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December 23, 2012
Big Ten Bowl Preview: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl matches up two teams that entered 2012 with exorbitant expectations following big years in 2011, but neither have realized the preseason hype.
TCU stormed out of the gates in its first year as a Big 12 combatant, going 4-0 in its non-conference schedule, but careened back down to earth in an unexpected 37-23 loss to Iowa State in its first conference game. The Horned Frogs started Big 12 play 1-3, yielding an uncharacteristic 37.5 points per game in that time span, and finished with a 4-5 conference record after going 7-0 in its final season in the Mountain West just a year ago.
Still, TCU displayed the ability to make key stops against some of the most powerful offenses in the country. Gary Patterson's defense ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 in total defense (371.2 yards per game) and rushing defense (112.1 yards per game).
Offensively, the Horned Frogs are led by freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin, who amassed 1,853 passing yards and 15 touchdowns against nine interceptions, and has added 380 yards and three scores on the ground. Junior quarterback Casey Pachall was the starter heading into the season, but withdrew from school after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in early October.
Junior wide receiver Josh Boyce has been Boykin's primary target, snagging 61 passes for 800 yards (13.1 yards per reception) and seven scores.
Contributions from the TCU backfield have been a group effort as both freshman B.J. Catalon (562 yards) and senior Matthew Tucker (487 yards, five touchdowns) have both helped move the chains, but the team ranks dead last in the conference with averaging only 3.9 yards per carry and will be lining up against a fierce MSU defensive line.
The Spartans rank atop the Big Ten in scoring defense (16.3 points per game), total defense (273.2 yards per game), rushing defense (99.6 yards per game) and also possess the league's leading rusher in Le'Veon Bell (1,648 yards), yet still needed a desperation victory in their final game against Minnesota to reach bowl eligibility.
Much of MSU's struggles this season have stemmed from the inability to finish games. Michigan State's five conference losses have come by a combined 13 points (2.6 points per game), and Mark Dantonio's squad held the lead in each defeat during the fourth quarter.
Of the five losses, one came in double overtime and two were decided by opposing scores in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell has steadily improved in his first year as the starting signal caller, throwing for 2,578 yards and 13 touchdowns against nine interceptions.
The Horned Frogs is a 2.5 point favorite in what should turn into a low scoring slug-fest in Tempe. The Spartans were victorious 26-19 at Spartan Stadium in 1953 in the only previous meeting between the two programs.