We'd love to see lots and lots of end zone celebrations by the boys in white jerseys.
The 2011 Capital One Bowl, pitting the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Michigan State Spartans, may be one of the most interesting match ups of the bowl season.
Both teams were in the mix this year for BCS bowls at some point in the season; MSU finished No. 8 in the final BCS standings with an 11-1 record, while the Crimson Tide saw their hopes for a BCS game dashed when LSU upset them in early November. They finished 9-3 on the season.
But these two teams also have other things in common. One is 'Bama coach Nick Saban, who captained the Spartan ship before jumping to LSU almost a decade ago. Current MSU head coach Mark Dantonio was an assistant under Saban, and the two men know each other well.
The two teams also played a common opponent in Penn State. Alabama faced the Nittany Lions early in the season, while State closed out their regular season with a win over JoPa's team.
Here are ten things you need to know about this exciting match up in Orlando.
PSU was expected to be much, much better than MSU. Wrong!
After the national championship game last year, Sports Illustrated dubbed Alabama a "Dynasty!" spread across a front cover.
Yes, the Tide was picked to repeat by many prognosticators around the college football world.
Meanwhile, Michigan State was picked by many to finish the 2010 season somewhere around 7th.
In the Big Ten Conference, that is.
No, the Crimson Tide did not meet many expectations this season, while the Spartans certainly exceeded them by finishing in a three-way tie for their conference title.
MSU coach Dantonio called it "a Cinderella season". For 'Bama's Nick Saban, one wonders if the same metaphor is appropriate for his team's year but instead refers to the time when the carriage and horses turn back into the pumpkin and mice.
And with Alabama losing two of their final four contests this year, one has to wonder if the fortunes of the rising team will continue to rise while the fortunes of the falling team will also continue on that path.
The loss to BC in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl began the MSU bowl losing streak.
The Spartans' Mark Dantonio isn't concerned that his team comes into the bowl the losers of four straight post-season games.
Why should he be? Those games didn't happen this season.
But streaks are sneaky things.
Dantonio has lost three of the four; he lost the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl to Boston College, then his Spartans got beat by Georgia the next year in the Capital One Bowl. Last year, he lost to Texas Tech in San Antonio.
Does that say something about how he prepares his team for bowl games? Maybe.
Then, too, Nick Saban lost three consecutive bowl games while coaching at Michigan State. At Alabama, however, Saban's 2-1 in bowl games, the latest loss the embarrassing loss to Utah in 2009.
It's a sure thing that Dantonio would like to get himself and his team off the schneid here.
But with 'Bama a 10 point favorite, the Spartans have their work cut out for them.
Barron will need four months to recover from surgery.
Let's start with the bad news about Alabama's defense. Senior DB and the team's only first team All-American, Mark Barron, is out.
Barron, the team's defensive leader, is recovering from surgery that repaired a torn pectoral. He'll need about four months to get over it, but the surgery won't keep him from playing at the next level.
The other bad news? No lead seems to be safe with this defense. Auburn proved that last month. The 24 point lead that the Tide gave up was the largest surrendered in the history of the storied program.
Now, the good news. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is staying put, at least for now. And the remainder of the defense, which had been banged up during the rugged SEC schedule of games, is largely healed now. That includes DL Marcel Dareus and LB Dont'a Hightower.
So the Tide should be at full strength come game time--with the exception of Barron. But with the emergence of new stars such as LB CJ Mosley and S Robert Lester, perhaps his loss can be cushioned somewhat.
For Alabama fans, let's hope any possible lead holds.
He's G-Mac's evil twin.
There's a reason the Tide will be able to stop Michigan State's Kirk Cousins.
It's because they face someone awfully similar to him in practice every day.
That's right, Cousins plays football in much the same way Alabama's Greg McElroy does.
Don't believe us? Look at these stats: Yards passing 2767 for G-Mac, 2705 for Cousins. Touchdowns 19 for McElroy, 20 for Cousins. Yards per completion 9.3 for McElroy, 8.5 for Cousins.
In fact, the two are built the same for the most part. Both quarterbacks are 6' 3", but McElroy carries about 20 pounds more than Cousins.
There's also that leadership/inspirational thing going for both of them. While not the most talented athletes on their respective teams, both quarterbacks enjoy the respect of the men they see in the huddle.
So, seeing McElroy every day has somewhat prepared the Tide for what they'll see from MSU's quarterback.
Now that works both ways, of course.
Two all-time greats.
Of course, for the seniors such as Greg McElroy, the Capital One game will be their last.
For several of the juniors on the 'Bama squad, that statement is iffy. Several are certain to be high draft choices in the spring's NFL draft.
