Texas Tech (8-4) vs. Michigan State (6-6)
Jan. 2, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Texas Tech take by Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin: Mike Leach’s season was marked with several up-and-down performances. Leach’s offense never found any real continuity under one quarterback as injuries resulted in the use of three different starters over the course of the season. The Red Raiders looked like world beaters in a blowout home victory over Oklahoma and a strong road performance in a loss at Texas. But they also struggled in an embarrassing home loss to Texas A&M and were lucky to beat Baylor in their regular-season finale.
Leach has alternated between Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield at quarterback. Potts started and finished the season after Sheffield underwent foot surgery. It’s a typically high-powered Texas Tech offense that ranks second nationally in scoring, seventh in total offense and ninth in scoring. But the biggest surprise has been the emergence of a strong defense keyed by Brandon Carter, who notched a school-record 15 sacks this season to rank second nationally. They will be facing a Michigan State program that has already been ravaged by controversy after two players were kicked off the team and eight others were placed on suspension. The Spartans look like an appealing opponent for the Red Raiders, considering they rank 96th in pass efficiency defense and 103rd in pass defense. Michigan State will counter with All-American linebacker Greg Jones and leading receiver Blair White, but the Spartans have lost two of their top receivers to suspension and likely won’t have the firepower to match Tech in a shootout.
Michigan State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: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 teams meet for the first time, and Michigan State makes its first trip to the Alamo Bowl since 2003.