per game and forced two fumbles. The Bulldogs are tied for 16th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 19.6 points per game, 11th in rushing defense with 103.38 ypg, and seventh against the pass holding teams to 165.1 yards per game.
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Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc