Michigan State will have a desert showdown December 28th in Phoenix. The Spartans will face the TCU Horned Frogs in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The Big Ten/Big 12 showdown is one that is highly underrated. Fans will get a bang for their buck. Both teams were under the radar this season. MSU was slated to be a contender for the Big Ten title, however last second decision games and newer skill players hurt the Spartans this year (the players should be beneficial with more experience next season). TCU battled all season in a fairly even Big 12 conference.
TCU's starting quarterback Trevone Boykin proved to be the team's MVP. Boykin was 154 for 263 on passing attempts for 1,853 yards, 15 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Boykin filled in after the loss of Casey Pachall and helped TCU finish the season strong. Boykin was able to utilize his personnel to find success on the field. The Redshirt freshman showed his leadership capabilities through practical play. Boykin is crafty with his feet as well. He has 380 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
MSU needs to contain TCU's two headed running-back monster featuring B.J. Catalon and Matthew Tucker. Catalon is a shifty freshman with good speed and vision. He was ranked the 7th all purpose back in his recruiting class. Tucker is a bigger back with experience. The senior is a powering runner, utilizing all of his 6'1'' 227 lb. frame. Both backs combined for 1,049 yards and five touchdowns. MSU ranks eighth in the nation in run defense (99.6 yards per game). They need to stop the run, thus forcing Boykin to make plays with his arm. The experienced secondary can capitalize on Boykin's raw play... he has thrown nine interceptions this year.
The Spartan secondary needs to shut down receiver Josh Boyce. The junior receiver has been Boykin's go-to-guy. He's caught 61 passes for 800 yards and seven touchdowns. Johnny Adams needs to help contain Boyce. Boyce is a speedy receiver who has good field instincts.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Horned Frogs have some stand out players. Defensive end Devonte Fields has nine sacks on the season. Fields is a freshman who plays with maturity and tenacity. He was a four star recruit according to Rivals. Fields is listed as 6'2'' 240 lbs. He is not physically overwhelming, but he is quick on the edge.
Linebacker Kenny Cain leads the team with 74 tackles. Cain is a senior who is a leader on the field. He is a ballhawk and is persistent on play pursuit. Junior cornerback Jason Verrett leads the Big 12 with six interceptions. He has a nose for the ball and is extremely athletic. He will be looking to lock down the young Spartan receivers like Burbridge.
There is a clear disparity in scoring offense. MSU currently ranks 107th in the nation with 20.25 points a game. TCU ranks 43rd with 31.4 points a game. Let's note that TCU has faced some questionable Big 12 defenses. MSU and TCU are pretty even with rushing yards per game (MSU 151.8 ypg/72nd...TCU 157.5 ypg/65th).
MSU has proposed the idea to display a new offensive scheme against TCU. It is hard to say if this is a sure fire way to win. Big 12 defenses are not used to powerful Big Ten offenses. One can say that the power game could fatigue TCU's defense. A new look offense is high risk, high reward. Maxwell is looking to become more mobile. There is a surprised factor. TCU's defensive coordinator will have to assume, and assumptions aren't reliable. The offense is said to be appealing to new dual threat recruit Damion Terry. If it looks effective and results in a win, it could boost Terry's confidence in being a Spartan.
This is certainly a winnable game for MSU. It is a fun matchup featuring to teams with extreme differences and subtle similarities. TCU will be a formidable opponent for MSU. The only downside is that the game is broadcasted at 10:15 PM eastern time due to the Arizona location. Hopefully MSU can play smart, strong, tactical Spartan football and emerge victorious.