Who: Michigan State Spartans (6-6) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (7-5)
What: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
When: Dec. 29th, 10:15 PM ET
Why: Money, exposure, and…. MONEY
If this game was played during week 1 of the season it would arguably be one of the most anticipated meetings of the year. However, as the 2012-2013 season played out, we were given another reason why preseason rankings mean absolutely nothing.
The Spartans and Horned Frogs both had 11 win seasons last year, and it seemed as if the programs were going to be in BCS talks for years to come. Unfortunately, this season these two teams are arguably two of the more disappointing teams in all of college football.
TCU began the season ranked No. 20 in the polls, and four games into the season they were undefeated and found themselves ranked No. 15 heading into Big 12 play. The Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 this season and received a rude welcoming from Iowa State as they lost 37-23 in their opening Big 12 game. TCU went on to finish 4-5 in the conference.
Michigan State began the season ranked No. 13 and defeated then No. 24 Boise State 17-13 to start the 2012-2013 campaign. The Spartans looked as if they were going to be a dominant force in the Big Ten with Heisman hopeful Le’Veon Bell in the backfield carrying the load for the MSU offense. Then on the third week, the mighty Notre Dame Fighting Irish came into town and exposed the Spartans in their 20-3 victory in East Lansing. From their the Spartans went on to lose five out of their next nine — losing by 13 point combined in those five games — with their only big conference victory coming against then No. 25 Wisconsin at Camp Randall.
Dion Sims has been Maxwell’s most consistent target this season. (Credit: Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE)
It’s fair to say with a few more “lucky” bounces — or in MSU’s case kicks — the Spartans could easily be representing the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. TCU on the other hand showed that they deserve to be in the Big 12 but didn’t show that they were BCS worthy like they once were.
Regardless of records, both teams have some major players that will make this meaningless bowl game worth watching.
Just because these two teams find themselves in a forgettable bowl game doesn’t mean that they aren’t very good teams.
Defensively, both the Spartans and Horned Frogs are two of the top teams in the nation. Michigan State led the Big Ten in total defense and rushing defense, and TCU did the same thing in the Big 12.
TCU freshman defensive end Devonte Fields was the AP’s Big 12 defensive player of the year. Fields’ 17 1/2 tackles for loss led the conference and he also recorded nine sacks.
The Spartans defense is anchored by junior linebacker Max Bullough who led the Spartans with 102 total tackles.
Senior DB Johnny Adams is arguably the Spartans best secondary player but he will most likely miss Saturday’s game with turf toe.
On the offensive side of the ball, TCU is led by the balanced rushing attack of freshman B.J. Catalon and senior Matthew Tucker. The two running backs combined for 1, 049 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season.
The Horned Frogs also have a very talented receiver in junior Josh Boyce who could have a huge game with the absence of Adams. Boyce finished the regular season with 800 yards and seven touchdowns, which includes an 180-yard game against West Virginia.
Michigan State doesn’t have a solid two-back system but they do have one of the best running back in the nation in Bell. The junior running back had one of the best seasons in MSU history as he posted 1, 648 yards and 11 touchdowns during the regular season. Bell was MSU’s bread and butter, which was both a positive and negative for MSU this season.
Even with the loss of senior quarterback Kirk Cousins (Redskins) last season and receivers B.J. Cunningham (Eagles practice squad), Keshawn Martin (Texans) and Keith Nichols, the MSU passing attack was still very disappointing. Junior QB Andrew Maxwell and the new MSU receiving group struggled immensely with consistency during the season. There were many dropped passes and missed throws to make a Michigan State fan pull every strand of hair out of their sculp, but the one bright spot in the passing attack was junior tight end Dion Sims. Sims was the most reliable target for Maxwell and it’s possible that the junior year will skip his senior year and enter the NFL Draft.
Both teams are limited offensively and have solid defenses. The key to victory will be efficient passing, and the winner of this game will win due to a few big plays down the field.