As you’ve probably heard by now, the Big Ten and SEC runners-up will meet in the Outback Bowl at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, January 2, as the Georgia Bulldogs will square off with the Michigan St. Spartans.
Georgia and Michigan State have met twice before on the football field, both times in Sunshine State bowl games. The Bulldogs defeated the Spartans in the Gator Bowl in Vince Dooley’s last game as the Georgia head coach on New Year’s Day 1989, and the Red and Black repeated that feat in the Capital One Bowl in Matthew Stafford’s last game as the Georgia quarterback on New Year’s Day 2009.
While this year’s pairing in Tampa isn’t quite as big a disappointment as the latter pairing in Orlando was, this is still a bit of a letdown for a club that won ten straight games, beat all four major annual rivals, won the SEC East, played toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the country for 30 minutes, and lost to three teams with a combined record of 34-3.
With no disrespect to a very solid Michigan State squad, there is a bit of a "been there, done that" feel to this matchup. Since losing to the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor on October 5, 1957, the Classic City Canines have gone 8-0 against the Big Ten, including 3-0 in bowl games under Mark Richt. (No, the 1969 Sun Bowl against the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the 1983 Sugar Bowl against the Penn St. Nittany Lions don’t count as losses to Big Ten teams, as Nebraska was in the Big Eight, and Penn State was an independent, at the time.)
I expect Sparty to give the ‘Dawgs a good game, but I am underwhelmed over the matchup; frankly, once every 20 years is enough, and I was hoping for the Cotton Bowl. Still, I’m glad to see the Bulldogs back in a January bowl game, and it will be interesting to see which team shakes off its conference championship game loss more swiftly and refocuses on the new objective at hand. An eleven-win season for the first time since 2007 would be a fine way to cap off the campaign and enter the offseason riding a positive vibe.