Alabama beats Michigan State in Cotton Bowl, advances to championship game

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

But when New Year's Eve arrived, it was Jake Coker's party.

He led the team to the first championship win in school history after the 1982 Orange Bowl against Nebraska, and said he thinks the Tigers can take home the title again this year.

Watson got off to a slow start passing, but came back to complete 16-of-31 for 187 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow that gave Clemson some breathing room late in the third quarter.

The Tide players talked about how some players were too concerned about where they would be drafted or partying on Bourbon Street last season.

He had an assist from star freshman wide receiver Calvin Ridley. He earned his keep, catching five passes for 120 yards and a touchdown in that win. Coker threw a ideal deep ball to Ridley for 50 yards to the 1.

But that win won't come easily against a Saban-coached Alabama squad that has been the gold standard in America for so long.

The players said they were more focused and promised to be more prepared, more precise in their execution and more relentless in their effort. "I don't know if it was a focus thing, we just didn't finish". A lot easier than it should be.

With the exception of one big pass play, the Spartans defense had largely held Alabama in check. So are all the other guys out there. "And I think Mark and his staff have done a great job of getting better and better players". With 1,031 yards on the season he breaks Cooper's 2012 record for freshmen receiving yards.

Tight end O.J. Howard also helped out with three catches for 59 yards.

"I think that we made some big plays in the game today, and I think that was the difference in the game", Alabama coach Nick Saban said. They've got a really good defensive front. The way they play in the secondary, their guys are aggressive against the run. You deal with it. We didn't get it done collectively.

After a thrilling season that ended with an appearance in college football's playoff, Michigan State loses substantial talent in 2016.

This was, by any measure, a memorable year for Michigan State.

And the lopsided nature of third-ranked Michigan State's 38-0 loss to second-ranked Alabama in the national semifinals may linger.

It was his lightest workload against any major conference opponent this season, but he still played a vital role. Instead of pounding away at a Michigan State defense that was stacked to stop Heisman Trophy victor Derrick Henry from running wild, Alabama aired it out. The Spartans have become a force in the Big Ten the last six years, but coach Mark Dantonio and his team will confront some challenges in the coming months. Well, I'm not gonna say that, because obviously they beat us 38-zip.

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