Mark Dantonio called the 2011 Capital One Bowl a chance for Michigan State to measure up. Alabama showed the Spartans still have a long, long way to go.
Here's a look at Michigan State's humbling 49-7 loss to Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.
How the game was won: Alabama showed up from the get-go and mauled Michigan State on both sides of the ball. The Tide utilized their superior talent to overwhelm the Spartans, as quarterback Greg McElroy and his running backs shredded the Michigan State defense. The Spartans never got their ground game going against Alabama's athletic defense and quarterback Kirk Cousins couldn't find any sort of rhythm. They also couldn't stretch the field to get back in the game. Just a complete disaster for Dantonio's team in a bowl in which the Big Ten typically performs decently.
Player of the game: McElroy. The Alabama signal-caller turned in a brilliant performance in his final collegiate game. He completed 13 of 17 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions against a hapless Michigan State defense. Alabama's defense also had several outstanding individual performances, including that of Courtney Upshaw.
Turning point: You could go with the opening drive, but Michigan State trailed by only two touchdowns and had first-and-goal from the 7-yard line early in the second quarter. But after an inexcusable substitution penalty, Cousins absorbed a blind-side hit and lost the ball, which pin-balled all the way back to the 38-yard line. That set up the rarely seen punt on fourth-and-goal. Michigan State's only chance went up in smoke.
Stat of the game: Michigan State finished with minus-48 rush yards in the loss. The Spartans' previous season low for rushing was 31 yards in their only other loss, a 37-6 defeat at Iowa.
What it means: Dantonio has done a lot of good things in his four seasons as Spartans coach, but the program clearly isn't at elite status yet. Michigan State didn't perform like it deserved to be in a BCS bowl and was totally noncompetitive against a 9-3 Tide team. It doesn't take away from the Spartans' first Big Ten title in 20 years, but the loss leaves a sour taste after a special regular season. Michigan State must continue its recruiting efforts and keep upgrading the talent to be able to compete with teams like Alabama. The Spartans lose several outstanding seniors like linebacker Greg Jones but return a pretty good core for 2011.