- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Taking a page from our friends at the Pac-12 blog, we're taking a snapshot of each bowl matchup featuring a Big Ten team.
BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL
Michigan State (6-6) vs. TCU (7-5)
Where: Tempe, Ariz., Sun Devil Stadium
When: Dec. 29, 10:15 p.m. ET (7:15 p.m. PT)
About Michigan State: After back-to-back 11-win seasons and the first bowl win under coach Mark Dantonio, Michigan State entered the season with lofty expectations, picked by many to win the Big Ten and reach its first Rose Bowl in a quarter-century. A talented defense lived up to the hype, ranking in the top 10 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense. But the personnel losses on offense from the 2011 team proved costly as Michigan State struggled in the pass game and in the red zone. The Spartans lost five Big Ten games by a total of 13 points, including all four conference contests at home, where they had been perfect the previous two seasons.
About TCU: Like Michigan State, TCU entered the season ranked and with big goals in its first Big 12 go-round. But the season hit a snag in early October when troubled starting quarterback Casey Pachall was arrested for drunken driving. After a 4-0 start, TCU dropped three of its next four games. The Frogs played four consecutive ranked opponents to finish the season and split the games. Like Michigan State, TCU excelled on defense, ranking 10th nationally in rush yards allowed and 18th nationally in total yards allowed. Freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin emerged down the stretch a bit, but TCU's offense was mediocre in a league filled with high-powered attacks.
Key players, Michigan State: The Spartans defense lacks many true superstars, although junior linebacker Max Bullough is the unit's undisputed leader. Bullough, a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, leads Michigan State with 102 tackles, including 12 for loss. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard had a terrific season for Michigan State, and gifted defensive end William Gholston had his best performance in the Outback Bowl. On offense, it's all about junior running back Le'Veon Bell, who leads the nation in carries (350) and ranks third in rushing average (133.3 ypg).
Key players, TCU: There's a lot of excitement about TCU's future with so many dynamic young players. Frogs freshman defensive end Devonte Fields earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors from the media, while cornerback Jason Verrett earned All-America recognition after recording six interceptions and 14 pass breakups. Boykin had some expected ups and downs as a freshman but has the ability to attack defenses with his arm. Receiver/return specialist Skye Dawson ranks 27th nationally in punt returns and
Did you know: Neither team won a conference home game this season. Michigan State lost its four Big Ten home contests by a total of 11 points, while TCU fell in three overtimes against Texas Tech and dropped its regular-season finale against Oklahoma. ... Michigan State is making its 23rd postseason bowl appearance overall, including its first-ever trip to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The Spartans are 8-14 (.364) in bowl games. ... MSU has compiled an 18-2-1 record (.881) against current members of the Big 12 Conference (1-0 vs. Baylor, 2-0 vs. Iowa State, 5-1 vs. Kansas, 5-0-1 vs. Kansas State, 1-0 vs. TCU, 0-1 vs. Texas Tech and 4-0 vs. West Virginia). ... TCU makes a school-record eighth straight bowl appearance and is one of just 10 programs to play in a bowl game in 14 of the last 15 seasons. ... The Frogs are 6-1 in bowl games since 2005. ... TCU ties for the national lead in most true freshmen (16) and total freshmen (28) seeing action this season.
1dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
2dMitch Sherman and Dan Murphy