2012 Outback Bowl Predictions: Michigan State vs. Georgia Preview

Doc MosemanCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Bacarri Rambo #18 of the Georgia Bulldogs against the LSU Tigers during the 2011 SEC Championship Game at Georgia Dome on December 3, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Are they focused and ready? How about interested in this game? Those are some of the most important questions for this year’s Outback Bowl, when No. 13 Michigan State and No. 18 Georgia get together on Jan. 2.

Both Michigan State and Georgia played in their respective conference title games, with each given more than a fair chance to go BCS bowling with a potential win.

Sparty was tantalizingly close to beating Wisconsin, and just missed out on the Rose Bowl. Georgia gave itself a great chance to beat LSU, but like most teams against the nation’s top program, they faded late and the Tigers pulled away in the second half.

Now it seems the team most willing to be here and put aside their last loss will be the one most equipped to win the Outback Bowl. This phenomenon is commonly known as the hangover effect: Who is going to still be thinking about their potential spot in the BCS that was lost last month? Who is ready to finish the year on a high and score a very quality win against an equally qualified opponent?

Despite Georgia’s loss to LSU, the Bulldogs flourished at the end of the season. The Dawgs won nine of their last 10 games, including going 7-3 against the spread during that stretch.

The main reason for their success was the dominant play of quarterback Aaron Murray. The signal caller accounted for 33 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. His game improved tremendously over the last couple of seasons, and now it appears he is ready to leap near the front of the list for next year’s Heisman.

Michigan State does it with defense. The Spartans allowed more than 21 points just four times all season. And similar to Georgia, Michigan State got great, efficient play from its own starting quarterback, with Kirk Cousins tossing 24 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.

Both teams come in with 10-3 records. Each also turned in winning seasons against the spread. And, quite frankly, the statistical numbers couldn’t be more similar between the two.

These two programs met three years ago in another bowl matchup, with Georgia getting the best of the Big Ten squad, 24-12.


2011 Outback Bowl College Football Odds

Georgia opened as a 3.5-point favorite over Michigan State. The line has held firm.

The total between these two is currently at 50, but you can find it swaying by a half point or full point at other books, depending upon your interest in the over or under in this matchup.


2011 Outback Bowl Betting Trends

Georgia is 6-2 ATS in their last eight January games, as well as posting an 8-3 ATS mark in their last 11 games overall.

The Bulldogs are 4-1 ATS in their last five bowl games, and the same record can be stated in their last five against the Big Ten conference.

Michigan State has covered each of their last four games coming into the Outback Bowl. The Spartans are also 6-1 ATS in their last seven against winning teams. Conversely, Sparty is just 1-4 ATS in their last five bowl games.


2011 Outback Bowl Predictions

In my opinion, this is one of the best matchups of the entire bowl season. And the possible hangover from each team’s last game makes it all the more interesting trying to figure out a winner.

For my money, Aaron Murray is playing too well, even considering the stingy defensive unit he will oppose in this clash. I don’t see any real edge in this game being played in Tampa, as both schools will have strong fanbases.

This game very well may come down to a field goal, so the number could hold up in a close game. But I will side with SEC over the Big Ten.

Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. The Dawgs make it count late.

2011 Outback Bowl Free Pick: Georgia 24, Michigan State 20

Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc's Sports football picks website.