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Cotton Bowl Recap: Alabama Smothers Michigan St., Advances to National Title Game

The Crimson Tide won a convincing victory against the Spartans and are headed to the last game of the college football season

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Did everybody enjoy their two-season respite from Alabama being in the national title game? Because the Crimson Tide came roaring back into the championship event with a win Thursday night in the semifinals, battering the Michigan State Spartans on offense and defense in a game that was vintage Nick Saban.

The Tide limited Michigan State to 239 yards of total offense, holding the Spartans running game to 1.1 yards per attempt. Michigan State was 5-of-19 on third and fourth down. Connor Cook completed just 19 of his 39 passing attempts and threw two interceptions.

Meanwhile, Alabama's offense was methodical, though it relied more on the arm of Jake Coker than many assumed. And Coker, thanks in no small part to the efforts of his receivers, was excellent: 25-of-30 for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Derrick Henry didn't exactly look the part of a Heisman Trophy winner -- he ran the ball 20 times for 75 yards -- but that's okay, because Calvin Ridley did, grabbing eight receptions for 138 yards. If there was any question before this game about whether Alabama could win without a great day from Henry, the answer appears to be yes.

In other words, this was the Alabama we've all grown used to watching in games like these since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa eight years ago: Get a lead, and then slowly drain the life out of the opponents. Whether it's the same dynasty or not, this is certainly the same program that it's been -- a team that can win 38-0 in a game that feels even more dominant than that. A team that faced the No. 3 team in the country and annihilated them.

There's still a challenge ahead. Clemson showed with a similarly dominant performance against Oklahoma that the Tigers will be a difficult out for the Tide on Jan. 11. But Alabama is still Alabama, and what happened on Thursday night proved just how dangerous that is to the Tide's opponents.