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December 31, 2008
Both teams in Thursday's Capital One Bowl are 9-3. One is celebrating; the other ? well, it isn't.
Michigan State was expected to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. Instead, the Spartans finished third (a game behind co-champs Ohio State and Penn State). The Spartans are making back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1996-97, and this is just their second New Year's Day bowl since the 1989 season.
Georgia, meanwhile, came into the season ranked No. 1. The Bulldogs started 4-0, then it went south in a 41-30 home loss to Alabama that wasn't as close as the final score would indicate. Losses to Florida (49-10) and Georgia Tech (45-42) followed, and the Bulldogs finished second in the SEC East. While this is the Bulldogs' 12th consecutive bowl ? and their sixth New Year's Day appearance this decade ? more was expected of them.
A beat-up defense has hurt the Bulldogs. They surrender 25.6 points per game ? their worst mark since 1990 ? and have allowed at least 38 points five times. Georgia gave up at least 41 points in each of the losses.
"I think we have a lot to prove. ? We came into this season with a lot of expectations and a lot of hype," Georgia wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said. "Somewhere along the line, we fell short of a couple of things that we wanted to accomplish.
"We want to go out there and play the best we can so that when people remember this team, they can remember the last game of the season."
Who has the edge?
Georgia run offense vs. Michigan State run defense
Georgia pass offense vs. Michigan State pass defense
Michigan State run offense vs. Georgia run defense
Michigan State pass offense vs. Georgia pass defense
Georgia special teams vs. Michigan State special teams
Georgia coaches vs. Michigan State coaches
X-factor: This isn't the New Year's Day ? or later ? bowl Georgia had in mind when the season began. Are the Bulldogs going to be motivated? A win means a top-12 finish is possible. A loss means Georgia likely finishes between 20th and 25th.
Georgia will win if: The Bulldogs' run defense is the key. If Georgia can keep Ringer somewhat in control ? 100 or so yards, one TD ? it will be fine.
Michigan State will win if: Ringer has to have a big game for the Spartans because Hoyer cannot win this with his arm. The Spartans also need to get in Stafford's face. If they don't, he will pick them apart.
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