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It's been quite the season for both of these schools as both have gotten plenty of attention over the past year. Michigan was set to be a contender for a spot in the Top 10 this year, while Kansas State was coming off a BCS bowl appearance. However, it hasn't gone great for either team this season, both finishing with less than satisfying 7-5 records. The Wildcats finished their season better and are -4 point favorites at 5 dimes sportsbook in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
KSU started slow...maybe a little slower than anyone could have imagined losing to North Dakota State in the opener and going 2-4 in its first six games. To make fans feel better about themselves, NDSU is actually really good and is the best team in FCS in recent seasons. In addition to that, KSU's only other losses came against teams above them in the Big 12. The Wildcats didn't really have an upsetting loss, and did away with opponents they should have, including wins over Texas Tech and TCU.
Michigan only lost to teams above them in the Big Ten as well, but it wasn't nearly as respectable. After starting 5-0, many Wolverine fans were projecting their team to go undefeated to set up a heavyweight fight with Ohio State at the end of the season. Needless to say, none of that was close to happening, starting with their first loss in which they gave up 43 points to Penn State in four overtimes. Michigan finished the season losing five of seven games, with its only wins coming in a shootout against Indiana and then a three overtime game at Northwestern.
Both sides of the ball have failed the Wolverines down the stretch which has led to their losses. They struggled to score in a four-game stretch before suddenly figuring out the Ohio State defense. Meanwhile the defense has given up 40 points three times since October.
Quarterback Devin Gardner has been the main problem for Michigan's offense. It doesn't help that he has missed practice time recently because of a toe injury. Gardner had massive interception problems early in the year, but has come around and tossed only one pick in six games. However, if you remove the three high-scoring games Michigan was involved in, Gardner had 10 passing TDs in nine games. Against weaker opponents earlier in the year, Gardner also excelled on the ground, but that hasn't been the case in recent games. He hasn't averaged more than 1.2 yards per carry in five straight, although some of that is due to sacks. Gardner's favorite target is Jeremy Gallon (1,284 yards, nine TDs) through the air, who he looks at a bunch along with tight end Devin Funchess (727 yards, six TDs). Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has been replaced by Derrick Green, but that hasn't done much.
Kansas State doesn't have a great defense, but give head coach Bill Snyder a month to prepare for a team and it's not going to be an easy task for Gardner and company. The Wildcats have looked better on offense as of late with their dual QBs.
Jake Waters has been passing better, most notably his 348 yards and three TDs against Oklahoma. Running QB Daniel Sams hasn't seen much time the last two games, so it's a wonder how that will play out in the bowl game. Although no matter how the QBs are used, it could be trouble for Michigan, as KSU has been rolling in recent games. Tyler Lockett (1,146 yards, eight TDs) is a stud in the receiving game with two 230-plus yard games on the year. Running back John Hubert just keeps doing what he does, and finished with 968 yards and nine TDs.
Based on how these teams have played lately, Kansas State is the favorite for a good reason. But Michigan still has its pride to play for and have the talent to compete. KSU should be able to move the ball, which means the game could fall on Devin Gardner's shoulders.
The Wolverines are 4-1 ATS in their last five vs. the Big 12 and have covered in three straight. The Wildcats are 15-5-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record, but have not covered in five straight bowl games.
This game has shootout written all over it and the injury to Michigan QB Devin Gardner could be the deciding factor here. Opinion only - Kansas State -5.5.
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