So what can we expect from the boys tomorrow verses Michigan State? The Spartans had a similar year to TCU in a lot of ways, record-wise, new QB (though for different reasons), and a solid defense. They rely on their running game as well, but their lead back stayed healthy, as Le'Veon Bell rushed for 1648 yards and 11 TDs. And by lead back, I mean battering ram, as this is a big boy - who is still capable of some unbelievably athletic plays as you saw if you watched him hurdle a Boise State defender in MSU's opening game of the season. The key to beating Sparty is shutting down Bell, and it's going to fall on Kenny Cain and the rest of the linebackers to contain him to short gains and not force the Frogs to way overload the box and give QB Andrew Maxwell too many easy opportunities, as he improved over the course of the season. MSU doesn't feature the dominating passing game that TCU's secondary saw all season in the Big 12, so Verrett and co can probably handle things if Patterson and Bumpas decide to load the box to shut down the run. Maxwell is a capable thrower, who racked up over 2500 yards, but only 13 TDs vs 9 picks. And with Stansley Maponga healthy, and Devonte Fields having some extra practice time under his belt, he won't want to spend much time dropping back. MSU has a solid offensive line, but Maxwell was sacked 19 times and I would expect that number to be added to tomorrow night, with both our big d-ends getting the job done. I also expect big numbers from Cain, in the 10-12 tackle range.
On offense, the Frogs will go against a formidable MSU defense, one that ranked 9th in the country for points against (16.3) and features an elite linebacking core. The Spartans are great against the pass, but may very well be the best in the country against the run. The exception to their dominance was against Ohio State and Nebraska, where they allowed over 500 yards rushing in those two games. The common factor? A running QB. Enter Trevone Boykin. If "Wheels/Deuce Boogie" can wreak havoc with his legs, he can find some holes in the secondary and let his awesome receiving core make plays. In other words, if we get four quarters of fourth quarter Boykin, it won't matter how great the MSU D is, TCU will put points on the board. Boykin will get a long bomb to Carter, and make up for Boyce getting shutout against OU by hitting him for 5 completions and a TD. I think TCU racks up over 170 yards rushing, despite the stout D, and Boykin adds another 150 through the air.
As per usual, special teams can make or break a low scoring game, and I trust the Frogs here. I hope we see lots of Deante Gray in the return game, and the return of the confident Oberkrom that dominated the early part of the schedule. Ethan Perry will be counted on to be a weapon and control field position in what should be a game with lots of punts.
Everyone is predicting a low scoring game, which during Bowl season, means it will probably be 49-45. But, I think it lands somewhere in the middle, along the lines of 24-21. I've been predicting an Oberkrom game winner in just about every game, but this time I mean it. Boykin will have another great drive late, and Jaden will boot one through with just seconds left on the board. I think there will be either a defense or a special teams TD that will swing momentum as well. Ultimately, TCU finishes the season on winning note, keeps the Big 12 Bowl winning streak alive, and sets the tone for 2013.
What about your thoughts, Spit Blood nation? Final score? Who puts the TDs on the board? How many wings will you eat during the game? Will Dantonio put in the call for a trick play, something he has been known for? And how many times will Kirk Cousins/that old Baylor QB be brought up during the broadcast?