It’s not the national championship. It’s not even a BCS bowl. The Alabama Crimson Tide therefore have to be disappointed with playing in the Capital One Bowl. But they have a quality opponent in Michigan State and a chance to make a statement, so sports betting fans could get treated to a fun game.
(15) Alabama Crimson Tide (9-3) vs (7) Michigan State Spartans (11-1)
Saturday, January 1, 1:00 p.m. ET
The favorite: Alabama -10
Alabama won’t be satisfied with its 9-3 record but such is life in the SEC. The defending national champs’ three losses came to three other excellent teams: South Carolina, LSU and Auburn. The first two came on the road and the last loss to Auburn came in a game Alabama led 27-0 before Heisman Trophy winner Cameron Newton took over.
Alabama found itself overvalued against the college football betting spread in big games this year; the Crimson Tide are 1-4 ATS over their last five games against teams with winning records. However, they’re 5-0 ATS in their last five non-conference matchups, so the previous stat once again reflects the hardship of playing in the SEC. Alabama is 1-4 ATS over its last five games when favored by 3.5 to 10 points.
The Crimson Tide tend to crank up the offense in bowl games; their last four bowl affairs have gone OVER the total. The over is also 6-1-1 in ’Bama’s last eight matchups against non-conference opponents.
Though Michigan State is 5-1 against the spread over its last six against teams with winning records, it’s just 3-8 ATS over its last 11 contests as an underdog. The Spartans are 1-5 ATS over their last six as a dog of 3.5 to 10 points.
Five of the Spartans’ last seven games have gone UNDER the betting total but six of their last seven non-conference affairs have gone over the total. The overall trends for the Capital One bowl seem to be pointing toward offense over defense.
Statistically, Alabama still flirted with elite status this season. It has the country’s No. 6 overall defense, ranking 11th against the pass, 23rd against the run and fifth with just 14.1 points allowed per game. Mark Ingram’s followup to his Heisman Trophy-winning 2009 season was marred by injuries and inconsistency so Alabama’s rushing offense slipped to 36th. Greg McElroy had a productive season as a passer, however, and the Crimson Tide averaged 260.3 yards through the air per game (28th).
Michigan State matches up as a well-rounded but underwhelming opponent, ranking 38th in total offense (408.5 yard per game) and 26th in defense (329.8 yards). Thanks to quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Edwin Baker, both of whom were effective this year, the Spartans are 43rd in passing and 41st in rushing.
Michigan’s greatest strength is run defense. The Spartans allow 114 yards per game this year, good for 20th in the nation.