There's something about this Michigan State team. The 2015 football season did everything in its power to challenge the Spartans and possibly eliminate them from national title contention. Big games, tough situations, injuries and a shocking loss have all prepared this team for its College Football Playoff game on New Year's Eve against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.
These Spartans have seen it all.
The 2015 Michigan State Spartans are a special bunch. Are they special enough to knock off an Alabama squad that many consider to be the best in the land? I believe so, and here are five reasons why.
5 Reasons Why Michigan State Will Win the Cotton Bowl
1. No stage is too big for the Spartans in 2015
Michigan State doesn't have the experience of playing in the College Football Playoff like Alabama does, but they're no strangers to the spotlight in 2015. The Spartans played and defeated Oregon early in one of the most highly anticipated games of the season. They traveled to Ann Arbor for a high-profile game against Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. In that one, they battled back, never gave up and won in dramatic fashion. Then, in another one of the most highly anticipated games of the season, they took down defending champion Ohio State in Columbus without starting quarterback Connor Cook. This team is built to play in the spotlight against Alabama at AT&T Stadium.
2. Michigan State is a more complete team than Alabama
As always, the Spartan defense is loaded with playmakers at all three levels. This season, they feature an offensive line similar to what you see from many of the stronger SEC teams in recent years. The offense boasts two wide receivers and a tight end that will play in the NFL, as well as a stable of powerful running backs, which — as these ball carriers showed in the Big Ten Championship Game — do not go down easy. Perhaps most importantly, Sparty has the best pure passer in the College Football Playoff in Connor Cook, who also is the best quarterback Alabama has faced all season.
3. The Spartans are no strangers to AT&T Stadium
Just like last season, they've made it to the Cotton Bowl. Sure, the stakes are higher, but the logistics are very much the same. Coaches and athletes are creatures of habit, and you can bet that head coach Mark Dantonio is going to do everything in his power to replicate what the Spartans did from a routine standpoint leading up to the game against Baylor last season.
4. Michigan State's recent opponents have prepared this team for Alabama
Michigan State played a championship-caliber team in Ohio State and came away victorious. The Spartans played an NFL-caliber quarterback and one of the best defenses in the nation and won against Penn State. They contained one of the better run games in the country and beat Iowa's elite defense with a 22-play, game-winning drive in the Big Ten Championship Game. Alabama's last three opponents were a bad Auburn team, a Florida squad with no offense and Charleston Southern. It's been a while since the Crimson Tide were tested, but the Spartans have been sparring with contenders for weeks.
5. The Spartans trust their system
Despite hemorrhaging NFL talent and losing arguably the best defensive coordinator in the nation, all Michigan State has done is win 11 or more games in five of the last six seasons. The Spartans also have won four straight bowl games. This team gets better every year as the season goes on. They trust their system. They trust their head coach. They trust each other. The Spartans know that no matter who goes down or what the score is, it's going to work out, because every individual from the towel boy to the head coach knows exactly what his job is and how it helps the team win the game. This is simply a team that knows how to win, and that's exactly what they'll do on New Year's Eve.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)