I hope all of you had as merry a Christmas as my family and I did. Now that we find ourselves on the other side of December 25, I suppose we have no choice but to turn our attention to the Bulldogs’ upcoming Capital One Bowl showdown with Michigan State.
This is the first installment of our look at the Spartans. Be forewarned, however: I approach this topic in a somewhat strange frame of mind, for three reasons. First of all, after buying into the Red and Black’s lofty preseason expectations, I regard a season of at least three losses as disastrous, so even a victory in Orlando on New Year’s Day will do no more than mitigate the disaster.
Secondly, Florida Atlantic just finished beating Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl, which drives yet another stake into the illusion that the ‘Dawgs faced a schedule even remotely as tough as advertised. Finally, my wife gave me "The Dark Knight" for Christmas, and she and I watched it earlier this evening, so, needless to say, upbeat is not exactly my current mode.
That said, a brief history lesson will suffice as a starting point:
Georgia and Michigan State have met just once before, in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on January 1, 1989. The game was significant because it was Vince Dooley’s last on the Georgia sideline. In a turnover-free game, the Bulldogs outdueled the Spartans, surprisingly gaining 227 of the Red and Black’s 409 yards through the air.
Wayne Johnson earned most valuable player honors under center by completing 15 of his 27 passes, including four to Rodney Hampton. Not only was Hampton the Bulldogs’ leading rusher with 10 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown on the ground, the Georgia tailback also led the way through the air with 71 receiving yards and a pair of touchdown catches.
Although M.S.U.’s Andre Rison was unstoppable in the game (nine receptions for 252 yards and three T.D.s), the future Atlanta Falcon came up on the short end of a 34-27 final despite a pair of Spartan scores in the final quarter. Coach Dooley was sent out a winner with his record-setting 201st career victory in his hip pocket.
Leaving aside Georgia’s Sugar Bowl loss to Penn State more than a decade before the Nittany Lions exchanged their status as an independent power for a league affiliation, the Classic City Canines have not lost to a Big Ten team since falling to Michigan at Ann Arbor on October 5, 1957.
In the interim, the Red and Black have gotten the better of Michigan in 1965, Michigan State in the aforementioned 1989 Gator Bowl, Ohio State in the 1993 Citrus Bowl, Purdue in the 2000 Outback Bowl and the 2004 Capital One Bowl, and Wisconsin in the 1998 and 2005 Outback Bowls.