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Cotton Bowl Preview/Prediction Thread

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Tomorrow morning, the Bears close out the season, looking to make a statement against fellow Top 10 team Michigan State. How do you see this game playing out?

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
vs.
4/5/5 BAYLOR (11-1, 8-1) vs. 7/7/8 MICHIGAN STATE (10-2, 7-1)
Jan. 1, 2015 | 11:30 a.m. CT
Arlington, Texas | AT&T Stadium (80,000)

TV: ESPN
Watch | Skycam | Listen | Gametracker Gametracker | Game Notes Notes Bowl Central

OPPONENT: Michigan State Spartans
ODB GAME HUB: 2015 Cotton Bowl: Baylor Bears vs Michigan State Spartans
MEET THE PRESSBaylor vs. Michigan State (Article on baylorbears.com)
FIRST LOOKBaylor vs. Michigan State
STATS PREVIEWBaylor vs. Michigan State
PODCAST:  Spider Y-2 Banana, the Cotton Bowl Preview
ROLL CALLRoll Call: Cotton Bowl Edition!
Q&A: We Ask, They Answer: Cotton Bowl Q&A With Ian Boyd
SB NATION BLOG: The Only Colors, at right
SPREAD: Baylor -2.5 (Open: Baylor -1.5)
TV COVERAGE: ESPN, 11:30 a.m. CST January 1, 2015
WEATHER FORECAST: Jerry World, ergo irrelevant. Though, supposedly cold in the DFW area on New Years Day
BAYLOR UNIFORMSSHINY PICKLE

Advanced Stats:

If you haven't read it, go check out my Advanced Stats post that I did earlier this week. If you want another look at the advanced stats, head over to our sister site Roll Bama Roll who, for whatever reason, decided to also take a look at the advanced stats. Their charts are prettier than ours, and their analysis is pretty good, too. I like their conclusion, too. Check it out.

Category

Baylor(11-1)

MSU(10-2)

EDGE

Overall F/+ Rk 9 (27.0%)
11 (23.6%)
EVEN
Overall FEI Rk 9 (.218)
19 (.165)
Baylor
Overall S&P+ Rk 8 (243.9)
6 (248.9)
EVEN
Field Position Advantage 7 (.553)
9 (.549)
EVEN

Even across the board, except with FEI, who likes Baylor slightly over Michigan State, owing to Michigan State's propensity to give up the big play. Bear in mind, the S&P+ is far more interested on drilling down to the play-by-play level, whereas FEI is more focused on drives. Additionally, S&P+ punishes teams less for giving up big plays than FEI does, naturally, since a single big play is just one play (and explosiveness is only 20% of the S&P+ formula), but under FEI, a big play that results in a touchdown is not good news and impacts multiple metrics in its calculus.

Thoughts on the Game

That being said, the Bears will have their work cut out for them in this game. In somewhat of a departure from recent games where I've felt that the key to the Bears success lay in establishing dominance on the line and the rushing attack, I see the key of this game being our receivers. Michigan State loves to play aggressive defense, putting all of their defenders within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage and utilizing their safeties close to the line in run support. If the receivers can avoid getting jammed at the line and shed their defenders quickly Petty can hit them over the top to devastating effect. If the rumors hold true and Lippett does indeed play both ways, then I'd like to think he might get picked on, or at the very least sent running down the field. Petty will have to be quick in getting rid of the ball, as the Spartans will give our offensive line all they can handle, bringing their linebackers on the inside blitz like Prashanth talked about in this week's podcast.

On the flip side of the ball, I see the key as controlling the line of scrimmage and shutting down the run. If Andrew Billings, Shawn Oakman and company can do that and limit Langford's effectiveness, that may force the Spartans to be one-dimensional with the pass. But the Spartans are by no means a weak passing team... They've been very effective through the air, with Connor Cook being able to find Tony Lippett successfully with frequency. We've heard rumors that the Bears have been working with their safeties in pass protection, something we haven't seen as much this season. If that holds, it will be interesting to see how the Bears handle Lippett and the rushing attack with their safeties.

My feeling about this game is that it will likely be very close, but if one team blows out another, it'll be Baylor that comes out on top. I don't see Michigan State wanting to get into a shootout with Baylor; though they've scored points in bunches in the vast majority of their games, they've not faced a team that comes close to having Baylor's pace. A bigger-sized defense like the Spartans may run out of gas, and that would end up hurting them down the stretch.

My prediction: I think that the Spartans keep this game close through halftime, but the Bears take over in the second half, gashing the Spartans secondary. The pace Baylor employs is too much for the Spartans, which then opens things up for the rushing attack.

Final Score: Baylor 49, Michigan State 28

Vote in the poll and share your thoughts in the comments!