College Football Playoff Semifinal Preview: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Michigan State

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(Photo: OBSEV / Getty)

In the second playoff game, the Goodyear Cotton Bowl, the Alabama Crimson Tide will face off against the Michigan State Spartans. The Crimson Tide reached the playoff after rolling to victory in the SEC Championship game, while the Spartans edged out a victory in the Big Ten Championship by going on an epic 22-play drive to save their national title hopes.

Alabama has relied on their running game all season. Running back and Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry has been key to their success. Henry has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns; there’s a reason he won the Heisman. He has rolled over numerous SEC defenses, but he might face his toughest challenge against the Michigan State Spartans defense.

The Spartans are the 9th best rushing defense in the nation. They have held their opponents to only 3.55 yards per rush this season and have gone against some of the best running backs in the nation. Their defense is led by defensive end Shilique Calhoun and defensive tackle Malik McDowell. Both players grabbed numerous honors and are tasked with stopping the best running back in the nation. No easy task!

Michigan State will need a big performance from their quarterback Connor Cook. Cook struggled in the Big Ten Title Game only throwing for 191 yards and an interceptions. They will need more from him in order to get a victory over the Crimson Tide, but that’s not easy because Alabama is one of the best overall teams in the nation on the defensive end.

The Crimson Tide are the heavy favorites in this game due to their running attack and their superb defense. The Spartans have a tough task ahead, but they have relished the role of playing the underdog all season. However, when you have a Heisman Trophy winner and one as dominant as Henry on your side, it is a bit of an unfair advantage. Michigan State must stop Henry in order to have any chance in this game.

The winner of this game will go on to face the winner of the Clemson-Oklahoma game in the National Championship game on January 11th in Glendale, Arizona.