Two defensive-oriented teams that had much bigger expectations meet on Dec. 29 in Tempe, Ariz., as Michigan State and TCU square off in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
The Spartans (6-6) had won a school-record 11 games the previous two seasons and were in the Top 15 of the preseason polls, with many expecting them to win the Big Ten. But it was clear their offense badly missed three-year starting QB Kirk Cousins – now RG3’s backup -- as it struggled all season under new starter Andrew Maxwell. But Sparty might have been the unluckiest team in the nation. It definitely didn’t deserve to beat Notre Dame, but MSU’s five Big Ten losses were by a combined 13 points. The Spartans tied an NCAA record by having seven consecutive games decided by four points or less. At least this game isn’t in East Lansing, where State was 2-5 in 2012 and didn’t cover once.
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Texas Christian (7-5) thought it would contend in its first season in the Big 12, but the team really went in the toilet for a while when starting QB Casey Pachall left the team and then school (top rusher Waymon James was lost to injury early in the season). The Frogs, a very young team, started 5-1 but lost four of their final six – two in overtime. It’s also a good thing this game isn’t in Fort Worth as TCU was just 2-4 there. The Frogs’ five losses this season were as many as Coach Gary Patterson’s defeats in the four previous seasons combined. TCU has used 28 redshirt and true freshman combined this year.
TCU and Michigan State haven’t played since 1953.
Michigan State vs. TCU Betting Storylines
Don’t expect many points – in fact the total of 41 is currently the lowest of any bowl. Neither offense ranked in the Top 60 nationally.
TCU led the Big 12 in most defensive categories, including total defense (332.0 yards per game), interceptions (21), third-down defense (29.6 pct.), rushing defense (103.9 yards per game), first downs allowed (17.3 per game) and turnovers gained (31). Only three teams even reached 400 yards total offense against TCU and those three were Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, three of the best offenses in the nation.
Offensively, Frogs dual-threat QB Trevone Boykin, a freshman, struggled some when thrown to the wolves but also had some bright spots and should be a good one down the road. He completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,853 yards, 15 TDs and nine picks.
MSU led the Big Ten in scoring defense (16.3 points per game), total defense (273.2 yards per game, No. 4 nationally), rushing defense (99.6 yards per game), and opponent third-down conversions (30.9 pct.). It allowed fewer than 20 points in eight games. Sparty forced three-and-outs on 46.5 percent of opponent possessions, third-best nationally. The problem is that the offense was essentially only big tailback Le’Veon Bell and his whopping 350 carries for 1,648 yards and 11 scores. This almost assuredly will be his final game as Bell is expected to declare for the draft. Maxwell, meanwhile, completed just 52.9 percent of his passes on the year and had 13 TDs and nine picks (two each in final two games). It’s not all his fault as every leading MSU receiver left last year.
This is the Spartans' sixth straight bowl game, all under Coach Mark Dantonio. They lost their first four before an epic triple-overtime win over Georgia in last season’s Outback Bowl. TCU, meanwhile, has won six of its last seven bowl games, including two straight.
Michigan State vs. TCU Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb, TCU is a 2.5-point favorite with the total at 41. The Frogs are 5-7 ATS this season and 4-7 “over/under”. Sparty is 4-8 ATS and 2-9-1 O/U.
TCU is 10-1 ATS in its past 11 games after a loss. It is 0-4 ATS in its past four bowl games. MSU is 1-5 ATS in its past six vs. the Big 12. The Spartans are 0-4 ATS in their past four after a win. The under is 6-0-1 in TCU’s past seven bowl games. The under is 7-1-1 in MSU’s past nine vs. teams with a winning record.
2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Picks: Michigan State vs. TCU Predictions
TCU’s run defense is excellent but hasn’t faced the type of power game that Bell and the Spartans will bring. That said, the Frogs defense was pretty solid two years against a similar Wisconsin team in the Rose Bowl. If Bell doesn’t have a big game, MSU won’t score.
It will come down to the ground game and turnovers. The Frogs have won 47 straight games when rushing for more yards than passing. Since 2005, TCU is 48-2 when ahead in turnover margin. The crowd should be pro-TCU, especially with the Spartans not even being able to sell their allotment of 11,000 tickets. I simply believe the Big 12 is better than the Big Ten this year, and these teams are essentially in the same pecking order in the conference. That’s enough for me. Plus, TCU is 3-0 vs. the Big Ten in bowls under Patterson. Take the Frogs (who should be very good next year) and the under.
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