Big Ten: Alamo Bowl first take

Valero Alamo Bowl

December, 6, 2009
12/06/09
10:00
PM ET
Valero Alamo Bowl: Texas Tech (8-4) vs. Michigan State (6-6)
Jan. 2, 9 p.m. (ESPN)


This could go one of two ways for Michigan State.

1. Things completely fall apart in San Antonio, as an undermanned Spartans squad gutted by suspensions and dismissals gets steamrolled by a Texas Tech team led by the nation's No. 2 passing offense (380.7 ypg). Taylor Potts becomes the latest quarterback to shred Michigan State's secondary, and fans raise some serious doubts about head coach Mark Dantonio just a year after the team reached the Capital One Bowl.

2. The Alamo Bowl becomes Michigan State's finest hour, as the team shows its newfound resolve in the wake of a "crisis," as Dantonio is calling it. Spartans receivers fill in for Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, and the secondary makes up for the loss of suspended cornerback Chris L. Rucker.

For the second scenario to take place, Dantonio will have to do his finest coaching in the coming weeks, as more suspensions could be on the way. Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones needs a huge performance Jan. 2 in the Alamodome, and Michigan State's defensive backs will have to be at their best against Potts and his wideouts.

The Spartans offense also must step up in a game that should feature plenty of points. Quarterback Kirk Cousins and wideout Blair White must find gaps in the Red Raiders' defense.

The teams meet for the first time, and Michigan State makes its first trip to the Alamo Bowl since 2003.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Northwestern got a raw deal or a great opportunity, depending on how you look at it.

Not only were the Wildcats snubbed by the Outback Bowl, but they face a very tough matchup in Missouri, a preseason national title contender that boasts one of the game's top passing combinations in quarterback Chase Daniel and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Then again, a Valero Alamo Bowl victory would give Northwestern just the second 10-win season in school history and some national recognition.

A defense that improved 24 spots in the national rankings under first-year coordinator Mike Hankwitz faces arguably its toughest test of the season in Missouri, which is sixth in both scoring (43.2) and total offense (497.5 ypg). Defensive end Corey Wootton and a unit that led the Big Ten in sacks (33) must apply pressure on Daniel, who threw multiple touchdown passes in all but one game.

Wildcats running back Tyrell Sutton hopes to return from a dislocated wrist, but the spotlight will be on his Jekyll-and-Hyde backfield mate, quarterback C.J. Bacher. Missouri can't defend the pass (117th nationally), and for Northwestern to hang around, Bacher must attack down the field.

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