Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Both of these schools struggled in their respective conferences and both were a letdown to bettors for most of the season. TCU went 5-7 against the spread while MSU went 4-8 ATS. The one thing people could count on was the under from each team as it went a combined 16-6-1 for the two teams. For the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the over/under is currently set at 41 points while TCU is 2.5-point favorites. They opened up as higher favorites, but people jumped on that because Michigan State usually puts up a good fight no matter who they play.
The Horned Frogs had a few nice wins in Big 12 play, but ultimately disappointed with a 4-5 conference record. They won at Baylor, West Virginia and Texas, but lost at home to Iowa State and Texas Tech. The loss of starting quarterback Casey Pachall four games into the season hurt, but Trevone Boykin stepped up with quality performances. Their defense has played well lately only giving up 60 points in their last three games and those were against Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma. Offensively, they have their work cut out for them against one of the best defenses in the country.
Michigan State started the season ranked No. 13 and that's when everything ended. While their defense is great allowing just 16.3 points per game, their offense has struggled since day one. Not to mention, their five Big 10 losses came by a combined 13 points. They can play with anyone because of their defense, but finishing games is another story. Their biggest win of the season came in overtime at Wisconsin.
TCU will have to ride Trevone Boykin in this game because the Spartans strong suit is rush defense. They allow just 3.3 yards per carry and only five rushing TDs all year long. The Horned Frogs haven't had a 100-yard rusher this season between running backs B.J. Catalon and Matthew Tucker and will likely struggle to find room once again. Boykin has had his moments in the passing game, but when faced with a better defense, it's a different story. Against K State and Oklahoma, Boykin had a combined 395 yards, two TDs and one interception. While their defense played great in those games, you can't win if you can't score. Still in only eight starts, Boykin has 14 TDs, but nine interceptions. WR Josh Boyce will receive most of the attention from the secondary as he has 61 catches for 800 yards and seven TDs on the year.
Michigan State can do one thing exceptionally well and that is run the ball. Unfortunately for them, TCU's defense is just as stingy against the run, allowing about the same yardage as MSU's (100 yards per game), but 10 TDs. Even if Le'Veon Bell can't find room, the Spartans will force feed him. He's coming off a ridiculous three-game stretch of 587 yards and three TDs. Bell finished with 1,648 yards and 11 TDs for the season. In some of his tougher matchups, he still saw the ball plenty. Against Ohio State he had 17 carries for 45 yards and against Michigan finished with 26 carries for 68 yards. Expect nothing to change for this game. QB Andrew Maxwell has had a mostly down season in his first year as starter, taking over for Kirk Cousins. Even though Bell has run crazy in the last three games, Maxwell has tossed four interceptions in that period and has only completed 53 percent of his passes on the season. He has just 13 TDs compared to nine interceptions in 12 games.
To say there's going to be a lot of defense in this game is an understatement. The game will come down to a battle of first-year starting QBs which can go either way. Our model has this as a one point game which would have us lean towards the dog here. But our gut says TCU. Of the two, it's TCU that's more equipped on both sides of the ball. They held some potent offenses in check this year while also managing to put a few points on the board. Same can't be said for Michigan State. TCU -2.5