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Dr. Saturday

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl preview: TCU vs. Michigan State

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan State (6-6)
Dec. 29, 10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)

About the Horned Frogs: TCU’s first season as a member of the Big 12 didn’t go as well as the Horned Frogs would have liked, but it didn’t go as poorly either. The Horned Frogs beat some good teams, but also lost some bad games against Iowa State and Texas Tech. But this bowl game is a good way to end the season on a positive path and prepare for what should be a better year with a little less drama. TCU’s success hinges on the play of its defense. The Horned Frogs led the Big 12 and are ranked 18th in total defense. Freshman defensive end Devonte Fields was the AP’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and he should make Maxwell’s life a little tough Saturday night.

About the Spartans: When Michigan State opened the season with a win over Boise State, expectations for the Spartans went through the roof. Unfortunately, Michigan State never lived up to those expectations and that’s why they’re playing in the BW3 Bowl, instead of the BCS. Still, it’s an opportunity for the Spartans to finish with a winning record. That will hinge on the play of quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who threw 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions and was very inconsistent during his first season replacing star QB Kirk Cousins. The team has generally gone the way Maxwell goes. Even though running back LeVeon Bell has had a fantastic season with 1,648 yards and 11 touchdowns, the lack of a good passing game has often allowed teams to key on the run.

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(Getty Images)

Key number: 3.9
TCU’s rushing game, which is usually one of the Horned Frogs strong suits, has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, which was last in Big 12.

The breakdown: Even though both teams have some nice offensive weapons, this will probably be a defensive battle. Michigan State has to watch TCU’s passing game and the connection between quarterback Trevone Boykin and receiver Josh Boyce, and TCU must be weary of Bell and his ability to break big runs. TCU lost four of its last six, but the gauntlet it went through with its conference schedule should be enough experience to help the Horned Frogs win this game.

Predictions

Frank Schwab: Michigan State 20, TCU 17
This is one of the tougher bowls to call. Michigan State's last five losses were by a combined 13 points. TCU also had its share of tough-luck losses. Although it's probably not a good idea to pick Big Ten teams this bowl season, I'll take the Spartans in a close one.

Graham Watson: TCU 20, Michigan State 14
I don’t trust Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell to somehow have an epiphany and become a fantastic quarterback, especially against a defense as tough as TCU’s. The Horned Frogs aren't exactly an offensive powerhouse, but it can do enough to win this game.

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