College Football

MSU, TCU Looking to Make up for Lackluster Seasons in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

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This story was researched, compiled, written and edited by University of Connnecicut fall 2012 sportswriting students Matt Stypulkoski and Mike Schwarzenbach, with information from the Michigan and Texas Christian University sports information offices and Fox Sports.

Michigan State (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) and Texas Christian University (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) will be looking to redeem themselves after largely disappointing regular seasons when the two meet in Tempe, Ariz. For the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Dec. 29.

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Both teams have struggled with pedestrian records by their standards, often failing to take advantage of their opportunities in close games.

For Michigan State, 2012 began with high expectations, as they were believed to be contenders for a trip to the Rose Bowl.

But after early losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State, things began to go downhill. Between Oct. 13 and Nov. 17, the Spartans lost four of five games – their four losses by a combined 12 points and their sole win in overtime against Wisconsin.

Entering the final week of the regular season, Michigan State was 5-6 record, necessitating that they beat Minnesota in order to secure a spot in postseason play.

“With its back against the wall, Michigan State made a program statement by winning its last regular-season game at Minnesota to become bowl eligible for a school-record sixth-straight season,” MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis said in a press release.

But the Spartans, they have not fared well in bowl games throughout their history; they’ve won just eight of their 22 previous bowl games.  The upside is that they have dominated the Big 12 over the years, compiling an 18-2-1 against the conference’s current members.

On offense, MSU is primarily led by junior running back Le’Veon Bell, who averaged 4.7 yards per carry during the regular season and racked up a total of 1699 yards on the year.

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The running game is key to the Spartan’s offense, as junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell has struggled throughout the season, completing just 53 percent of his passes and throwing nine interceptions compared to just 13 touchdowns.

Though the Horned Frogs of TCU have a dangerous running game, shutting down shifty quarterback Trevone Boykin will be the biggest challenge for the MSU defense.

“Offensively, TCU has three capable tailbacks, and red-shirt freshman Trevone Boykin has emerged as a dual-threat playmaker at quarterback,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said in a press release. “Boykin has accounted for more than 2,200 total yards and 18 touchdowns.”

TCU has had a season of change, both in competition and on the field. The biggest adjustment has been their move from Mountain West Conference, which they dominated for years, to the Big 12. The one constant for the Horned Frogs is that they will be in another bowl game under Head Coach Gary Patterson.

This year’s bowl bid marks the eighth straight bowl under Patterson, since he took over as head coach in 2001 the Frogs are 7-4 in bowl games.

On the field, injuries and off the field issues have left TCU with a roster that is 70 percent freshman and sophomores. TCU played 28 freshmen -16 true freshmen – which tied for most in the nation.

Boykin was forced into action after a 4-0 start after starter Casey Pachall’s DWI arrest on Oct. 4. TCU played every conference game except Kansas with a first year starter and went 3-5 in that span.

Facing one of the nation’s deepest conferences with a backup quarterback, Patterson was happy to be back in the postseason.

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“Obviously, (Boykin) got us back to a bowl game, which was something that was a concern from the beginning anytime you make that kind of change,” Patterson told Fox Sports.

TCU has had the best record in the nation since 2005 at 84-18 (.824), but the Frogs had some difficulty adjusting to life in the offense driven Big 12. One thing that carried over from their Mountain West days, however, was their stingy defense.

TCU was 18th nationally in total defense, allowing 332 yards per game, and held six of its 12 opponents to season-low scoring while giving up 23.8 points per game.

Formerly the Insight Bowl, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl has been Big 10 against Big 12 since 2006, with the Big 12 holding a 5-1 advantage including Oklahoma’s win last season over Iowa.

The game will be played at Sun Devil Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 10:15 ET and will air on ESPN.