December 6, 2010 2:10:00 PM
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Michigan State and Alabama had their sights set higher this year. Instead, they got a pretty nice consolation prize against each other.
The two powerhouse programs accepted invitations Sunday night to play in the Capital One Bowl on New Year''s Day, setting up a matchup of teams that were hoping for higher-profile destinations this year.
"I think we''re a BCS-caliber football team," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "But the way it all shakes out, we''re where we''re at in terms of the polls. Maybe it''s because we weren''t a Top 25 team coming into the season. I think you receive points for just being that.
"But we''ve come a long way. We''ve had a storybook-type season. We''ve fought through adversity, we''ve won close games, so we''ve done a lot of different things. But we''re an 11-1 football team. So, hey, where that takes us we''ll go."
That would be Orlando.
The bowl matches the top non-BCS programs from the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference in what has become perhaps the next best thing to the BCS jackpot. Just don''t tell that to either of these schools.
Not after this season.
Michigan State shared the Big Ten title with Wisconsin and Ohio State. But there were only two spots for the conference in the BCS bowls, and the BCS standings were used to break the deadlock.
The Spartans are ranked ninth in the BCS behind No. 5 Wisconsin and No. 6 Ohio State. So Michigan State''s reward is to face a team that had even loftier goals this year: the defending-national champion Crimson Tide (9-3).
"If we''re to win this football game and we move forward at 12-1, we''ll get our just due," Dantonio said.
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