Alabama's 3 keys to success vs. MSU

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Alabama WR Calvin Ridley has become QB Jake Coker's favorite target.

Go downfield

Freshman Calvin Ridley is a dynamic young receiver and he has an 81-yard touchdown catch this season, something he’ll want to try and repeat against Michigan State. It’s not a big secret that Alabama intends to line up and run right at teams with one of the most potent running attacks in the nation, but Michigan State has had success stopping other rushing attacks, including holding Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott to just 33 yards on 12 carries. That means the Crimson Tide will likely need to throw the ball to win and going vertical to loosen up the Michigan State secondary could be the key to softening the rushing defense of the Spartans.

Make MSU one-dimensional

Connor Cook has had an outstanding career and he’s been great in big games, but if the Alabama defensive front is able to tee off and come after the Spartans’ quarterback, it could be a long day for Michigan State. To do that, the Crimson Tide will need to contain the rushing attack of the Spartans, one that has been led by a healthy offensive line and late-season surges from running backs LJ Scott and Gerald Holmes. If Alabama can corral Michigan State on the ground, like it has to far better running attacks all season, it will be in perfect position to turn the Spartans into predictable offense to defend.

Hang on to the ball

Michigan State is fourth in the nation in turnover margin, intercepting 15 passes this season and forcing 13 fumbles. It’s hard to predict when a team will come up with turnovers, but Jake Coker has thrown eight interceptions this season and it will be vital for the fifth-year senior quarterback to take care of the ball. The Spartans took advantage in the Big Ten title game against Iowa, intercepting one pass in the end zone and forcing a fumble on the final play of the game.