Originally posted on The Detroit Sports Site  |  Last updated 12/29/12
On the heels of a disappointing season that began with much bigger postseason dreams, the Michigan State Spartans now must head to Tempe, Arizona looking to finish strong with two straight wins and more importantly, two straight bowl wins. Feats like that haven’t been accomplished much recently for the Spartans, so despite this bowl’s funny name, there’s no minimizing its importance for the program. How can Michigan State end 2012 on a positive note? What can the Horned Frogs do to secure another big win for their program? The final Spartan Sideline of the year makes sense of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Michigan State’s Key To Victory: Make Trevone Boykin a pocket passer. Since inserting Boykin into the offense, the Horned Frogs have played things a bit differently. They’re no longer an offense which will plow forward and try to beat opponents with strength and play action passing. Now, they’ve got the dimension of a running quarterback on their side. Boykin can make plenty of plays with his legs, but when it comes to throwing, he struggles a bit, having tossed nine interceptions on the season to only 15 touchdowns in limited time. When Boykin is in the game, Michigan State must try their best to make him a pocket passer. If they’re able to do that, the Spartan corners and safties need only hang around and stay engaged, because the statistics say that Boykin might throw them an interception or make a big mistake. TCU’s Key To Victory: Stop Le’Veon Bell, forcing Andrew Maxwell to make plays. In his final regular season game against Minnesota, Bell put up his biggest game of the season, rushing for 263 yards and dominating the game. The key for TCU to win, essentially, was the key for most teams in 2012. Stack the box and shut Bell down first, making Maxwell the player to watch for Michigan State’s offense. If the Spartans get Bell rolling, it will be a long night for the Horned Frogs, considering Michigan State has enough playmakers at receiver to make plays with the threat of a running game. The only way that works is if Maxwell is playing well and has time in the pocket. If he doesn’t, Michigan State’s offense is prone to long droughts and sometimes, they can’t even move the ball. Michigan State And TCU Players To Watch: Mitchell White, Trae Waynes and Josh Boyce. Johnny Adams, in his final game as a Spartan, looks to be shut down after being slowed by a toe injury, which is unfortunate for his draft stock and the Spartan defense. In his place will be a trio of players, led by White, a senior and redshirt freshman Waynes. Which player will step in if Adams can’t go and play well? Mark Dantonio said Waynes had enjoyed some excellent bowl practices, and also commented that Tony Lippett could step in if needed. With a few good receivers matching up for TCU, it’s important to watch how Adams’ fill ins play and if they can hold up under big game pressure. Boyce will be one of the players Adams’ replacements will be chasing, and he’s got the big play potential, having posted 800 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on the season. That’s impressive, and TCU needs Boyce to be a game breaker against a tough Spartan defense. If he’s able to stretch the field and get behind the Spartan secondary, Michigan State will likely be in for a shootout. Intangibles: Who wants it more? Both TCU and Michigan State have played in some big games the past few years, including bowl match ups. The Buffalo Wind Wings Bowl is low on intrigue and suspense when compared to the Rose Bowl or the Outback Bowl, so which team will be more desperate to end 2012 on a positive note? Most of the time, determination helps win bowl games just as much as on field skill and will. Watching to see what team wants this obscure bowl game in the desert more might tell the tale of who wins just as much as the x’s and o’s do. Prediction: With several highly decorated players, it’s well known and obvious that both the Spartans and Horned Frogs play tough defense. In those situations, the key is for the opposing offense to find an edge. Will it be Bell and a development of Maxwell’s big play ability leading the way for Michigan State, or will Boykin make all the difference for TCU with his legs? Michigan State looks tougher in this match up, particularly because TCU’s running game isn’t as developed. The Spartans should be able to shut Boykin down, key up on his receivers and choke out the Horned Frog offense. The Spartans get some solid running out of Bell, while Maxwell finds his passing game at just the right moments. Michigan State enters 2013 on the upswing with a confidence building victory. Michigan State 24, TCU 17
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