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Outback Bowl Pick

Michigan State vs. Georgia

1/2/12

Michigan State and Georgia square off on January 2nd in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Florida. Georgia is a -3.5 point favorite at 5 Dimes in a game between two extremely disappointed teams looking to bounce back from devastating losses.

This is the type of game where you really need to be a psychology major in order to handicap. The psychological angle in sports handicapping can't be ignored. Not all games have them. More times than not, it's all about the x's and o's and the talent on the field. But plenty of games have been won or lost, particularly bowl games in college football, as a result of the mindset of one or both teams. That's why revenge can be such a powerful angle in college football.

Of the two teams here, the biggest question mark from a psychological standpoint would have to be Michigan State. This team had their sights set on the Rose Bowl from opening day. Despite losing to Notre Dame and Nebraska along the way, they got their chance for that elusive Rose Bowl birth by earning a spot in the inaugural Big 10 Title game. All they had to do was beat Wisconsin, again. They held a 39-34 until the 4 minute mark of the 4th quarter. The game ended with Wisconsin punting and the Spartans having the chance to get the ball back in good field position, but a questionable running into the kicker penalty gave Wisconsin a first down and the Big 10 Title.

Here are some quotes from the Michigan State side to illustrate just how devastating the loss was.

Kirk Cousins - “Still hurting,” senior quarterback Kirk Cousins said a day after torching Wisconsin’s defense but not getting one last chance to do it. “I’d be lying to you if I told you I’m moving forward and feeling great and we’ll be OK. It’s tough, like I said last night, to come that close (to the Rose Bowl) two years in a row, it’s almost a tease.

“It was the toughest loss I’ve ever had in athletics, so what comes with that is a lot of heartache. And when you play sports long enough, you’re gonna have those kinds of moments.”

AD Mark Hollis - “It was painful,” Hollis said of the loss. “I mean, it was really painful. The locker room was painful. You guys know how much passion I have for that Rose Bowl, I think it’s the greatest game out there. And to be that close, to have so many different plays that could have gone one way or another, it was painful.”

The Georgia Bulldogs certainly had their own heartache. After dropping their first two games, to Boise State and then a 3 point loss to South Carolina, Georgia rattled off 10 straight wins to earn a birth in the SEC Title game where they were obliterated by LSU. But that loss to LSU can't compare to the disappointment on the Spartans side. You have to wonder if even the Bulldogs themselves felt they could beat LSU.

If we were to put aside the psychological issues, we'd side with Michigan State here. We like their defense and we like Kirk Cousins and the Senior leadership he brings to the table. We also think the Michigan State performances in two big games against Wisconsin goes along way.

Our score prediction model likes the Spartans to pull the upset by a score of 22-21. The yards per point numbers are fairly even with both teams weighing in with very good offensive numbers and Michigan State 2 points better defensively.

Last year Michigan State was passed up for a BCS bowl after an 11-1 season. They then proceed to not show up for their bowl game against Alabama, losing 49-7. Perhaps they can use that to light a fire heading into this one. If that's not enough motivation, perhaps the fact that head Coach Mark Dantonio, QB Kirk Cousins and the rest of the Michigan State seniors have never won a bowl game, will be.

We'll cross our fingers and hope the Spartans come to play. If they do, they may not need the extra points. Michigan State +3.5

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