Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Preview
Dec. 26, 2012
Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 • 10:15 p.m. ET • Tempe, Ariz. • Sun Devil Stadium (56,000)
Michigan State makes its first appearance in Tempe, Ariz., for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, where the Spartans will take on TCU. Michigan State is heading to its 23rd postseason game and sixth straight, matching the longest streak in school history. The Spartans have faced the Horned Frogs once previously, earning a 26-19 victory in 1953. Big Ten teams are 3-5 all-time in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Michigan State has compiled an 18-2-1 record (.881) against current members of the Big 12 Conference and MSU head coach Mark Dantonio earned a win in his only meeting against TCU, defeating the Horned Frogs 21-10 on Oct. 30, 2004, as head coach of Cincinnati. The Spartans are 8-14 (.364) in bowl games. With its 33-30 triple-overtime victory over No. 18 Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl, MSU ended a five-game losing streak in postseason play, posting its first bowl victory since defeating Fresno State, 44-35, in the 2001 Silicon Valley Football Classic.
TCU will be making its 29th bowl appearance this season and is just one of 10 programs to have played in a bowl game in 14 of the last 15 campaigns. Additionally, the program joins two others in the country to have won at least six bowl games in the last seven seasons. The Horned Frogs are playing in a bowl game for a school record eighth consecutive year and the 11th time in Gary Patterson’s 12 years as head coach. Michigan State will look to stop a TCU ballclub, which has had recent success over the Big Ten. TCU head coach Gary Patterson is 3-0 against the conference, including a 2011 Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, and victories over Northwestern in the 2002 and 2004 campaigns.
Michigan State finished the regular season ranked fourth in the Big Ten in passing (218.8), seventh in rushing (151.6), ninth in total offense (370.3), and 10th in scoring (20.2). Despite what the team stats lead you to believe, the Spartans’ offense is centered around junior running back Le’Veon Bell, who ranks first in the Big Ten and third in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing at 137.3 yards per game. His 1,648 rushing yards rank sixth in the nation and mark the second-highest single-season total in MSU history. He leads the country in carries (350) - the fourth-best single-season total in school history. Bell has accounted for 91 percent of Michigan State's rushing yards (1,648 of 1,819) and 78 percent of its rushing attempts (350 of 450) in 2012. Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell has also made a difference this season, ranking third in the Big Ten in passing (214.8) and sixth in total offense (207.6). His 431 pass attempts (second), 228 completions (fourth), 2,491 yards of total offense (eighth) and 2,578 passing yards (10th) rank among the Top 10 single-season totals in MSU history. Six Spartans have more than 25 receptions this year, including Keith Mumphery (41 for 511), Bennie Fowler (41 for 524 yards), Tony Lippett (35 for 380), Dion Sims (33 for 451), Bell (30 for 154) and Aaron Burbridge (26 for 342). Five different players led the team in receptions during the 12-game regular season, including Sims, who has seen 27 of his 33 receptions (82 percent) result in either a first down or a touchdown.
The TCU defense ranks first in the Big 12 in total defense (332.0) and rushing defense (103.9), second in scoring defense (23.1), and fourth against the pass (228.1). The Horned Frogs’ defense also ranks 10th nationally in stopping the run, one of four categories where TCU ranks in the nation’s top 10. The unit is third in interceptions (21), tied for sixth in turnovers gained (32), and seventh in third-down defense (29.6). In total defense, the Horned Frogs rank 18th nationally, but it is a respectable mark given the fact they faced five of the nation’s top-12 offenses in Baylor (1), Oklahoma State (5), West Virginia (8), Oklahoma (10) and Texas Tech (12) this season. TCU boasts a relatively young defensive unit as well. Eight of 11 defensive starters have 13 or fewer career starts, while linebacker Kenny Cain is the lone senior on the depth chart for the TCU defense. Cain has garnered a pair of picks and 74 tackles on the year, including 44 solos, 30 assists, and 5.5 for loss. The Frogs are second in the Big 12 with 2.2 sacks per game and nine standouts have combined for the team’s 26 sacks on the season. True freshman defensive end Devonte Fields, the Associated Press Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, had nine of those 26 sacks to rank second in the league while leading the Big 12 with 17.5 tackles for loss. Fields anchors a line that allowed six of TCU’s 12 opponents under 100 yards rushing and one that saw just two actual running backs eclipse the century mark this season. Walter Camp All-American Jason Verrett tops the Big 12 in interceptions (6) and passes defended (20) and is the only player in the nation to rank in the top 10 in both categories. He is third nationally at 1.67 passes defended per game, while free safety Elisha Olabode has four interceptions, a forced fumble and fumble recovery on the season.
TCU is seventh in the Big 12 in passing (239.5), and eighth in scoring (29.3), rushing (157.5), and total yards gained (397.0). However, the Frogs have shown success in controlling the football this year, ranking fourth in the country in time of possession (33:13), which coincidentally trails Michigan State (33:19) in third. Like its defense, TCU’s offense has a youthful look to it as 15 of 20 key offensive players had 13 or fewer career starts to start the year. Freshman Trevone Boykin became the Frogs’ starting quarterback on Oct. 6 and proceeded to throw for 14 touchdowns, which tied for third nationally with Heisman winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. TCU was due to have Waymon James and his 875 rushing yards return from last year, but a Sept. 15 season-ending injury, forced Matthew Tucker and true freshman B.J. Catalon to step up in his absence. Catalon posted a team-high 562 rushing yards this year and ranked fifth in receiving with 23 catches. In terms of the aerial attack, Josh Boyce is one of just three players nationally to have at least 600 yards receiving and six touchdown catches in the last three seasons. He tops TCU with 61 receptions for 800 yards and seven touchdowns and needs just four receptions to break Kelly Blackwell’s TCU single-season record of 64 (1990, 1991).
Looking to put a halt to that offense is a Michigan State defense that ranks among the NCAA FBS Top 20 in nine categories: touchdowns allowed (second with 15), total defense (fourth at 273.3), pass efficiency defense (fourth at 99.0), pass break-ups (tied seventh at 5.0), rushing defense (eighth at 99.6), pass defense (ninth at 173.7), scoring defense (10th at 16.3), passes defended (tied for 11th at 6.1) and third-down defense (tied for 12th at .309). Similar to TCU’s rush defense, the Spartans have been stingy against the run this year and rank tied for second in the nation with just five rushing touchdowns allowed. Since the beginning of last season, Michigan State has held 14 opponents under 100 rushing yards. The anchor of the Spartans’ defense is junior linebacker and captain Max Bullough, who leads the squad in tackles (102) and tackles for loss (12). Junior defensive end William Gholston earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the media for a second-straight year after leading the Spartans in sacks (3.5) and pass breakups (9) and tying for the team lead in tackles for loss (12) during the regular season. Junior linebacker Denicos Allen ranks second on the team in stops (76) and third in tackles for loss (9.0).
On special teams, TCU punter Ethan Perry’s 45.2 average tops all freshmen nationally and ranks ninth in the NCAA. Skye Dawson is one of just two players in the Big 12 to rank in the top five in both punt returns (10.0) and kickoff returns (22.5). MSU’s fifth-year senior Dan Conroy, who has made a school-record 78 consecutive PATs, rates tied for sixth nationally with 1.83 field goals made per game.