No, the Outback Bowl is most certainly not a BCS game. There's no reason in pretending otherwise. But for either Michigan State or Georgia, a win in this game will be the exclamation point on their return to prominence.
For Michigan State (10-3), it's more of a continuation from what was started last season. Mark Dantonio led the Spartans to their first Top 15 ranking since Nick Saban led them to a No. 9 ranking in 1999. But despite finishing tied for the Big Ten title, the Spartans' season ended on a down night as they were crushed 49-7 by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl. In fact, the Spartans will be looking for their first bowl win of the Dantonio era and their first since 2001 (Silicon Valley Bowl).
This year has not been an out-and-out success, as the loss to No. 15 Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game can attest, but it has been a continuation of what started in 2007 when Dantonio took over. The Spartans have gone 2-2 against teams ranked in the Top 15. Included in those wins was one over arch-rival Michigan, who came into their game ranked No. 11. The Spartans also beat Wisconsin in their first meeting, back when the Badgers were ranked No. 6 in the country.
The Spartans have done all this with a relatively balanced attack and a stellar defense. Michigan State ranks 44th in passing yards per game (247.0), 76th in rushing (142.9) and had the ninth best scoring defense (17.5). Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been outstanding, completing more than 65 percent of his passes for the second straight year, throwing for 3,016 yards and tossing 24 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.
The Bulldogs (10-3) are basically like the slightly more balanced cousin. After barely qualifying for a bowl last year, Mark Richt got Georgia right back to where he was accustomed to them being.
A rough start to the season that saw the Bulldogs lose two straight, they would eventually reel off 10 straight wins before falling to No. 1-ranked LSU in the SEC title game. The Bulldogs ended up with the 39th best offense (413.9 yards per game) and the 17th best scoring defense (19.6 points per game). Quarterback Aaron Murray led the attack with 33 touchdown passes, although the sophomore did toss 12 interceptions.
This game will be a rematch of the 2009 Capital One Bowl in which Georgia won 24-12. The Bulldogs also won the only other previous meeting.