The Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida will host two teams that won their respective divisions during conference play, and both teams lost in their conference championship games. This SEC versus BIG 10 matchup will put the University of Georgia Bulldogs (10-3) against the Michigan State Spartans (10-3) on January 2, 2012 at 1:00 PM on ABC. Both teams are coming off of wild rides during the season. Georgia is a team that lost their first two football games of the season, and won ten straight to reach the SEC Championship Game. Michigan State is coming off having the best BIG 10 regular season record for the first time in twenty four years. Ultimately, both teams lost their conference championship games, and instead of the Sugar or Rose they are headed to the Outback.
The Georgia Bulldogs were on a crazy roller coaster ride all season. After losing their first two games to Boise State and South Carolina, placing Mark Richt on the hot seat, they went on to win ten straight games. For some reason Bulldog fans have been trying to get rid of a guy that is going to win eight games a year and sometimes get lucky and win ten. Just ask Tennessee fans where that got them. Richt did a fantastic coaching job this season. He went into the year with no depth at running back, and lost his best wide receiver to the NFL draft. This is the bulldogs fifteenth straight bowl appearance and 11th straight under Richt.
Sparty will have to contend with the Bulldogs defense in this game. The group was much improved from a year ago and finished third in the FBS only allowing 268 yards a game. That defense is led by All-American Jarvis Jones at linebacker. Jones, a sophomore, led the SEC with 13 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss. The Bulldogs have one of the best secondaries in the country as well, led by Baccari Rambo. Rambo led the SEC with seven interceptions. Although Georgia’s defense is something to talk about do not sleep on their offense.
The offense is led by sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray. Murray threw for 2,861 yards on the season with 33 touchdowns, that placed him as the one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC. They also have a phenomenal freshman tailback in Isaiah Crowell who finished his first year in the SEC with 847 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The problem for Georgia’s offense is that the Spartans bring the fifth best defense in the FBS into this game. This group is only allowing 272 yards per game and are led by All-American Jerel Worthy. Worthy was the teams’ first All-American on the defensive line since 1966. The Spartans are not only a good defensive team but also have a fantastic quarterback to match the Bulldogs.
Kirk Cousins in his senior year lead the Spartans to their 10-3 record. He will be leaving the university as the winningest quarterback in Michigan State history. It will also be the last game for his favorite target BJ Cunningham who is the all time leader in Spartans history for receiving yards. Both hooked up a lot this season and finished off their Spartan careers with unbelievable numbers. Cousins completed 65% of his passes for 3,016 yards and 24 touchdowns, and a lot of those yards went to his friend Cunningham who had 72 catches for 1,240 yards and 12 touchdowns.
These teams are nearly identical on paper. To pick a winner is about like playing Russian roulette. The Bulldogs are 2-0 against the Spartans in Bowl games with the last coming in the 2009 Capital One Bowl a 24-12 win. So for that reason alone we will stick with the SEC over the Big 10 in this one. Georgia 21-10 over the Spartans in a similar game from 2009.