The Michigan State Spartans are trying to avenge a BCS snub created by the bureaucratic system which is known as the BCS, as the Alabama Crimson Tide are just looking to win a bowl game after a disappointing season.
Michigan State comes in with a record of 11-1 and finished tied for first in the Big Ten with Wisconsin and Ohio State. Due to the Spartans BCS ranking of ninth, they were left out of a BCS game as there can only be two teams from a conference in the BCS. They were left out and are out for revenge.
Alabama meanwhile comes in with a record of 9-3 and finished fourth in a very strong SEC West. At the beginning of the season, the Crimson Tide were looking to repeat as national champs until their hopes were dashed. They are now just looking to do the next best thing: win the Capital One Bowl.
Here are some keys to victory for the Spartans.
Mark Ingram didn't have the season he did last year when he won the Heisman Trophy, but he is still a threat out of the backfield.
Ingram has rushed for 816 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season while averaging over five yards per carry. Part of the reason his numbers aren't as high is that he now shares carries with Trent Richardson, who we will hear about later.
If the Spartans are going to be successful against this high-powered Alabama Crimson Tide defense, they must get Edwin Baker rolling. The Tide defense has only given up an average of 14 points per game this season.
Along with this low point total, they have only allowed an average of 296 total yards with only 123 yards on the ground this season. They only allowed 108 yards to the Auburn Tigers on the ground, which is quite the feat.
Michigan State has been stellar in their running game this season especially with running back Edwin Baker. It is key they establish him early in this one. Baker has ran for 1,187 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. It's key that they establish him early against a stiff defense.
Michigan State needs to have a great performance by their offensive line if they expect to win this game. Alabama's defense is one of the best in the nation and will be looking to wreak havoc in the Spartan backfield.
Michigan State's line needs to establish the tempo early and set the tone. Led by John Stipek, the senior center, they need to have a great game against the Crimson Tide to not only protect their quarterback, but establish the running game.
Cousins has led this Michigan State team with his great passing this season. So far this year he has passed for 2,705 yards this season for 20 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
Cousins has really been a leader on this team and the team needs him to lead them to another victory once again against a great Alabama Crimson Tide team.
McElroy has quickly turned into one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but has done it quietly. The senior out of Southlake, Texas is looking to finish his last game with the Tide strong and impress those NFL scouts.
He has thrown for 2,767 yards and 19 touchdowns this season while only throwing five interceptions. It is key to get pressure on McElroy to insure that he has doesn't have time to wait around in the pocket looking for receivers.
Alabama does not give up the ball often. They don't throw many interceptions and their ball-carriers don't ever drop the ball, as their two prime backs have not lost a fumble this year. If the Spartans can create some turnovers it could make this game very interesting in the end.
Richardson is the other half of what is one of the greatest running back duos in the history of college football.
Richardson this season has rushed for 658 yards and five touchdowns averaging 6.5 yards per carry on the season. He is a great running back who has the ability to break huge runs, so stopping him is essential for the Spartans.
Julio Jones has been one of the best receivers in football this season. He has caught 75 receptions for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns. He is very explosive and needs to be double-teamed to be stopped.
If the Spartans expect to win this game they need to shut down this guy or it could be a long day for the Michigan State secondary.
This should not be a problem considering Michigan State is coached by one of the greatest coaches in the nation in Mark Dantonio, who is actually a finalist for a coaching award bearing the name of great Alabama coach Paul Bear Bryant.
Dantonio needs to continue his terrific play-caling and maybe even dial up a few tricks to win this one.
Coming out and playing with a chip on their shoulder is essential for Sparty in this one. They need to come out and make a statement to prove why they should be in the BCS.
This game is going to be very exciting and I cannot wait for this Big Ten vs. SEC matchup.