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December 17, 2013

Wolverines looking forward to bowl, break down KSU

At the annual Michigan Football Bust, head coach Brady Hoke introduced fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan by announcing to the packed audience that the Wolverines would be holding their pre-Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl practices at Lewan's former high school.

Chaparral High School, Lewan's alma mater, is just 12 miles from Sun Devil Stadium, where Michigan will face Kansas State Dec. 28, a straight shot through Scottsdale to Tempe.

"I room with him, and he has not stopped talking about it since the announcement came out," fifth-year senior right tackle Michael Schofield said. "He is so pumped. He wants me to stay after the game for a couple days. He's excited."

Lewan is looking forward to seeing his college career come full circle.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Lewan said. "Obviously, I would rather go to Pasadena and win a Big Ten championship, but the fact that we're going back to Arizona and practicing at a school I was at for a year, and built some relationships there, and having to finish my career at ASU Stadium, where I finished my last high school game, is kind of a surreal feeling."

Another of Lewan's close friends on the team, senior wide receiver Drew Dileo, knows a thing or two about having the opportunity to go home to play a bowl game.

In Dileo's sophomore year, Michigan rode a 10-2 regular season to an invitational to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, just a short drive from Dileo's home in Greenwell Springs, La.

"It was fun for me, because I had about 50 family and friends there," Dileo remembered. "It was unbelievable. I'm excited for Taylor. It will be fun for me to see him and his family go through the same experience I did in Louisiana. His mom is trying to get 100 tickets, and realistically, he might need that many."

The Wolverines know they have a stiff test ahead of them against the Wildcats.

After a 2-4 start, including a season-opening upset loss to FCS North Dakota State, Kansas State rolled off five wins in its last six games.

Led by junior quarterback Jake Waters and sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams, the Wildcats struck a solid balance with a two-quarterback system down the stretch.

Junior wide receiver Tyler Lockett (71 catches for 1,146 yards and eight touchdowns) and senior running back John Hubert (182 carries for 968 yards and nine scores) will also pose big challenges for the Michigan defense.

"The way they use their running backs, they kind of remind us of Northwestern," fifth-year senior outside linebacker Cam Gordon said. " Sams is more of a running-type quarterback, but he can throw a little bit, and Waters is more of a thrower.

"They have a nice running back. Lockett is a great receiver. I am really excited about this game. They're not a lot like Northwestern, but there are some similarities, because they use two quarterbacks. We have watched the film. We've gotten into it, and we're preparing."

Defensively, the Wildcats rank 36th nationally in both total defense and scoring defense, allowing 367.0 yards and 23.7 points per game.

"They play hard," offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "They have a couple kids that are really good players. It can be very disruptive. Schematically they have some good things they do but they're more into playing the way you're supposed to play. Not putting themselves out of position. Making you earn every yard."

For the Wolverines, the Buffalo Wild Wings presents one more opportunity to take the field as a team - and a win could provide a nice springboard for a team with plenty to prove next year.

"Winning this game would build the momentum for the younger guys going into 2014," Gordon said. "This is our last game in a Michigan senior, so it will be special. We didn't accomplish our goal of winning a Big Ten Championship, but we have one more game to help the younger guys for next season."


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