Michigan State's Football meeting up with an old friend at the Capital One Bowl Today

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Michigan State's Football meeting up with an old friend at the Capital One Bowl Today

Post  Admin on Sat Jan 01, 2011 3:42 am

When Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio suffered a mild heart attack in September, Nick Saban called his former assistant to wish him a speedy recovery.
The close friends will face each other for the first time when the No. 7 Spartans take on 15th-ranked Alabama in the Capital One Bowl at Orlando, Fla., on New Year’s Day.
Dantonio served as Saban’s assistant at Michigan State from 1995-99 until Saban left for LSU, and they have remained close through the years. Dantonio said his time as an assistant gave him the chance to coach the Spartans, and he credits Saban for making him part of the Michigan State program.
Saban went 0-3 in bowl games at Michigan State, and he resigned before the team’s Citrus Bowl victory after guiding the Spartans to a 9-2 record in his final season. Current Alabama assistant Bobby Williams, who succeeded Saban as head coach, led Michigan State to a 37-34 win against Florida.
A share of its first conference championship in 20 years and a school record for wins didn’t help Michigan State (11-1) earn the program’s first BCS invitation, finishing behind fellow Big Ten champions Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The Spartans feel a matchup with the preseason No. 1 and 2009 national champion Crimson Tide will be a good measuring stick in determining if they were worthy of competing at that level.
The matchup, however, doesn’t seem to favor the Spartans on paper, and their task got a little more difficult now that leading receiver B.J. Cunningham is out after breaking his foot in practice Dec. 18.
Cunningham led the team with 50 receptions for 611 yards and nine touchdowns. Michigan State does have other options, though. Mark Dell caught 49 passes for 761 yards, and Keshawn Martin added 29 catches.
The Crimson Tide (9-3) led the SEC giving up 14.1 points and 296.0 yards per game. Alabama also forced 21 interceptions, and Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins has thrown five of them in his last four games.
Running back Edwin Baker ranked third in the Big Ten with 1,187 yards, but the Crimson Tide’s rush defense allowed 33.9 per game.
Spartans senior linebacker Greg Jones is the only AP first-team All-American on either team and is the lone repeat member from the 2009 honorees. Jones led the team with 98 tackles and will attempt to help slow an Alabama offense averaging 435.6 yards. Michigan State ranked third in the Big Ten in total defense, giving up 337.8 yards per game.
Michigan State has lost its last four bowl games, while Alabama has alternated wins and losses in its past eight.


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