Cotton Bowl Predictions

The BearsIllustrated staff gives its picks for the Cotton Bowl. With a program best 12-wins on the line and a Top-5 finish in the polls for a second straight season, can the Bears win the big one?

Kevin Barrera - BearsIllustrated Co-Owner, Recruiting Analyst

This game will pit one of the most electrifying offenses in the country, against one of the most dominating defenses in the country, but I don't think it will come to either of those two things.

This game will be Wong by either the Baylor defense or the MSU offense. That is the interesting thing about this Cotton Bowl game. Neither teams have necessarily been known for their offense or defense, but those two units have improved greatly this year. If the Baylor defense can get the Michigan State offense in to 2nd and 3rd and long situations, then the Baylor faithful will walk away from this game with a better feeling than they did last New Years. If Michigan States offense can get their running game going early, then this could be a long day for Baylor. I think the Baylor defense will be good enough, and the Baylor offense will make 1 or 2 plays that will be enough.

The Bears ring in the New Year with a win!

Score: Bears win 41-31

James Holloway - BearsIllustrated Contributor

The Bears are angry. They're angry at not making the playoff. They're angry at how they left off last season. They're angry that there are still doubters out there about Baylor's success. That's good, the Bears play better when they're angry. The Bears are not coming into this game thinking they've already won the game. They seem focused and determined to not have another Fiesta Bowl happen. In the last game for seniors such as Petty, Goodley, and Hager, which were the backbone of the back-to-back Big 12 Championships, look for the Bears to come out with a fire and play one of their best games on the year in a game that should essentially be a home game, and we all know how the Bears play at home.

In a battle of elite offense vs elite defense, I believe it is the offense that prevails in this matchup. While rated as one of the top defenses in the country this year, this Spartan defense is not as good as the one last year. In its two contests against high-powered offenses it has not come back victorious, giving up 46 points to Oregon and 49 points to tOSU. Look for this game to go much of the way of the Kansas State game, in which the Spartans try and slow down the game but is overwhelmed by the Bears offense.

Score: Bears win 45-31

Chase Medina - BearsIllustrated Contributor

I’ve been looking forward to this game since it was announced. These two teams have contrasting styles. Obviously Baylor is about spreading you out with tempo and playing bend but don’t break defense and being opportunistic. Michigan State is all about power, clock management and playing sound defense. I can’t help but make comparisons between this game and our game against K-State. MSU is like KSU in that they try to win time of possession on offense but can still push the ball down the field and score points. On defense the similarity is that neither team makes mistakes, they just wait for the offense to slip up.

MSU ranks 7th in the nation in scoring 43.1 points per game and 15th in the nation in points allowed (19.9). Baylor’s biggest task on defense will be containing the trio of Connor Cook, Jeremy Langford and Tony Lippett. Lippett provides the biggest challenge because of our secondary struggles recently. Although, with a few weeks to prepare, I imagine Coach Bennett has them ready. While the Spartans are stout on both sides of the ball they have lost two games this season. Those two losses come against teams that are most comparable to ours in Oregon and Ohio State. In those two games MSU gave up 46 and 49 points respectively, while not scoring more than 37 points in either contest.

If Baylor comes out, with the number one scoring offense, and gets a fast start and gets up by two or three touchdowns, I think the Spartans will have a tough time keeping up. I felt the same way about K-State and it turned out to be true (the score was closer than the game was). I think Baylor will get MSU out of their comfort zone with our tempo on offense. Mix that in with a mostly pro-Baylor crowd, and I think MSU will be worn out by the 4th quarter. I expect this game to finish up much like the KSU game.

Score: Bears win 42-31

Ryan Resch - BearsIllustrated Contributor

I expect the Bears to start slowly, working to establish the run with the return of Chafin. Michigan State has a very impressive rush defense, so I would not be surprised to see the first couple drives stall without a score. I think, however, we open the playbook more middle of the second quarter and fine Coleman deep for an impressive touchdown that launches the guys into a full head of steam to take down the MSU defense that has struggled against spread offenses and up tempo pace. Defensively, I hope to see even more improvement in our secondary given the break between this and the K-State game. I also predict Oakman and Billings will have a huge game, stopping the Spartans' running attack and pressure Connor Cook.

Score: Bears win 42-17

Tim Watkins - BearsIllustrated Co-Owner, Publisher

This is the last game for several key Baylor Bears, with Bryce Petty, Antwan Goodley, Bryce Hager, Levi Norwood and Spencer Roth all being Seniors. With back-to-back Big 12 championships on their resume, it is fair to say this is the most successful graduating class in Baylor history. With a very good Michigan State team across from them, they have a chance to do even more. Win a Baylor record 12th game and at least finish in the Top-5 of the polls.

The Spartans strength is their defense, but it is a unit that has struggled when facing speed. To say the Bears might be a tough matchup for even a great defense is obvious and correct. Baylor's ability to stretch the field with speed or hurt you in the ground game is unique in college football, and something that Michigan State is not setup to handle. While the Spartans offense will do a good job of playing keep away from the Bears at first, a few key takeaways and stops late will allow the Bears to get the lead and extend it. Bryce Petty goes out with a 300+ yard passing day, as Corey Coleman leads the Bears with 150 yards receiving.

Score: Bears win 42-31

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