Capital One Bowl: Alabama 49, Michigan State 7. Michigan State, we were told, was coming to Orlando to earn a little respect, man. After all, this team was one of the best in school history, the first MSU outfit to win even a share of a Big Ten championship since 1990, and the first ever to 11 wins in a season. The Spartans beat Notre Dame in thrilling fashion, beat Michigan for the third year in a row, won at Penn State for the first time since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten and beat Rose Bowl-bound Wisconsin by 10 points. And yeah, they felt a little snubbed that they were being shipped to the Capital One Bowl as a third wheel in the Big Ten race, behind co-champs Wisconsin and Ohio State.
So much for respect. At no point this afternoon did the Spartans' effort against Alabama even resemble a respectable defeat. The Crimson Tide outgained Michigan State by 330 yards, scored touchdowns on each of their first four possessions in the first half, held MSU to negative-13 yards rushing, sacked quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Andrew Maxwell five times and forced a punt or turnover on eight straight Spartan possessions before allowing a token touchdown drive in garbage time.
It was so ugly, 'Bama quarterback Greg McElroy went to the bench for good after hitting Marquis Maze on a 36-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 35-0 with a full 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter – and the Tide were still able to add two more scores by third-string tailback Eddie Lacy after throttling down the offense. The final score was the most lopsided in Citrus/Capital One Bowl history.
Since late October, when Michigan State's 8-0 start ran into a brick wall in an equally embarrassing, 37-6 loss at Iowa, the Spartans have been regarded as a good team that caught the right breaks against the right schedule (from which Ohio State was conspicuously absent) to wind up with a great record. Today was their golden opportunity to silence any and all skepticism about the gaudy win total against a wounded powerhouse that also expected to be playing for much bigger stakes at the end of the season, and the entire operation collapsed in a heap from the coin toss. Whatever they were hoping to prove, the only thing the rest of the country is going to take away is that they never really deserved to mentioned in the same sentence as the Rose Bowl.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.