Bowl Preview: Michigan State Meets Georgia in Outback Bowl

Seth NewmanCorrespondent IJanuary 1, 2012

Head coach Mark Dantonio had big plans for Michigan State’s football program when he signed on to become the coach five years ago.

Dantonio has always wanted MSU to become a respectable program that consistently competes for championships. His vision of Michigan State becomes more of a reality with each year that he has coached.

Under Dantonio, the MSU football program has gone to five straight bowl games, won a Big Ten championship, played in the first Big Ten conference championship game, has had back to back double digit win seasons, and currently has a four-game winning streak against rival Michigan.

With all these accomplishments, there is still one goal that Dantonio has yet to achieve—win a bowl game.

Dantonio will have another chance to cross that off the list when Michigan State (10-3) plays Georgia (10-3) in the Outback Bowl.

“We need to get ready for the next challenge. You have goals, and if you don’t quite make that goal, you reassess things and you refocus yourself on your next goal. Our next goal is to win our last football game,” Dantonio said.

On paper, MSU and Georgia match up very well. On offense, the Spartans average 30.8 points per game, while the Bulldogs average 32.2. On the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans are holding opponents to 17.5 points per game, while the Bulldogs are averaging a close 19.6.

Senior quarterback Kirk Cousins will be playing his last game as a Spartan. MSU has seen some of it’s best years with Cousins taking snaps under center. The Holland native will be throwing to his favorite target, senior B.J. Cunningham who will also be playing his last game as a Spartan.

Cousins-to-Cunningham has been one of the best duo’s at MSU, and it will be Georgia’s biggest key to stopping MSU. Cunnigham has had a great senior campaign, compiling 72 receptions, 1,240 yards, and 12 touchdowns.

Another key senior will be wide receiver Keshawn Martin.

With Martin’s athletic ability, he is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. Martin was slowed early in the season with an ankle injury but since then has been on a tear in the last quarter of the season.

Pounding the ball for the Spartans will be LeVeon Bell and Edwin Baker. Both backs are very effective.

Bell is elusive and Baker can run over defenders and then out-sprint the rest. MSU has split the carries between the two almost evenly, with 165 carries for Bell and 164 for Baker.

The Bulldogs are making their 15th straight post season appearance and are led by quarterback Aaron Murray, who will have to throw against a defense that finished 5th in the FBS with yards allowed.

The defense of the Spartans was well-recognized by the media and coaches this year, as every starter won some type of an award.

A win in the Outback Bowl for the Spartans would cap another good season, and would be a great way to bid farewell to the winningest class ever at Michigan State.

Kickoff is at 1 p.m. on ABC.