But with NFL Player Association issues looming on the pro football horizon, it could be that several of 'Bama's underclassmen stars such as Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, and Marcel Dareus may reconsider leaving early for the pros.
Even coach Nick Saban has publicly stated that he is changing the advice he is giving underclassmen when it comes to declaring for the draft due to the uncertainty between players and owners in the NFL.
Can you imagine having all three of those stars back (and several others, too)?
Thus, the game against MSU may not be the last one for these young men.
Jones is one major reason MSU got the 'W' against the Badgers.
The man is so good, he should be playing in the SEC.
The heart and soul of the Spartan defense is senior linebacker Greg Jones. At 6'1", 240 pounds, Jones may be considered to be a bit small by some.
But he more than makes up for it with intelligence, hustle, and desire.
At least the national media think so; they recently named Jones a first team All-American.
For the second year in a row.
He leads Sparty in tackles (98) and forced fumbles (3). He also heads a defense that allows a 'spartan' 122 yards rushing per game.
And that can't be good news for the Alabama running backs.
How good is Jones? MSU's defensive coordinator, Pat Narduzzi, says Jones is "powerful enough to bring the entire team’s play up to his level," and that opponents must scheme around him when they plan to play the Spartans.
'Bama fans will certainly know his name by the end of the game.
Yeah, he's really one of our'n.
Alabama has only one player from Michigan on its team, and everyone knows who it is.
Mark Ingram was recruited by Mark Dantonio, and the Spartan coach would've loved to have had him. And others, too.
"Well, we'd take more than just him from their football team," Dantonio laughed when asked about Ingram.
"I think Mark Ingram being from Michigan, he was a guy we focused on in our recruiting at that point in time," Dantonio said.
Ingram's father was a star at MSU, and his grandfather also played for some of Duffy Daugherty's great teams.
"His mother graduated from here, and he was a Spartan fan growing up," Dantonio reminded reporters at the bowl's media day.
"When he made the decision to go to Alabama, we wished him the best.He's done an outstanding job. Very proud of what he's been able to accomplish," the coach added. "There's no hard feelings whatsoever."
Then he paused.
"But we would have loved to have him here."
If he looks lighter it's because he ain't wearing two championship rings yet.
Everyone knows Nick Saban was MSU's coach in 1995-1999 . They also know Mark Dantonio was one of his assistants on defense.
But in Dantonio's 2000 season at MSU he coached under Bobby Williams, who currently works as one of Saban's assistants.
Talk about inbred. The two teams know each other well because of the coaching imprint on them that descends from Saban.
The Crimson Tide coaching staff includes three others that spent time with the Spartans. Current Tide assistants Jim McElwain was at MSU in 2003-05, coach Sal Sunseri was there for a short time, and assistant football AD Mike Vollmar was there, too.
"Do I like coaching against any of these people?" Dantonio said when asked about coaching against Saban. "No, because they're your friends, too, but it's a unique situation, and the competitiveness in you as a person sort of takes hold of you a little bit. It's not about one coach against another coach; it's about an entire team."
Dantonio said nothing but good things about Saban, the man who probably was more responsible than most in his past for getting him where he was.
"As a defensive coach, Coach Saban has probably been my biggest mentor as a coach," Dantonio said. "I had the opportunity to come here, and I probably sit here now as a head football coach because of him bringing me here."
Alabama: A win would, of course, be great. It would add to a decent season's resume, pushing the win total to double digits. It would add fuel to the argument that even non-top of the line SEC teams can beat the best of the other so-called power conferences. A loss, however, would hurt, but it would not be the type of embarrassing loss such as the Tide suffered two years ago against Utah. After all, MSU is the Big Ten co-champions and a top ten team.
Michigan State: A win would mean much for the Spartans. In the increasingly tough and competitive local recruiting market, a win here could induce those four star players to sign with Dantonio for a change. It would show that the 2010 season was not a fluke. It would justify the label Big Ten champs. A loss, on the other hand, especially to what many consider to be the SEC's fourth or fifth best team, would hurt more. It would continue the losing streak MSU has in bowl games and possibly mark Dantonio as a coach who couldn't close the deal.
Who do we think will win this game?
Sure, we think Alabama as a team boasts superior talent on both sides of the ball.
Sure, we think Saban is a world-class coach and has the staff needed to accomplish great things.
Ah, that's the rub. The Capital One Bowl is not 'great things'. And after the devastating loss to Auburn--not just the loss but how 'Bama lost it--plus the fact that this game really means nothing compared to the expectations this team put on themselves, we feel that the real Alabama Crimson Tide won't show up for this one.
Sure 'Bama is a ten point favorite. Ignore that.
Chalk this one up for Sparty and their up and coming coach.