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Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
TCU vs. Michigan State, 10:15 ET ESPN
TCU – Ranked first in the Big 12 in total defense with just 332 yards against per game
Michigan State – Went 2-5 SU and ATS in a stretch of an NCAA-record-tying seven straight games decided by four points or fewer.
ABOUT TCU (7-5, 4-5 Big 12, 5-7 ATS): The Horned Frogs wound up 10th in the conference in total offense and lost three of their next four games after Pachall left the team. That put the burden of running the offense on the shoulders of freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin. Pachall was 15-2 in his career and threw 25 touchdown passes last season, giving TCU plenty of hope for 2012. When he was gone, the Horned Frogs had to throw Boykin into the fire and he threw three interceptions in his first start. Boykin rebounded with a fabulous four-touchdown game against Baylor, but then battled with his consistency the rest of the season. The Horned Frogs had a signature 20-13 victory at Texas late in the season in a game when Boykin threw only nine passes.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten, 4-8 ATS): The Spartans defeated Georgia 33-30 in the Outback Bowl last season, but exceeded that point total only once in 2012. Michigan State ranked ninth in total offense in the Big Ten. Bell, however, seemed to get stronger as the year went along and finished with 1,638 yards on the ground, good for sixth in the nation. Andrew Maxwell completed only 53 percent of his passes this year as the receiving unit was labeled as one of the most unreliable corps in the nation. With top wideout Keshawn Martin now playing for the Houston Texans, the Spartans dropped passes at an alarming rate. Michigan State flashed its enormous potential with wins over Boise State and at Wisconsin, which is headed to the Rose Bowl, but it needed a win in its season-finale to even become bowl eligible. Tight end Dion Sims, who went over 100 yards receiving twice this season, will play after recovering from an ankle injury.
* Horned Frogs are 0-4 ATS in their last four Bowl games.
* Spartans are 1-5 ATS in their last six vs. Big 12.
* Under is 6-0-1 in Horned Frogs' last seven bowl games.
* Under is 3-0-1 in Spartans' last four non-conference games.
TCU: 0-7 ATS away vs. non-conference opponents
Michigan State: 9-1 ATS off BB games allowing 225 or less total yards
It gets its normally explosive defensive performance, and freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin is able to manage the offense without too many turnovers. The Frogs led the Big 12 in turnovers taken (11 fumble recoveries, 21 interceptions) and turnovers given (16 fumbles, 11 interceptions). The 32 turnovers taken ranks sixth in the nation, so the turnover could be crucial in what is expected to be a tight defensive game.
Michigan State wins if…
It plays its normally sound defensive game and gets a big night from running back Le’Veon Bell, who ranks third in the nation with 137.3 yards rushing per game. The Spartans rank third in the nation in total defense at 273.25 yards per game and allowed the opposition just 19 offensive touchdowns. Michigan State also ranks third in the nation in time of possession at 33:18.
The Frogs lost running back Waymon James (knee) early in the year and have pieced things together since then. The Frogs would like to lean on senior Matthew Tucker (487 yards on 110 carries), and his oft-injured ankle should be healthy after a month off. However, freshman B.J. Catalon (562 yards on 116 carries) has been solid in his stead. QB Trevone Boykin also has 383 yards rushing, and running quarterbacks have frustrated the Spartans. MSU ranks eighth in the nation in rushing defense at 99.58 yards per game. EDGE: Michigan State When TCU passes
Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin is often feast or famine. He has made some spectacular throws, but he also has a few too many three-and-outs. He completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,853 yards and 15 TDs. Josh Boyce is the most consistent receiver with 800 yards, while Brandon Carter (579), Skye Dawson (455) and LaDarius Brown have plenty of speed to stretch the field. Michigan State ranks third in the Big Ten in pass defense at 173.7 yards per game. EDGE: Michigan State
The Spartans have the No. 3 rusher in the nation in Le’Veon Bell (137.3 yards per game), but rank only 72nd in total rushing offense (151.58), meaning it’s Bell or nothing. TCU ranks eighth in the nation in rushing defense at 103.92 and has some of its best players in the defensive line — Devonte Fields and Stansly Maponga among them. This might be where the game is decided. If TCU can stuff Bell (who had 266 yards rushing in a regular-season ending 26-10 win over Minnesota) and force MSU to rely on its passing game, the Frogs will have an advantage. EDGE: TCU When MSU passes
Spartan QB Andrew Maxwell has numbers similar to Boykin. He completed 52.9 percent of his passes for 2,578 yards with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. TCU’s pass defense ranked 45th in yards per game at 228.1, but that was a product of being in the Big 12. The Frogs’ 21 interceptions were among the tops in the nation and pushed their passing defense efficiency rating to 29th at 117.3. Watch TCU junior Jason Verrett, who was one of the best defensive backs in the nation with six interceptions and 14 pass breakups. EDGE: TCU
A pair of sturdy defenses and Michigan State junior running back Le'Veon Bell will take center stage when a battle of teams which finished below .500 in conference play meet in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Tempe, Ariz. The teams should feel more comfortable on the road as neither won a conference game at home.
Texas Christian and Michigan State had high hopes for 2012 after racking up 11 wins apiece last season, but things didn't quite materialize. Michigan State dropped five conference games by a combined 11 points while TCU lost starting quarterback Casey Pachall after the fourth game of the season when he left school and checked into a rehab program for substance abuse after being arrested for DWI.
The offense too often settled for field goals this season and rarely found a true rhythm. Le'Veon Bell had several big games, but injuries along the offensive line and an inconsistent passing attack allowed defenses to key on Bell. The Spartans have talked plenty during bowl preparation about making tweaks to the offense, including moving quarterback Andrew Maxwell out of the pocket and designing more quarterback runs. However, changes should be minor, and converting them against the top defense in the Big 12 will be no easy task for a Michigan State offense that simply never found its footing in 2012.