5 Thoughts On The Cotton Bowl

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team in the Cotton Bowl...

Jan. 1 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
Michigan State 42, Baylor 41

And You Care Because … Up six, Baylor was trying for a late field goal to put it away, but Michigan State blocked it and had late life. Connor Cook found Keith Mumphery for a ten-yard score with 17 seconds remaining, and the Spartan D held to cap off an improbable win scoring 21 unanswered points. Bryce Petty threw three touchdown passes including plays from 48 and 74 yards away to KD Cannon, and Jay Lee found Corey Coleman for a 53-yard trick play touchdown on the way to a 34-14 lead. Petty’s third touchdown pass – 18 yards out to LaQuan McGowan – for 41-21 advantage, but it was MSU the rest of the way.
What Else? Michigan State QB Connor Cook completed 24-of-42 passes for 314 yards and two scores and two picks. RB Jeremy Langford ran 27 times for 162 yards and three touchdowns
- Baylor QB Bryce Petty completed 36-of-51 passes for 550 yards and three scores with a pick, and ran for a touchdown.
- Baylor WR KD Cannon caught eight passes for 197 yards and two scores, and Corey Coleman caught seven passes for 150 yards and a score
- Total yards: Baylor 583 – Michigan State 552
Game Rating: A

By Pete Fiutak
1. Everything went sort of like it was supposed to. Was Michigan State’s defense a bit of a statistical fraud? Sort of, but its defense came up really, really big when it had to, and it stuffed the Baylor ground game all game long. Was Baylor really one of the best teams in the nation and worthy of a playoff spot? Not really, but it looked amazing for three quarters and came within a blocked field goal away from being puffy-chested. Did Michigan State make the Big Ten look good? Yeah. Did Baylor prove the Big 12 was solid? Not really, but it showed that it was a good team that fought through a mediocre schedule. Did the Cotton Bowl live up to the hype as a high-scoring shootout and one of the top bowl games of the season? Absolutely.

By Rich Cirminiello
2. Baylor now has a pretty good idea how TCU felt back on Oct. 11 in Waco.

The Bears and their fans have been clamoring for respect all season long, unhappy with a ranking that initially kept them behind the Horned Frogs, and then prevented them from qualifying for a spot in the final four. However, Baylor is exactly what was on display for four quarters in today’s Cotton Bowl—a team that can look freakishly unstoppable for three quarters, building a 20-point lead, before systematically imploding down the stretch in a 42-41 loss to Michigan State.

You want respect outside of the Big 12, Bears? Here’s a simple three-step approach: 1. Beef up the non-conference schedule, because no one is going to truly take you seriously when you face three non-Power Five heavy bags. 2. Grow a backbone on defense. Yeah, you’re driven by the offense, but is it asking too much to pressure Connor Cook in the fourth quarter? 3. Finish. For the second January in a row, Baylor has squandered an opportunity to make a statement in front of a larger than usual audience, following up last year’s Fiesta Bowl debacle versus UCF with this year’s Cotton Bowl collapse to the Spartans.

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3. Finally. After playing, and losing to teams that can score points like a pinball machine (Oregon and Ohio State), the Spartans were able to find just enough defense to beat a Baylor team that nobody has been able to stop on offense this year.

As much fun as it is to watch all of these teams that are able to score in bunches in today’s world of college football, the art of milking the clock has gone out the window. It happened when TCU lost to Baylor earlier this year, and the roles were reversed on the Bears in this edition of the Cotton Bowl. Up by twenty early in the fourth quarter, Art Briles continued to step on the gas pedal, spread things out, and it backfired. The Spartans were able to get some breaks, make some plays on both sides of the ball, and the inability of Baylor to go into clock-killing mode gave MSU quarterback just enough time to will his team to a win.

The Big Ten has come off the mat some in the postseason, but there’s still one big one to go.

4. What’s next for Michigan State
Is Connor Cook ready to lead an NFL team? He could use one more year in college, but the big leagues could be tempting if he’s projected to be a top 50 pick. The passing game loses top receivers Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery, but welcomes back Macgarrett Kings, R.J. Shelton and TE Josiah Price. Workhorse RB Jeremy Langford and No. 2 man Nick Hill are gone, meaning Delton Williams will get the first look to take over the ground game behind a line that gets back three starters, but loses LG Travis Jackson and RG Connor Kruse.

DE Shilique Calhoun is too good not to be gone early to the NFL, and Marcus Rush has to be replaced on the other side. However, the tackles are back and strong with Lawrence Thomas, Joel Heath, and 2014 super-recruit Malik McDowell inside. Top tackler Kurtis Drummond is gone from the secondary, and LB Taiwan Jones is finished, but Ed Davis should be one of the Big Ten’s better linebackers along with Darien Harris, and Trae Waynes is a good one at corner. Tony Lippett will be missed in a big way at the other corner. PK Michael Geiger is back after an up-and-down year, and P Mike Sadler is gone after averaging over 41 yards per punt.

5. What’s next for Baylor
Can Seth Russell be the next great Baylor quarterback, or will Chris Johnson fight for the gig? It won’t matter with a phenomenal receiving corps that should only get stronger with KD Cannon leading the way and Corey Coleman and Jay Lee more-than-fine to fill in for Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood. The offense should rely even more on the running game with Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson back working behind a line that welcomes back all five starters.

Will Shawn Oakman be back? The huge DE is ready to turn pro, but the rest of the line returns intact. Taylor Young needs to be the leader of the linebacking corps that loses Bryce Hager, but has several good options. The secondary might be the best yet under Art Briles with four of the five starters returning, only losing Collin Brence at the nickel. Big-booting P Spencer Roth is done, but rising PK Chris Callahan returns.

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