San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Dec. 19, 2017

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Michigan State (9-3, 7-2 B1G), which finished No. 16 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, will face No. 18 Washington State (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) in the 40th annual San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 28 at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, California. Kickoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET with the game televised on FS1.

The Spartans are making their 10th bowl bid in 11 seasons under Mark Dantonio, who enters the postseason one win shy of 100 at Michigan State, which would also give MSU its sixth double-digit win season in the last eight years. Overall, the Spartans are in the postseason for their 27th time with an all-time bowl record of 11-15. MSU is making its first-ever trip to the Holiday Bowl, which also marks the 13th time in which a Big Ten team has competed. Despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the country this season with a roster made up of two-thirds underclassmen, the Spartans reversed their 3-9 record from a year ago and garnered wins over Big Ten bowl teams Iowa, Michigan and Penn State, which was ranked 12th nationally at the time.

Washington State is making its third-straight bowl appearance and fourth in six years under head coach Mike Leach, marking the first time a coach has accomplished the feat at WSU. It also marks the 14th overall bowl game for the Cougar program, as it enters with a 7-6 bowl record. The Cougars are making their second straight and fourth overall appearance in the Holiday Bowl. Last season WSU fell to Minnesota, while it defeated No. 5 Texas in 2003 and narrowly fell to No. 14 Brigham Young in 1981. The Cougars have eclipsed the eight-win mark in three straight seasons, and opened the 2017 season in style with six-straight victories, including wins over No. 5 and No. 15 Stanford.

The Holiday Bowl marks the eighth meeting between Michigan State and Washington State. MSU leads the all-time series, 5-2, with the last meeting arriving in 1977. It will be the first meeting between the two teams in a bowl game. Both teams have excelled in one-possession games this year, with Michigan State touting a 5-1 record while the Cougars are 4-0 in the close ones.


 

 

QUICKIE
STATS

Scoring
Offense

Scoring Defense

Total Offense

Total Defense

Rushing Offense

Rushing Defense

Passing Offense

Passing Defense

Turnover Margin

MICH. ST.

23.1

20.3

378.3

297.8

162.9

101.3

215.4

196.5

+2

WASH. ST.

31.4

24.4

446.4

313.6

71.7

146.2

374.8

167.4

-2

Michigan State’s offense ranks sixth in the Big Ten in rushing (162.9), seventh in passing (215.4), eighth in total yards (378.3), 11th in scoring (23.1). The Spartans are second nationally in time of possession (35:12). Sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 215.0 passing yards per game, having completed 233 of his 396 passes this year for 2,580 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also has run for 433 yards, second among Big Ten quarterbacks. Felton Davis is the primary passing target as the junior wideout hauled in 51 receptions for 658 yards and eight touchdowns en route to second-team All-Big Ten accolades. On the ground, junior LJ Scott averages 71.6 yards per game, having rushed for 788 yards and six scores this year. The Spartans’ offensive anchor is found in the trenches in senior center Brian Allen, who was named second-team All-Big Ten for the third straight season. Fellow lineman David Beedle, a junior guard, was named third-team All-Conference by both the coaches and media.

Washington State’s defense ranks first in the Pac-12 in defending the pass (167.4), second in total yards allowed (313.6), and fourth against the rush (146.2) and in scoring (24.4). The Cougars’ total defense average also ranks 15th nationally as WSU has limited its opposition to just eight touchdown passes, which is tied for the second-fewest in the nation. Lineman Hercules Mata'afa is a first-team All-American and the AP Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 21.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. He also recorded 43 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Frankie Luvu, who is tied for sixth in the Pac-12 with 6.5 sacks and 12th with 10.5 tackles for loss, is joined in the linebacker corps with Jahad Woods and his 11.0 TFL. Safety Jalen Thompson boasts four interceptions and three fumble recoveries on the year, while averaging 5.8 tackles per game.

Washington State’s offense ranks first in the Pac-12 in passing (374.8), fifth in total yards (446.4), eighth in scoring (31.4), and 12th in rushing (71.7). To put it into perspective, the Cougars boast the country’s second-best passing attack and second-worst ground game. Quarterback Luke Falk has thrown (534) and completed (357) more passes than anyone in the nation, and his 30 touchdowns and 3,593 passing yards are 10th and 13th overall, respectively. Falk is the recipient of the Burlsworth Trophy, which is awarded to the top player who began his career as a walk-on. Suffice to say he has found some success in his career as he is already the Pac-12 and WSU career record holder for passing yards (14,486), passing touchdowns (119), total offense (14,086), plays (2,306), completions (1,404), attempts (2,055) and 300-yard games (30). Up front Falk is protected by two-time first-team All-American lineman Cody O’Connell. Senior running back Jamal Morrow turned in his third straight season with 1,000 all-purpose yards, tying for the team lead with nine total touchdowns, registering a team-high 522 rushing yards, and placing fourth on the team with 56 receptions. Davontavean Martin is WSU’s top wideout, ranking fourth in the Pac-12 with 75.5 receiving yards per game to go along with nine touchdowns that rank second in the league.

Defensively, Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten against the run (101.3), fourth in total yards allowed (297.8), sixth in defending the pass (196.5) and eighth in scoring (20.3). The latter two is what will be needed to stop Washington State, but the Spartans’ averages rank among some of the nation’s best marks. MSU’s rush defense ranks fifth nationally, total defense is ninth, scoring defense is 23rd and pass defense is 31st. The Spartans are also ninth nationally in first downs defense (189), 13th in team passing efficiency defense (110.90), and 16th in third-down conversion percentage defense (31.9). Sophomore safety David Dowell has five interceptions on the season, good for second in the conference and eighth in the country. Sophomore Kenny Willekes’s 14.5 tackles for loss are fifth in the league, while his seven solo sacks are third-best. Sophomore Joe Bachie’s 7.8 tackles per game rank eighth in the Big Ten, and his three interceptions are tied for seventh. Freshman cornerback Josiah Scott was recently named a first-team Freshman All-American after posting a team-best nine pass break-ups – most among Big Ten freshmen and tied for ninth overall in the conference – along with two interceptions, 30 tackles, a forced fumble and one tackle for loss.

On special teams, Michigan State is fourth nationally in punt return defense (2.58), while freshman kicker Matt Coghlin is sixth in the league in field goal percentage (78.9) and junior punter Jake Hartbarger is seventh with an average of 42.0 yards per boot. Connor Heyward is sixth in the Big Ten with 21.1 yards per kickoff return. For Washington State, the Cougars are 101st nationally in kickoff return defense (23.38) and punting (36.44), just 111th in kickoff returns (18.63), and 117th out of 129 teams in punt returns (4.14). Kicker Erik Powell is 30th nationally and third in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (82.6). The Lou Groza Award semifinalist, who was 19-of-23 on three-pointers this year, hit the game-winning 32-yarder against No. 5 USC and added a career-long 56 yarder at Arizona, tied for the second-longest in the country this season.