Cotton Bowl Picks: Profit Off Michigan St.'s Dog Value vs. Alabama

Joe Gavazzi

Monday, December 21, 2015 2:47 PM GMT

Cotton Bowl (AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX) kicks off on December 31 at 8 pm EST and we are ready to bring you the best college football odds analysis and picks for this matchup.

NEW YEAR’S EVE UPSET ALERT
[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":2960411, "sportsbooksIds":[169,1096,93,19,92,238], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]
Free Cotton Bowl Pick: Michigan State +9½
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Michigan St. vs. Alabama (-10/47) 8:00 ET ESPN
The venerable Cotton Bowl has been switched to New Year’s Eve. It will be part of the Final Four featuring the Michigan St. Spartans and the Alabama Crimson Tide. The game will be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX with an 8:00 ET kickoff as televised by ESPN. By the time the ball goes in the air, the winner of this game will know who they play for the Championship in the just completed Orange Bowl Game between Oklahoma and Clemson.

With today’s divergence in styles on the CFB landscape, these two will be about as close as it gets to mirror images when they take the field. Alabama is a run first team with an average of 43 carries out of an average of 73 plays each game. The same is true for Michigan St., who runs 41 of 72 plays on average each game. On defense, the Crimson Tide is the best in the land, allowing 14/258/4.1. Michigan St. allows 20/343/5.4. The overall yardage edges accrue to Alabama, but not enough to represent this massive 10 point line differential. 

 

Alabama Crimson Tide
Under 9th year HC Saban, the Crimson Tide not only has an outstanding reputation, but shows recent excellence as well. Since 2008, the 2nd year that Saban guided the program, the Tide has gone 96-12 SU, winning an average of 8 out of every 9 games. This season, the 12-1 SU record is marred only by a (43-37) home loss to Mississippi on September 10th. Since that date, they STEAMROLLED their way through the SEC with only a (19-14) home victory over Tennessee on October 24th by less than 13 points. While the Crimson Tide defense is the best in the land, it is complemented by the work of this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, RB Henry. He leads a ground attack that averages 206/4.8. But, they are far from a one-trick pony, as they average 214 YPG through the airways as well. Much of this handicap revolves around the Michigan St. ability to shut down Henry and the Crimson Tide ground game, which sets up their ability to pass effectively. 

Must Read: NCAAF Props Bets

Michigan State Spartans
On the other side of the field is a Michigan St. team led by 9th year HC Mark Dantonio. Though the long-term excellence does not match that of Alabama, it should be noted that in 5 of the last 6 years, Michigan St. has 11 or more victories. Regarding their role as underdog, we note that in the last 4 seasons, Sparty is 6-1 ATS as road dog. In addition, Michigan St. has compiled an excellent record on neutral fields, where they stand 6-0 ATS, since the 2011 season. In recent seasons, the Spartans relied on a solid ground game to get the job done. This year, future NFL 5th year senior QB Connor Cook, along with 4/5 starting OL returned. Though they did not match the 43 PPG of last season, this was a reliable Spartan offense that came through in the clutch. Two key wins in the role of underdog against rivals Michigan and Ohio St. are the reason for their appearance in this Championship Game. A narrow 1 point defeat at Nebraska (which evened out their good fortune in the Michigan victory) are reasons why they are in the Title Game. Much of the key to their success in this game will come with their run defense. In previous seasons, under the guidance of DC Narduzzi, Michigan St. had allowed their opponents 100 or less RYPG for 4 consecutive seasons. This year, with Narduzzi now coaching for Pitt, the Spartans allowed 113/3.6 against the rush. Their ability to at least slow down RB Henry will determine how close they come to extending a 3-year record that is now 36-4 SU.

 

Betting Analysis
The bottom line here is that Alabama is a quality team with a huge national reputation, who is laying a bloated number in this semi-final game. Michigan St. has all the requisite qualities in coaching, a veteran signal caller, a balanced offense and rush defense to pull the upset. I invite you to put the college football odds in your favor and join in my college football pick on Michigan St. as underdog, as they will have the Tide on UPSET ALERT the entire 60 minutes.