By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The NCAA postseason kicked off December 19th, with 34 games being played in a three week span.
The Sportmeisters are previewing each of the games that lie ahead, and providing our predictions as well. Let’s get to it!
Alamo Bowl, January 2nd, 9:00 PM, San Antonio, TX
Michigan State (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (8-4)
About Michigan State
When you start your season off losing three of four, a bowl game is the furthest thing from your mind. For Michigan State though, the team fought back, winning three in a row to get to 4-3. However, losses in three of its final five games ended its season at a bowl-eligible, albeit barely, 6-6.
Michigan State has an average offense, led by its passing game, averaging 271.17 yards a game (26th in NCAA FBS). Sophomore QB Kirk Cousins is the leader, throwing for 2460 yards and 18 touchdowns. His top target is Senior WR Blair Wright, who caught 64 balls for 876 yards and eight touchdowns. RBs Larry Caper and Edwin Baker combined for 773 rushing yards and six touchdowns (all Caper).
The Spartan defense does not fare much better, giving up 251.58 yards through the air a game (103rd out of 119). It’s a big reason it is 59th in points allowed (25.08 per game). Their lone bright spot is Junior LB Greg Jones, who leads the team with 141 tackles (13.5 for loss), nine sacks, and has a fumble return for a touchdown. Junior LB Eric Gordon is next with 85 tackles (eight for loss), and 3.5 sacks. The defense will blitz a lot, so look for high risk/high reward from Michigan State.
About Texas Tech
Using its standard high-octane passing offense, Texas Tech started off 2-0. Two close losses to Texas and Houston quickly derailed any high hopes the Red Raiders had. They bounced back, winning three in a row to hit mid-season at 5-2. They lost two of their next three to slip to 6-4, but quickly won two in a row to end their season on a high note, at 8-4.
Does it surprise anyone that Texas Tech has skewed offensive numbers? Second in passing offense (380.67 yards a game), seventh in total offense (461.75 yards a game), ninth in scoring offense (36.67 points per game), and 115th in rushing offense (81.08 yards a game).
Texas Tech throws, and it works for them. Junior QB Taylor Potts will get the start, despite missing a few games, but still finished with 3,068 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. Should he get hurt, the Red Raiders have a superb backup in Junior QB Steven Sheffield, who contributed 1,131 yards and 13 touchdowns in six games. Four receivers recorded over 500 yards each, led by Alexander Torres (791 yards, six touchdowns), and Detron Lewis (730 yards, five touchdowns).
Defense is usually an issue for Texas Tech, but recently, they have shown signs of improvement. While their pass defense is susceptible (72nd with 223.75 yards a game), they hold opponents to 21.75 points a game, good for 35th in NCAA FBS.
Senior DL Brandon Sharpe is a beast, leading the team with 32 tackles (16 for loss) and 15 sacks. He is a huge reason Texas Tech is second in the nation with 3.25 sacks a game. Junior LB Brian Duncan is another leader, contributing 79 tackles, seven for loss. On Sharpe’s opposite side is Senior DE Daniel Howard, who has 41 tackles (eight for loss), seven sacks, and a fumble return for a touchdown. The Red Raiders could surprise defensively, making a game a one-sided blowout, instead of a basketball-like score.
Michigan State is 7-12 in bowl games. The Spartans have lost two in a row during their current three-year bowl appearance streak.
Texas Tech is 10-21-1 in bowl games. This is its 10th-straight appearance, having lost their most recent appearance in the Cotton Bowl to Mississippi 47-34.
Texas Tech will get pressure on Cousins, who is without two of his top receivers, due to a suspension. At the same time, Texas Tech, behind Potts, should light up a Michigan State defense that blitzes a lot, leaving receivers open or in single coverage.
The only way Michigan State pulls the upset is if the issues dealing with ex-Head Coach Mike Leach and his termination get in the heads of the Red Raider players. Obviously, it will be discussed at length during the game, but if the players can focus, they’ll win easily.
Texas Tech blows out Michigan State, regardless of the coach. 42-17.