The Baylor Bears missed out on the inaugural College Football Playoff, but they still have a spot in the New Year’s Six to look forward to. The Bears take on one of the most dominant defenses in the nation in the Michigan State Spartans in the Cotton Bowl. Will a Baylor domination leave everyone wondering how they’d fare in the playoff? Or will the Spartans steal the Bears’ spotlight?
Read on for more on this exciting Cotton Bowl matchup, and for more on the College Football Playoff see our previews of the Florida State vs. Oregon Rose Bowl or the Alabama vs. Ohio State Sugar Bowl.[sc:NCAAFArticles ]
Michigan State Spartans vs. Baylor Bears 2015 Cotton Bowl Betting Preview
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington
When: Thursday, January 1, 5:00 PM ET
Line: Michigan State Spartans (+3) vs. Baylor Bears (-3); total: 71.5 – view all NCAA Football lines
Betting on the Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State disappointed in their marquee opportunities this season, despite strong efforts. They played No. 2 Oregon and No. 5 Ohio State tough, but ultimately succumbed to their opponents’ superior offenses. The Spartans will have another chance to take down a highly-regarded opponent in Baylor in their second trip to a New Year’s bowl game in two years.
A stingy defense has defined Michigan State this season. The Spartans have allowed an average of 293.5 offensive yards this season. They most notably held off one of the nation’s top running backs in Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah (1,523 yards and 18 touchdowns) to under 50 yards in a 27-21 win on October 4.
[sc:NCAA240banner ]Dominating opponents from Michigan State’s defensive line is Shilique Calhoun. One of the nation’s top defensive ends, Calhoun has terrorized opponents’ backfields with 6.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss (combined loss of 97 yards) and eight quarterback hurries. Having Calhoun hounding Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty may give the Spartans the same success West Virginia had against Baylor. The Bears quarterback was sacked four times in a 41-27 upset loss to unranked West Virginia on October 18.
On the other side of the ball, the Spartans will have the Big Ten’s best wide receiver Tony Lippett to terrorize Baylor’s secondary. Lippett has caught 60 passes for conference-highs 1,124 yards and 11 touchdowns. Michigan State also has an excellent quarterback in Connor Cook to feed the ball to Lippett.
Cook has passed for 2,900 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions this season and could give Baylor’s pass defense (260 yards allowed per game) quite a run. Cook and Lippett’s connection will also be vital to open up the lanes for the Spartans’ dynamic rushing game. Running back Jeremy Langford has torn up opposing defenses for 1,360 yards rushing this season, racking up 19 touchdowns along the way.
The Spartans are 7-2 against non-conference opponents since 2013.
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Betting on the Baylor Bears
The Bears are one of the hottest teams in college football having won their last five games, four by double digits, since their October 18 loss to West Virginia. Still, their hot streak wasn’t enough to give them a spot in the College Football Playoff, causing head coach Art Briles to engage in a media rampage aimed at Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the playoff selection committee. With that in mind, expect Baylor to play with a chip on its shoulder in an effort to show their class.
The Bears go where their quarterback Bryce Petty takes them. The Baylor senior has thrown for 3,305 yards and 26 touchdowns with only six interceptions in the season. He’ll need to be at his best when he takes on the toughest defense he’ll face, Michigan State.
The Spartans have a constricting pass defense, which allowed an average of 196 yards per game this season, and had more interceptions (17) than they allowed touchdowns (13). However, the Spartans have also shown their vulnerability against the best quarterbacks in the nation as they surrendered 618 yards and six touchdowns in two games against Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.
Though Bryce Petty has been racking up the headlines, running back Shock Linwood hasn’t been so bad either. Linwood has rushed for 1,226 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Expect Linwood to take his fair share of touches as he has carried the ball 20 or more times in three of the Bears’ last four games. Linwood has a tough challenge ahead against a stingy Michigan State run defense, which has limited opponents to 3.4 yards per carry
Cook and Petty engage in a shootout until Michigan State’s defense manages a couple of key stops late in the game. Take the Spartans to win and cover +3.[sc:NCAA490banner ]
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