College Football Cotton Bowl Betting Picks: #8 Michigan State Spartans vs #5 Baylor Bears

2014 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
#8 Michigan State Spartans vs #5 Baylor Bears

AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas
Thursday, January 1, 2015, 12:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Baylor -2
Current Line: Baylor -2 1/2
Opening Total: 70 1/2
Current Total: 69 1/2
Opening Money Line: Baylor -145 / Michigan state +125
Current Money Line: Baylor -145 / Michigan State +125 

Baylor is a 3 point favorite against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.
Baylor is a 3 point favorite against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.

The 11-1 Baylor Bears narrowly missed out on the inaugural  four team college football playoff. The Bears must settle for a berth in the Cotton Bowl against 10-2 Michigan State. Michigan State won the only previous meeting at home in 1968.

Baylor tied for the Big 12 Conference Championship with TCU. Both teams went 8-1 in the Big 12, but were passed over for the playoff in favor of Ohio State. This was mainly due to the fact that the Big 12 is the only one of the power five conferences without a championship game. Michigan State finished second in the Big Ten East Division with a 7-1 record behind the aforementioned Buckeyes of Ohio State.

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Michigan State is 10-14 all time in bowl games. The Spartans are playing in a bowl for the 8th straight season. Michigan State has won 3 straight bowl games including 24-20 in the Rose Bowl over Stanford last season. The Spartans have never played in the Cotton Bowl in their history.

Baylor is 10-10 all-time in bowl games. The Bears are playing in a bowl for a fifth straight season, and lost to Central Florida last year 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl. Baylor is 0-2 in their two previous trips to the Cotton Bowl losing in 1974 and 1980.

Michigan State is coached by Mark Dantonio. The Spartans have road losses to Oregon 46-27 and at home to Ohio State 49-37. Michigan State has won 3 straight games. The Spartans have home wins over Jacksonville State 45-7, Eastern Michigan 73-14, Wyoming 56-14, Nebraska 27-22, Michigan 35-11, and Rutgers 45-3, along with road wins over Purdue 45-31, Indiana 56-17, Maryland 37-15, and Penn State 34-10 in the last game of the season. Michigan State is 8-4 ATS and the total is 9-3 this season. The Spartans were 13 point favorites against Penn State and the total was 43.5.

Baylor is coached by Art Briles. The only loss came at West Virginia 41-27. The Bears have won 5 straight games since then. Baylor has home wins over SMU 45-0, Northwestern State 70-6, TCU 61-58, Kansas 60-14, Oklahoma State 49-28 and Kansas State 38-27 in the last game of the season. The Bears have road wins at Buffalo 63-21, Iowa State 49-28, Texas 28-7, Oklahoma 48-14 along with a neutral site win over Texas Tech 48-46 in Arlington. Baylor is 7-4-1 ATS and the total is 7-5. The Bears were 7 point favorites against Kansas State and the total was 71.5.

Michigan State is outscoring teams 43-20 this season. The Spartans are #7 in scoring and #15 in points allowed nationally. Michigan State is averaging 497 yards per game on offense including 262 passing and 235 rushing. The Spartans are in the top 40 nationally in all three categories, including #13 in total offense. On defense, Michigan State is allowing 294 yards per game including 196 passing and 98 rushing yards. The Spartans are #25 in pass defense, #3 in rush defense and #5 in total defense nationally. Michigan State is +20 in turnovers with 33 takeaways. The Spartans average 57 penalty yards per game and opponents average 40. MSU is 93/190 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 61/187. The Spartans have forced 37 sacks and allowed 10 this season. Michigan State is 53/61 scoring in the red zone with 43 touchdowns and opponents are 23/27 with 19 touchdowns. The Spartans have 3 pick sixes and a kick return for a touchdown and have allowed a punt return for a touchdown.

MSU quarterback Connor Cook has completed 58.2% of his passes for 2,900 yards with 22 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, plus 2 rushing touchdowns. Running back Jeremy Langford has 249 carries for 1,360 yards and 19 touchdowns, along with 9 catches. Nick Hill has 100 carries for 596 yards and 9 touchdowns, along with 4 catches. Delton Williams has 54 carries for 316 yards with 5 touchdowns.

Receiver Tony Lippett has 60 catches for 1,124 yards and 11 touchdowns. Keith Mumphery has 22 catches for 408 yards and 2 touchdowns. Macgarrett Kings, Jr. has 26 catches for 385 yards and a touchdown, plus 67 rushing yards. Josiah Price has 23 catches for 347 yards and 5 touchdowns. Aaron Burbridge has 25 catches for 301 yards and a touchdown.

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Baylor is outscoring teams 49-24 this season. Baylor is #1 in scoring and #39 in points allowed nationally. The Bears are averaging 581 total yards per game including 346 passing yards and 235 rushing yards. The Bears are #1 in total offense, #5 in passing and #23 in rushing nationally. On defense, Baylor is allowing 368 yards per game on defense including 260 passing yards and 108 rushing yards per game. The Bears are #107 in pass defense and #10 against the run. Baylor is +12 in turnovers with 24 takeaways. The Bears are averaging 87 penalty yards per game and opponents average 66 yards per game. Baylor is 119/231 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 74/213. The Bears have forced 36 sacks and have allowed 19. Baylor is 59/70 scoring in the red zone with 46 touchdowns, and opponents are 27/31 with 20 touchdowns. The Bears have one defensive touchdown and have allowed a pick six and a kick return for a touchdown.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty has completed 62.1% of his passes for 3,305 yards with 26 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, plus 77 carries for 137 yards and 5 touchdowns. Seth Russell has completed 56.5% of his passes for 804 yards with 8 touchdowns and an interception and also rushed for 185 yards and 3 touchdowns. Most of Russell’s stats came in the first two games of the season when Petty missed a game and a half with a back injury.

Running back Shock Linwood has 240 carries for 1,226 yards and 16 touchdowns, plus 6 catches for 76 yards.  Johnny Jefferson has 98 carries for 526 yards and 6 touchdowns. Devin Chafin has 79 carries for 385 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is questionable with an elbow injury.  Silas Nacita has 31 carries for 191 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Receiver Corey Coleman has 57 catches for 969 yards and 10 touchdowns. KD Cannon has 50 catches for 833 yards and 6 touchdowns.  Antwan Goodley has 51 catches for 737 yards and 6 touchdowns. Jay Lee has 39 catches for 596 yards and 6 touchdowns. Davion Hall has 15 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown.

Michigan State is 5-0 ATS in neutral site games, 5-1-1 in non-conference games, 5-1 overall, 4-1 after a straight up win, 13-4-1 against teams with winning records, 16-5-1 on fieldturf, 11-4-1 after allowing less than 20 points, 18-7-1 after allowing less than 275 yards, 18-8-1 after a cover, and 2-5 against Big 12 teams.

Baylor is 7-1 ATS in non-conference games, and after gaining 450 yards or more, 4-1 in Thursday games, 20-6 on fieldturf, 12-4 against teams with winning records, 6-2-1 after passing for more than 280 yards, 14-5-1 after a cover, 22-8-1 overall, 18-7-1 after a straight up win, 5-2 in neutral site games, and 10-4 after allowing more than 280 passing yards.

Both these teams have explosive offenses but Michigan State has a much better defense. However, the two times Michigan State has faced a top five team this season, the Spartans were beaten handily by Oregon and Ohio State. I see a similar result here as Baylor looks to prove they belonged in the playoff.

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