Staff Predictions for the 2015 Cotton Bowl
Alabama is headed back to the College Football Playoff for a semifinal matchup with Michigan State.
Will Alabama move one step closer to its 16th national championship? Here's what our staff thinks:
Barry Sanderson (Host of Inside the Locker Room)
Wimp Sanderson (Host of Inside the Locker Room)
Gary Harris (Host of The Gary Harris Show)
I really admire the toughness that Michigan State plays with and the Spartans ability to win close games. Head Coach Mark Dantonio learned a lot from Nick Saban while serving as Saban's secondary coach at Michigan State in the 1990's. Dantonio has applied much of what he learned and built a powerhouse program of his own.
Michigan State though is trying to attain the status that Alabama already has. The Crimson Tide hasn't won the National Championship since 2012, and the players are determined to win another one this season. Michigan State is good...but Alabama is better! Alabama 24 Michigan St. 14
Chris Stewart (Host of The Chris Stewart Show)
The long layoff off translates into the offenses being slightly out of kilter. However, I think the rest has been good for the units on both teams. I think Alabama will do what they've done since the Georgia game. The Tide marches on to Glendale. Alabama 31, Michigan State 20
Ryan Fowler (Host of The Game)
Ryan McMunn (Producer)
Derrick Henry is the Tide's second Heisman Trophy winner. The last time an Alabama Heisman Trophy winner played in a postseason game was Mark Ingram against the Texas Longhorns in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. Also, we saw him coincidentally play the Michigan State Spartans in the 2011 Capital One Bowl... We'll see the same result of both those games in this game. Michigan State is a solid team, but they don't have the athletes to compete with Alabama for 60 minutes, and we'll be seeing the Crimson Tide move onto the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Alabama 31, Michigan State 16
James Hardy (Producer)
In a playoff setting, there is no such thing as an easy win. It should be no different for Alabama as Michigan State looks to duplicate what Ohio State did in New Orleans last season. Both the Crimson Tide and the Spartans rely on defense, the running game and consistent play along the line of scrimmage to win. Where I think Alabama can separate themselves is in the kicking game. With Alabama’s inconsistency in scoring TDs in the red zone, Adam Griffith will play a key role in catapulting the Tide to Arizona. Alabama 23, Michigan State 14.
Kevin Connell (Contributor)
It doesn’t quite fit the normal definition of a “revenge game,” but it seems relevant in this case, nonetheless.
In his time at Alabama, Nick Saban owns a staggering 9-2 record in rematches – games against an opponent he lost to in the previous season or earlier in the same season. Overall, he’s 30-12 in such games as a head coach.
And so while Ohio State isn’t the same team as Michigan State and the Sugar Bowl is a different venue than the Cotton Bowl, the magnitude of the Crimson Tide’s College Football Playoff semifinal game remains the same as the one it lost a year ago.
It helps, too, that Saban and players say and appear much more focused than they did ahead of last season’s defeat. Alabama 27, Michigan State 17
Ben George (Digital Managing Editor)
While I think Michigan State might be the second-best team in the College Football Playoff, this is still a matchup that plays into Alabama's favor. The Crimson Tide defense should give Connor Cook and that offense a lot of trouble, but it won't be a walk in the park for Alabama. Jake Coker will have to keep the defense off-balance and Lane Kiffin has to continue riding Derrick Henry. Alabama 24, Michigan State 17