DALLAS — Trying to run against Alabama is like trying to turn Texas blue before Election Day, so Michigan State needs to survive on alternatives in Thursday’s Cotton Bowl.
As it happens, the Spartans have one of the country’s best quarterbacks.
Connor Cook is a likely first-round pick, and he’s led Michigan State to big wins in two Big Ten championship games, a Cotton Bowl and a Rose Bowl.
Now, in his 39th career start, he needs to dig a little deeper.
“I think he needs to play one of his best games that he’s played in his career,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said Wednesday. “Because I think it’s gonna be tough to run the ball against that front early. I think Michigan State, if they’re gonna have success, they’re gonna have to throw to set up the run.”
The onus will mostly be on Cook’s receivers, who struggled to get separation against Iowa. Alabama won’t make things easy.
“They confuse you with who’s coming,” Herbstreit said. “So the line’s gotta be on the same page. Connor Cook’s gonna have about 2.5 seconds to get the ball out of his hands, so he’s gotta make quick decisions, but his receivers are gonna have to be able to win in 1-on-1 coverage.”
Crimson Tide players and coaches have been clear: Cook is the best quarterback they’ve faced this season.
Wednesday, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio had plenty of praise for the All-Big Ten passer.
“He can do about anything he wants to do,” Dantonio said. “He can create. He’s got a quick release, strong arm, those type of things. And he believes in his receivers. And he throws the ball in very tight windows and throws a very, very catchable football.
“He’s been a great, great performer for us.”