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Goodyear Cotton Bowl – Michigan State Spartans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide College Football Playoff Semifinal Predictions, Odds, Picks and NCAA Football Betting Preview – December 31, 2015

Goodyear Cotton Bowl – Michigan State Spartans vs. Alabama Crimson Tide College Football Playoff Semifinal Predictions, Odds, Picks and NCAA Football Betting Preview – December 31, 2015

It’s safe to say that Nick Saban is quite familiar with the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide’s Cotton Bowl opponents, the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans. For one, Saban has spent five seasons coaching in East Lansing from 1995 to 1999 and Mark Dantonio was one of his former assistants. There’s no time to be friendlies this time, though, as a national championship game berth is up for grabs. Will Alabama book a trip to Glendale for the national championship game? Or will Michigan State block their path with an upset win in Arlington?

Read on for more about this game. You can also check out our breakdown of No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Clemson.

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Goodyear Cotton Bowl Preview

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington

When: Thursday, December 31, 8:00 PM ET

Line: Michigan State Spartans (+9.5) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (-9.5); total: 46.5  view all NCAA Football lines

TV Broadcast: ESPN

Betting on the Michigan State Spartans (12-1, 7-1 Big Ten)

[sc:CottonBowl250 ]It’s going to be a tall task for the Spartans to take down Alabama, but they nevertheless have the tools to do so. After all, they will parade one of the best stop units in the nation.

Michigan State’s defense ranks 19th in the nation with only 20.5 points allowed per game, and its primary assignment should be on stopping Alabama’s running back Derrick Henry. Given his talent level, Henry’s going to have his moments in the game, but he may not hit his average against the Spartans’ D that’s surrendering just 113.1 yards per game on the season or eighth best in the FBS.

When the Spartans have the ball, they’ll look for Connor Cook to make things happen. Cook has played well this year, passing for 2,921 yards and 24 touchdowns with only five interceptions. Cook has shown the ability to keep his troops moving down field even when up against elite defenses, such as when he threw for 328 yards and a touchdown without an interception against Michigan (No. 3 in pass defense) back in October.

The Spartans don’t turn the ball over that many times, while forcing opponents to cough up a lot. In fact, Michigan State is third nationally in turnover margin with a plus-16.

As great as Michigan State has been on defense this year, the Crimson Tide’s front seven is even better, thus putting extra pressure on the Spartans’ offensive line. Alabama owns the fiercest pass rushing unit in the nation, one that has produced an FBS-leading 46 quarterback takedowns. Conversely, Connor Cook’s protection has allowed 17.0 sacks.

Michigan State is 3-1 ATS in its last four games as underdogs by at least eight points.

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Betting on the Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1, 7-1 SEC)

Michigan State vs Alabama 2015 Cotton Bowl Predictions and Preview

Nick Saban and his boys are ready to take on another Big Ten team in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Nearly a year since losing to Ohio State in the national semis last January, the Crimson Tide are back to the same stage.

Alabama is coming to the Cotton Bowl looking to smash through Michigan State’s defense by giving the ball to Derrick Henry. Henry is the biggest offensive threat there is for Alabama, as the newly-minted Heisman Trophy winner has so far amassed 1,986 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. He may be slowed down by the Spartans’ stout defense, though, he once left Wisconsin’s No.4 run defense eating dust when he rushed for 147 yards on 11.3 yards per carry back in the Crimson’s Tide’s 35-17 win in the season opener. In any case, Henry will soak in ample attention to free up some space and time for Jake Coker to operate in the pocket.

Coker doesn’t have the numbers that jumps out of the water, but that’s largely because Henry’s having a terrific season. Coker enters the Cotton Bowl having passed for 2,489 yards and 17 touchdowns with eight interceptions this year.

Henry, however, isn’t the only Crimson Tide nightmare the Spartans will have to deal. There’s Alabama’s defense that has regularly put opposing offenses in a chokehold. It is ranked third in the nation in scoring defense with only 14.4 points allowed per game, 17th against the pass (184.2 yards), and first against the run (74.0).

Alabama is 4-1 ATS in its last five games overall.

Writer’s Prediction

Alabama (-9.5) wins, 21-17.

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Written by Rex

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