5-Things: Let's talk Cotton

With the Bears practicing for the last time in Waco today, it is time to start shirting our attention to Michigan State and the Cotton Bowl.

1. In case you missed it, the Baylor Bears are playing the Michigan State Spartans in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day. The Big 12 Champion Beas are 11-1 on the year, while Michigan State finished 10-2 on the season and come into the game with a 3-game winning streak. This is a matchup of two rising powers in the nation, with the Spartans winning the Big 10 last year, and finishing this year as the 2nd highest ranked team in 2014. Baylor of course is back-to-back Big 12 champions and looking for its first ever 12-win season.

2. A lot of people will say this is an offense vs. defense type of game. The powerful offensive attack of the Baylor Bears taking on the tremendous defense of Michigan State. This would have been true last year, as the Spartans had one of the best defenses in the nation last year (if not the best). We are all familiar with the exploits of the Baylor offense, ranked #1 last year in pretty much every way. This year, while they still lead in yards and points per game, the offense has taken a step back. You can say the same thing about the Michigan State defense as well. They are still very good, but not at the elite level they were in 2013.

Looking at FootballOutsiders.com ranks, the Spartans have taken a step back in almost every single way year over year.

Michigan State Defensive Comparison

Year

Def S&P+

Play Eff.

Rushing
S&P+

Passing
S&P +

Drive Eff.

DFEI

2013

153.2

143.6

145.1

145.7

162.8

-0.733

2014

127.4

131.9

126.5

135

151

-0.187

They are still a Top-10 defense in 2014, but they were one of two outstanding defenses (joining national champion Florida State) in 2013. This is a good defense, but not a great one like last year.

3. The Bears of course finished 5th in the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings, with the Spartans in 8th place. This is the highest ranked game between two teams outside of the playoffs. While that might be of little consolation to Baylor fans hoping for a National Title, it is still something to be proud of. The Bears are in the Cotton Bowl, something that used to mean a shot at the national title 30 years ago. As Art Briles said, this was the big-daddy bowl when he was growing up. With its relocation to Arlington and AT&T Stadium, the Cotton Bowl has once again climbed up to a premier spot in the college football universe. A win here, against a very good Big 10 team, would be a massive boost to the Bears profile nationally.

4. Getting that win will mean stopping another top-rated junior quarterback looking to make a big splash. Last year, it was Blake Bortles. This year it is Connor Cook. While he not the pure athlete that Borltes is, Cook has an NFL body and arm. The Spartans run a pro-style offense, which means they huddle and he takes the ball from under center some. They do pass quite a bit more than what they have done in the past, especially with Cook, but they feature a Top-25 rushing attack. They average 234.9 yards per game on the ground, and over 5 yards per carry. This is a balanced attack though as they average 261.6 through the air.

5. With this Big-12/Big-10 matchup, it is an opportunity to prove the Bears were the team that should have been selected for the playoff, though in the grand scheme of things that is meaningless. The Big 10 champ was chosen over the Big 12 champ(s). With a Top-10 matchup on New Year’s Day, bragging rights will be on the line. Can the Bears win that marquee bowl game, something they failed to do last year? Can they get that historic 12th win and finish the year with just 1-loss and a Top-5 ranking? We will have MUCH more on this game in the coming week, as this game deserves and demands the attention.


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