Georgia vs. Michigan State
When: 1 p.m. today
Where: Orlando, Fla.
TV, radio: ABC (WSB-2); 550-AM, 99.3 FM
Web site: www.georgiadogs.com
ORLANDO, Fla. — A matchup of two All-American running backs could well come down to the quarterbacks in the Capital One Bowl.Either No. 16 Georgia’s Matthew Stafford or No. 19 Michigan State’s Brian Hoyer could have to make a difference if his top rusher gets thwarted — or if both run wild.
"I am very confident that if Georgia tries to stack the box against us, Hoyer will have one of the best games he’s had," Spartans running back Javon Ringer said. "All of this preparation we’ve had for Georgia, Hoyer has been tremendous."
Stafford, projected as a possible first-round NFL pick, is no slouch either.
"He does a good job of feeling pressure and stepping up in the pocket," MSU linebackers coach Mike Tressel said. "He’s not necessarily going to take off and run, but he can buy himself a couple more seconds on just about any play.
"He can make the throw when he doesn’t necessarily have the time to step up into it, when he’s off-balance, when he’s going one way and then sliding another way. He can make accurate throws in all of those situations."
Hoyer knows this game is his chance to outshine Stafford but he also knows that’s not what it will necessarily take to beat Georgia, which has been erratic at best this season.
"Whether or not he comes out, he’s a top draft pick," said Hoyer, currently considered a middle-round pick. "I want to be a high draft pick too, so I’m going to go out there and show what I can do. When it really comes down to it, I’m going to play for a win, so if I hand the ball off 50 times and we win, I couldn’t care less."
If he does hand the ball off 50 times, it’ll be mostly to Ringer.
Ringer, a first-team Associated Press All-America, became the Spartans’ first first-team pick since Lorenzo White in 1985. He led the nation in scoring and carries, his 370 being more than 32 more than the next highest total. He led the nation in scoring (12.5 points a game) and was third with 132.5 yards rushing per game.
Ringer said whether he shines or Hoyer takes the spotlight will depend on the line.
"The battle is going to come with our guys up front," he said. "I’m going to need holes to run through and Hoyer is going to need time to throw, and that all starts up front."
Said Hoyer, "If they try to take away Javon, then it’s pick your poison."
The same can be said for Georgia. The Bulldogs feature the explosive Knowshon Moreno, a second-team All-America and one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award. He ran for 1,338 yards and 16 TDs, becoming only the second Georgia player after Herschel Walker to have-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
The Spartans will not only be trying to stop Stafford and Moreno, but also to uphold the honor of the Big Ten — which lost its first two bowl games heading into Wednesday night’s matchup between Minnesota and Kansas in the Insight Bowl.
For MSU, there is the issue of staying hungry after the Spartans’ best season since Nick Saban led them to 10-2 record and second-place tie in the Big Ten in 1999.
Last week Coach Mark Dantonio was given a new contract that will boost his pay from $1.13 million to $1.8 million, a reward for the Spartans’ making their first New Year’s Day bowl game in nine seasons.