Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Preview

Dec. 27, 2013

Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 • 10:15 p.m. ET • Tempe, Ariz. • Sun Devil Stadium (71,706)
ESPN • Announcers: Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Shannon Spake
Series: First Meeting

Michigan heads to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for the first time in team history and will face Kansas State. The game is slated for Dec. 28, with kick scheduled for 10:15 p.m. ET in Tempe, Ariz. The Wolverines will take part in postseason competition for the fourth straight season and 43rd time in program history.  U-M ranks among the top 15 in both bowl game appearances and victories as its 43 trips are 11th all-time among power conference schools and its 20 wins are tied for 14th.  This will be the first-ever meeting between Michigan and Kansas State and the fourth time that U-M has faced a Big 12 foe in a bowl game.  Kansas State becomes the 146th different opponent to face the Wolverines in 134 years of gridiron action. In those first meetings, U-M is 116-25-4 all-time, with 15 of those meetings coming in postseason bowls.  The Wolverines hold a slim 8-7 advantage against first-time bowl opponents.  Michigan is 7-2-1 against teams currently in the Big 12, however its last matchup against a Big 12 opponent came in 2005 when the Maize and Blue dropped a 32-28 decision to then-Big 12 member and now-current Big Ten member Nebraska at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.

After starting the season 2-4, Kansas State won five of its final six games to qualify for its 17th bowl game in program history and the 15th under the guidance of head coach Bill Snyder. The Wildcats are 6-8 all-time in bowls under the legendary head coach.  Following 11 straight bowls from 1993-2003 under Snyder, the Cats have now gone bowling in each of the last four seasons following last year's berth in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the 2012 AT&T Cotton Bowl and the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl in 2010.  The Cats became just the fourth Big 12 team ever to become bowl eligible after starting the season 2-4.  K-State is 1-1 all-time in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (formerly Copper and Insight.com) and last appeared in the game back in 2001. The Wildcats are also 1-1 all-time in bowl games played at Sun Devil Stadium following a win in the 1997 Fiesta Bowl and loss in the 2004 edition of the game.

Michigan ranked fourth in the Big Ten in scoring (33.8) and passing (252.1), 10th in total offense (382.8), and 11th in rushing (130.8) this season.  Those numbers might not reflect the Wolverines' offense on Saturday as junior quarterback Devin Gardner is sidelined with a toe injury he suffered in the regular-season finale against Ohio State and might not even play in the bowl game.  Freshman quarterback Shane Morris has been named the starter for Saturday's contest and has only four games under his belt.  In those four outings this season, he has completed five of his nine passes for 65 yards with an interception.  The injury to Gardner, whose 3,443 yards of total offense through 12 regular-season games rank second on U-M's single-season list, came on the heels of his 451-yard performance against the Buckeyes.  U-M scored six offensive touchdowns against then-No. 3 Ohio State but ultimately fell 42-41.  Senior wideout Jeremy Gallon tallied 175 receiving yards on nine catches in the loss, and contributed nearly one-third of the Maize and Blue's 603 total yards of offense.  He'll be asked to contribute more on Saturday with Gardner sidelined.  Gallon has posted a reception in 38 consecutive games, tying Braylon Edwards for the U-M program record.  He finished the regular season second in the Big Ten in receiving yards (1,284), receiving yards per game (107.0) and catches (80).  While Gallon will attract K-State's top defenders, Big Ten Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year Devin Funchess might be a primary go-to target for Morris.  Funchess' 727 receiving yards in 2013 are the most all-time by a U-M tight end in a single season.

Kansas State ranked fourth in the Big 12 in scoring defense (23.7), against the pass (221.8), and in total yards allowed (367.0), and fifth in defending the rush (145.2).  Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Ryan Mueller leads the K-State unit with a school-record tying 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss.  Linebacker Blake Slaughter, an All-Big 12 performer, leads the team with 103 total tackles, followed by fellow linebacker Jonathan Truman (85) and another All-Big 12 pick in Ty Zimmerman (69).  Along with fellow defensive backs Dante Barnett and Randall Evans, Zimmerman leads the team with three interceptions, including a Big 12-best two that he has returned for touchdowns.

The Cats' offense finished the regular season ranked fourth in the Big 12 in scoring (33.4) and rushing (180.4), and seventh in passing (220.8) and total yards (401.2).  K-State has been powered by a four-headed monster of sorts with dual quarterbacks Jake Waters and Daniel Sams frequently finding Tyler Lockett in the air, while John Hubert has anchored the run game.  Lockett is a first-team All-Big 12 wideout, whose 104.2 receiving yards per game ranks 11th nationally.  His 151.4 all-purpose yards each time out are tops in the Big 12.  The Wildcats have consistently used two quarterbacks throughout the season. Waters is the team's primary passer, completing 138-of-233 passes for 2,198 yards in 2013.  Sams has seen action in all 12 games for K-State and has been a difference-maker on the ground, using 148 carries to rush for 784 -- the most rushing yards by a freshman quarterback in program history.  Joining the ground game is Hubert, who ranked fifth in the Big 12 with 80.7 rushing yards per contest this year.



Scoring Defense

Total Offense

Total Defense

Rushing Offense

Rushing Defense

Passing Offense

Passing Defense

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Kansas State










The Wolverines will look to lock down that Wildcats' rushing attack as the Maize and Blue ranked 28th nationally against the run this season, allowing just 139.4 yards per game on the ground.  From a conference standpoint, U-M's average ranked fifth overall, while the Wolverines also finished the regular-season slate sixth in total yards allowed (367.4), seventh against the pass (228.0) and eighth in scoring (26.5).  The Wolverines have allowed only three 100-yard rushers and a total of 13 rushing scores through 12 games.  Michigan will also need to combat Lockett and K-State's passing attack.  Cornerback Blake Countess might be the perfect matchup for Lockett as he ranks tied for first in the Big Ten -- and tied for fourth in the country -- with six interceptions this season.  Fellow defensive back Raymon Taylor is tied for second in the conference with four picks in 2013.  Defensive end Frank Clark will add the pocket pressure as he has established new career highs in sacks (4.5), tackles-for-loss (12.0), total tackles (42) and fumble recoveries (2) this season.   Sophomore James Ross III leads all Wolverines with 81 total tackles on the year.

On special teams, K-State boasts the nation's third-best punt return unit, while Michigan sophomore Dennis Norfleet already ranks second in program history with 1,677 career yards.  He needs 152 return yards in the bowl game to break Darryl Stonum's program record (1,001 yards, 2009) for return yards in a season.  Jack Cantele has made 11 of his 13 field-goal attempts on the season for Kansas State, while Michigan's Brendan Gibbons is 11 of 15 on the year and has accounted for 8.1 points per game, good for fourth in the Big Ten.