Michigan State Week: Hale's Look at the Game

ORLANDO - David Hale's look at Georgia's game with Michigan State.

PASSING GAME: It's possible today's game will be the last chance for Georgia fans to watch Matthew Stafford play in a Bulldogs' uniform, but it definitely will be the final time Stafford partners with one of the most dynamic receiving duos in school history. Senior Mohamed Massaquoi is just 90 yards shy of reaching 1,000 receiving yards for the season. His partner in crime, freshman A.J. Green, needs 49 yards to hit that mark. Prior to this season, only one player in Georgia's long history had reached 1,000.

ADVANTAGE: Georgia

RUSHING GAME: Today's Capital One Bowl showcases two of the top running backs in the country, and while Georgia's Knowshon Moreno took second billing to the Spartans' Javon Ringer in All-America balloting, his numbers are just as impressive. Moreno became just the second player in Georgia history with consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons this year, and his 17 touchdowns led the SEC.

ADVANTAGE: Georgia

FRONT SEVEN: For Georgia's run defense, it was almost as if the players who had found so much success early in the year were suddenly replaced midseason by look-alikes who weren't nearly as adept at bringing down opposing ball carriers. After starting the season by allowing just 60 yards per game, the Bulldogs' defense surrendered an average of 226 yards on the ground during their past five games. A weak pass rush didn't provide much help to the secondary on passing plays either, but Georgia's linebackers, led by sophomore Rennie Curran, have been a strength.

ADVANTAGE: Georgia

SECONDARY: The Bulldogs finished ninth in the SEC in pass defense this year, and among the secondary, only safety Reshad Jones had an interception. Those numbers are skewed somewhat by a poor pass rush that allowed the opposition to extend plays. Still, it was the poor tackling of several members of the secondary – particularly Jones – that helped Georgia Tech run wild in the second half of the Bulldogs' last game, a 45-42 defeat. Georgia has worked on tackling drills extensively since then and are hoping for a big improvement.

ADVANTAGE: Michigan State

SPECIAL TEAMS: Georgia's injury problems this season have hurt the team in almost every aspect, but none more than on special teams, where the Bulldogs have used myriad freshmen, walk-ons and backups to patch together their various special teams units. The return game has had its moments, but turnovers and bad decisions have been costly, while kicker Blair Walsh has struggled mightily down the stretch on both field goals and kickoffs.

ADVANTAGE: Michigan State

COACHING: Michigan State loves its head coach, Mike Dantonio, who has more wins in his first two seasons with the school than any in Spartans' history. But those 16 wins pale in comparison to what Mark Richt has accomplished in eight years at Georgia, and a victory in the Capital One Bowl would mark his sixth 10-win in the past seven years. While the Bulldogs have fallen short of some expectations this season, those goals were set high because of the immense success Richt has created during his tenure in Athens.

ADVANTAGE: Georgia

PLAYER TO WATCH: Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, if for no other reason than it might be Georgia fans' last chance to see them in the familiar red and black. If both players do decide to head to the NFL in 2009, it will mark the end of two exceptional careers, but they'll also have a chance to go out with a bang. The one-two punch of Georgia's offensive attack will be by far the best Michigan State has faced all season, and slowing down Stafford and Moreno will be a tough task for the Spartans to accomplish.


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