Capital One Bowl keys for Spartans

Here are three keys for Michigan State in its Capital One Bowl showdown against Alabama:

1. Run to set up the play-action: Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins has had time to get healthy and can do some damage in the play-action pass game. But to help Cousins, Michigan State must establish the run with Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper. The Spartans' ground game struggled in the second half of Big Ten play, although it looked decent in the regular-season finale at Penn State.

2. Special teams: Arguably no team in the country has made more critical plays on special teams than the Spartans. From "Little Giants" to "Mousetrap" to Denicos Allen's blocked punt against Purdue, Michigan State has stepped up in the kicking game. Alabama is dangerous in the return game but Michigan State could have the edge on special teams.

3. Make plays in the secondary: The Spartans' defensive backs have been playmakers all season, as the four starters boast a combined 12 interceptions and 30 pass deflections. Alabama will try to attack downfield with Julio Jones and Marquis Maze, and it's important for the Spartans' cornerbacks to limit damage and get their hands on the ball. Like many games, the Capital One Bowl could come down to turnovers, so the MSU secondary will be a major factor one way or another.