EAST LANSING - Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi has had the unenviable task of game planning for three high power offenses in each of Michigan State's past three bowl games.
Michigan State went up against the strong arm of Boston College quarterback and current Atlanta Falcon star Matt Ryan in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl. The following season, Narduzzi's defense tried to reign in Matt Stafford, Knowshon Moreno,A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi in the Champs Sports Bowl. And last year, Michigan State went up against the system attack of Texas Tech.
The Spartans will once again face a top-notch offense in a bowl game when Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, star running back Mark Ingram, and dynamic receiver Julio Jones guide defending national champion Alabama into the Capital One Bowl.
"Overall, Alabama is a good football team," said Narduzzi. "I think you all know that. National champions a year ago. Heisman Trophy tailback...One of the coaches in the SEC, won't tell you who it is, said, `When you get there, put a curtain up at the 50-yard line and don't look down there.' Obviously looked pretty good."
The Crimson Tide offense is similar to Michigan State's in that both teams run a pro-style offense that places an emphasis on establishing the run and taking shots down field with a passing game that utilizes physical athletes at receiver.
"It helps us a lot," said Narduzzi. "They're not obviously a spread. They have the element of spread in it. It obviously helps us a bunch. They're very similar to us. They're going to run outside zone, power, a little inside zone, going to try to throw it. It helps us a lot, I think."
Narduzzi is as impressed with McElroy as he was with Ryan three years ago.
"They got a quarterback that can get it to whoever he wants to," said the Spartan coordinator. "He makes good decisions. We just got done watching third down. He gets the protections where they need to be. He's obviously a very smart guy as well. That's important."
Michigan State has put a Top 25 rush defense on the field each of the past two seasons. The Spartans have held a number of outstanding running backs including Wisconsin's John Clay to season lows. Michigan State has only allowed one 100-yard rushing performance by a back this season. The stout Spartan run defense will be tested by the Crimson Tide.
"Outside zone, inside zone, they're going to keep pounding you," Narduzzi said. "Offensive line is similar to Iowa athletically. They're not a huge Wisconsin type of offensive line. They're a very athletic Iowa tough and know exactly where to go."