Alamo Bowl Preview

Dec. 29, 2009

(6-6, 4-4 Big Ten)
Roster | Stats


Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010 • 9 p.m. ET • San Antonio, Texas • Alamodome (65,000)
ESPN • Announcers: Mike Patrick

Series: First Meeting

(8-4, 5-3 Big 12)
Roster | Stats


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Michigan State will make its second appearance in the Valero Alamo Bowl to give the school a third straight postseason game for just the third time in school history, a streak also accomplished from 1987-90 and 1995-97. The Spartans will square off against Texas Tech for the first time in school history. MSU will make its second trip to the Valero Alamo Bowl after falling to Nebraska following the 2003 season. The school has posted an overall record of 7-12 in bowl games with a mark of 7-11 since joining the Big Ten. Head coach Mark Dantonio has led Michigan State to bowl games in each of his first three seasons on campus.

The Big Ten has produced an 8-7 record in the Valero Alamo Bowl, including a triumph by Penn State in 2007.

Texas Tech will be making its 33rd all-time bowl appearance and has been bowl eligible for 16 consecutive seasons - a Big 12 record.  Head coach Mike Leach has guided his Red Raiders to 10 straight bowl games and has five postseason wins during his tenure.  Texas Tech is just 10-21 all-time in postseason play.  In addition, the Red Raiders will be looking for just their second win over a Big Ten opponent.  Tech's only win over a Big Ten foe was in the 2006 Insight Bowl against Minnesota and that victory gave the Red Raiders an all-time record of 1-5 against the league.  Texas Tech will face an additional distraction for this bowl game with Head Coach Mike Leach being dismissed by the institution prior to the game.

Michigan State ranked third in the Big Ten and 44th nationally in scoring offense this season with 29.6 points per game, relying heavily on a passing attack that paced the conference at 271.2 yards each time out.  The Spartans threw for a league-high 26 touchdowns on the season and were guided by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who completed 61.5 percent of his 301 attempts and threw 18 of those touchdowns to only seven interceptions - a conference-low.  MSU will be without the services of starting wideouts B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell, a combo that posted 74 receptions, 1,090 yards and five touchdowns between them.  Enter Blair White, a deep threat that ranked fourth in the conference in receptions (5.33) and third in receiving yards (73.0) this season.  White, who made just 16 catches in the Spartans' final four games, had a per-catch average of 13.7 yards and a conference-high eight touchdowns on the year.  Edwin Baker (47.1) and Larry Caper (40.3) will carry the load in the backfield and each averaged more than four yards per rush.  Perhaps what bodes well for MSU is the fact that the offensive line allowed the least amount of sacks in the conference this season, giving up just 13 on the year. 

Texas Tech ranked third in the Big 12 this year with 21.8 points allowed each Saturday and was sixth in total defense (348.8).  The Red Raiders gave up 125.0 rushing yards per game and 223.8 yards in the air.  Where the defensive unit struggled this year was in the turnover department.  The Red Raiders' minus-6 turnover margin ranked last in the Big 12, primarily because it picked off a conference-low eight passes this season.  That's not to say the Red Raiders did not put pressure on the opposing QB either.  In fact, Texas Tech ranked second in the conference with 40 sacks on the season, with a school-record 15 coming from senior Brandon Sharpe, whose total was second-best in the country.  One more sack will make him the school's single-season leader in sack yardage, while the Red Raiders need one sack to set a new single-season school record.  Junior linebacker Brian Duncan led the team with 6.7 tackles per game, followed by freshman DB Cody Davis with 6.5.

Texas Tech, which was second in the Big 12 with 36.7 points per game this season, loves to throw the football.  Of its 461.8 total yards per game - an average that also rated second in the league - 380.7 yards comes from the passing game.  We'll just go ahead and bypass the fact that the Red Raiders post a league-low 88.1 rushing yards each time out.  They are here to throw the football.  This season Texas Tech used three quarterbacks in juniors Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield, and redshirt freshman Seth Doege.  Potts played in 11 games and made nine starts on the season.  His 10th will come in the bowl game.  He threw for 3,068 yards and 20 touchdowns along with 12 interceptions, with seven of those TDs coming against Rice earlier in the year.  Potts also recorded an impressive passer rating of 177.5, completing 65.6 percent of his attempts this season for more than 3,000 yards.  The Red Raiders were quite efficient and quite quick on offense this year, scoring 11 times in under a minute and on 19 occasions with less than two minutes to count.  Red-zone offense has also been key for TTU this season, scoring 85 percent of the time (45-of-53). Over the last eight games, Texas Tech was 34-of-39 in the red zone and scored 32 touchdowns.  When Potts goes to the air and looks for any of his nine targets with more than 20 receptions each on the year, watch for redshirt freshman Alex Torres.  The team's leading receiver hauled in 65 receptions for 791 yards this season.  On the ground, Baron Batch racked up 784 yards this season and ranked eighth in the conference with 65.3 yards per game. 

Michigan State's defense allowed 25.1 points and 364.3 total yards per game during the regular season, but struggled mightily in defending the pass.  The Spartans ranked 11th in the conference with 251.6 passing yards allowed per game, while also recording conference highs in touchdowns (29) and lows in interceptions (5) - a mark which was also the lowest in the country.  MSU brings a minus-6 turnover margin to San Antonio as well as a secondary that will be looking to fill some holes by having seasoned backups step up.  The main constant all year for Sparty has been the efforts of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones.  The junior linebacker paced the league with 11.8 stops per game, was fifth with 9.0 sacks and eighth with 13.5 tackles for loss.  His 141 tackles were the eighth-best single-season total in school history.  MSU ranked second in the Big Ten this season with 34 sacks.