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Alabama vs. Michigan State: Cotton Bowl Pittsburgh Steelers fan viewing guide

The second playoff game of New Year's Eve starts at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN when the Alabama Crimson Tide takes on the Michigan State Spartans in Arlington, Texas.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Even if you aren't a fan of college football, the playoff games are worth watching. In addition to incredible energy and school spirit, college football games provide a sneak peak at future NFL stars. The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1) takes on the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans in the Cotton Bowl at 8:00 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Here are a few players to watch:

QB Connor Cook, Michigan State

Connor Cook is projected to be a first-round draft pick in 2016, so he will become a familiar name in the NFL next season. Cook missed Michigan State's game against Ohio State, and despite his absence, the Spartans managed to pull off a victory. Cook is starting on Thursday, a relief for Spartans fans who know that Alabama has one of the best rush defenses in the league. The Spartans will need to rely on Cook's strength and accuracy through the air.

DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State

Sophomore tackle McDowell has been a problem for offenses this year, totaling 12 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He could present a problem for the Alabama offensive line.

WR Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State

Aaron Burbridge is a favorite target of Cook with 80 receptions for 1,219 yards and seven touchdowns. He also won the Big Ten's award for best wide receiver, the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year Award. The combination of Cook and Burbridge will definitely be interesting to watch, especially if they are able to neutralize the Alabama defense.

RB Derrick Henry, Alabama

Junior Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry has an astounding 1,986 rushing yards, an SEC single-season record, and 23 touchdowns. Henry is 6'2", 242 pounds, yet he has surprising speed considering his side, but lacks lateral quickness.

DT A' Shawn Robinson, Alabama

One of the scariest defenders on the field, the All-American junior defensive lineman will cause problems for the Spartans offense. Robinson can disrupt the run and collapse pockets, putting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

CB Cyrus Jones, Alabama

The 2016 draft is full of talented cornerbacks. One of Alabama's best at that position is Cyrus Jones. He is projected to be a later-round pick, but he is worth watching since the Steelers might consider bolstering their flagging secondary through smart draft picks.