Outback Bowl: Georgia vs. Michigan State

January, 1, 2012
1/01/12
1:00
PM ET
Two top-five defenses go at it when No. 16 Georgia (10-3) takes on No. 17 Michigan State (10-3) in the Outback Bowl:

WHO TO WATCH: Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell was questioned from time to time this season for multiple reasons. Some weren't sure whether he was in the right playing shape; there were times where he seemed too fragile out on the field; and his off-the-field issues certainly hurt his reputation. Freshmen go through growing pains, but because of his star power, Crowell's shortcomings were magnified. Crowell said after the SEC championship game -- a game in which Georgia fans booed him -- that he wanted to take more responsibility and help the Bulldogs more. Here's a chance for Crowell to take that first step against a rush defense that ranks 12th nationally and is giving up just 2.9 yards per carry.

WHAT TO WATCH: Something has to give with these two defenses. Both are ranked in the top six of the FBS in yards per game and yards per play this season. Georgia and Michigan State have both forced 106 negative plays, which is the fifth most in FBS. But both are also equipped with pretty good offenses. The Bulldogs are averaging 413.8 yards and 32 points per game, while Michigan State is getting 390.4 yards and 31 points a contest. Aaron Murray was second in the SEC in passing, while Kirk Cousins was third in the Big Ten in passing. Both defenses gave up a good amount of points in their conference championships, so they'll both be looking to rebound in Tampa, Fla., but someone's defense will falter at the wrong time.

WHY WATCH: There's the classic SEC-Big Ten matchup, the identical 10-3 records and the very talented defenses. Sounds fun to me. For Georgia, Mark Richt & Co. have come a very long way since that 0-2 start. Georgia won 10 straight en route to its first SEC title game appearance since 2005. Richt began the year on the hot seat but is far away from those days. This is a chance for the Bulldogs to get some momentum heading into the spring before a season in which Georgia will no doubt be a popular favorite in the SEC East.

PREDICTION: Georgia 27, Michigan State 24. The Bulldogs were one of the hottest teams in the country before getting blasted by LSU in the SEC championship game. Michigan State was also a victory away from the Rose Bowl. Both sport top-five defenses and fun offenses. This one could be one of the top bowl games of the year and should come down to the very end with Georgia squeaking by.

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