Michigan Wolverines vs. Kansas State Wildcats: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Preview

Phil Callihan@umgoblogContributor IDecember 10, 2013

Michigan Wolverines vs. Kansas State Wildcats: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Preview

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    Devin Gardner almost led the Wolverines to an upset over Ohio State.
    Devin Gardner almost led the Wolverines to an upset over Ohio State.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Michigan (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten Conference) will play Kansas State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12 Conference) in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl—previously known as the Copper Bowl or the Insight.com Bowl.

    Michigan began the season 5-0 before slumping to finish 7-5, while Kansas State began the season 2-4 before winning five out of its last six games.

    Last year Michigan lost to South Carolina, 33-28, in the Outback Bowl, while Kansas State has lost its last five bowl games.

    Date: Dec. 28, 2013

    Time: 10:15 p.m. ET

    Place: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.

    Series vs. Kansas State: Michigan has never played Kansas State

    Television: ESPN

    Spread:  Michigan (+3), via TheSpread.com

    Michigan's Last Game: Michigan fell to rival Ohio State to finish the season a disappointing 7-5.

Video Preview

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    Michigan played a great game versus arch rival Ohio State but came up short after missing a two-point conversion in the final minute of play. This video shows some great behind-the-scenes action and highlights from the game.

Michigan Keys to Victory

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    Brady Hoke after the loss to Ohio State noted how much red was in the crowd at Michigan Stadium.
    Brady Hoke after the loss to Ohio State noted how much red was in the crowd at Michigan Stadium.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Michigan doesn’t want to be here. After entering the final month of the season with sights set on the Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl berth, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is a disappointment. 

    Despite Michigan’s November collapse, David Brandon has publicly endorsed Brady Hoke, but make no mistake: Next season begins now. Hoke and his coaching staff are under intense scrutiny by a fanbase dismayed by the success of arch rival Ohio State and Big Ten champion Michigan State.

    Hoke and crew need to set the stage for next season with a convincing win over Kansas State.

    Dominate the game

    Michigan showed that it has the talent to play with the top teams in the nation, but only when its offensive line steps up. In a blowout loss against against Michigan State, the offensive line was shredded; versus Ohio State the offensive line played better and Michigan nearly won.

    Michigan needs to dominate with its superior talent. No sleepwalking or daydreaming about what could have been—early-season scares versus Akron and UConn have shown that Michigan can play down to anyone.

    Pressure Kansas State offense

    The Kansas State offense got on a roll in winning five out of its last six games and averaging 37 points point per game. Michigan can’t get into a shootout with Kansas State—it needs to put the pressure on early and never let up.

    Avoid turnovers

    Turnovers by quarterback Devin Gardner killed Michigan’s chances to beat Ohio State and Iowa. Turnovers against Kansas State could lead to more chances for the Wildcat offense to put up points. Michigan should win this game unless Kansas State can convert turnovers to points.

Kansas State Keys to Victory

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    John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    Go after Devin Gardner

    As Devin Gardner goes, so goes the Michigan offense. Kansas State needs to harass Gardner and not allow him to get comfortable. Gardner shredded Ohio State for most of the game, and  if he gets on a roll early, Michigan might never look back.

    Run the ball up the gut

    Ohio State showed that the Michigan defense is vulnerable up the middle. Kansas State needs to take advantage of inexperience on the Michigan defensive front to run the ball.

    Don’t be happy just to be here

    Kansas State began the season 2-4 before rallying to become bowl eligible. The team has a chance to make a statement versus an underachieving Michigan team.

Michigan Players to Watch

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    No. 27 Derrick Green
    No. 27 Derrick GreenAndrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    Quarterback Devin Gardner

    Devin Gardner is the key to the Michigan offense. Gardner followed a tough game versus Iowa with a great performance against Ohio State—until throwing an interception on a two-point conversion play that could have propelled Michigan to victory and provided a measure of redemption to a disappointing season.

    Gardner was also injured versus Ohio State, and according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, was still in a walking boot and using crutches at the team awards banquet a few weeks later. Stay tuned…

    Running back Derrick Green

    When Green began getting substantial carries late in the season the Michigan offense started to get on track. With senior Fitzgerald Toussaint graduating, Green is the key to Michigan turning things around next season.

    Linebacker Jake Ryan

    Jake Ryan missed the first half of the season, but made his presence known with big plays when he returned. Expect him to have a major effect on this game.

Kansas State Players to Watch

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    No. 16 Tyler Lockett
    No. 16 Tyler LockettJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Wide Receiver Tyler Lockett

    Lockett was named first team Big 12 and caught 71 passes for 1,146 yards and eight touchdowns. He led the Big 12 in all purpose yards (171.1 per game) and receiving yards (114.2 per game) and was second in receptions (6.9 per game). The Michigan secondary has been susceptible to the passing attack, so Lockett could be in line for a big game versus the Wolverines.

    Offensive lineman B.J. Finney and Cornelius Lucas

    Ohio State ran through the middle of the Michigan defense for big yardage. All-conference second team linemen Finney and Lucas will need to pave the way for the Kansas State running attack for the Wildcats to win this game.

    Defense End Ryan Mueller

    The Michigan offensive line will have its hands full with Mueller, who ranks first in the Big 12 with 18.5 tackles for loss and second in the league with 11.5 sacks. His 11.5 sacks are tied for the school record with Ian Campbell, and he ranks ninth in school history in tackles for loss. He also needs just a half sack to appear on the Big 12's single-season top 10 list. 

What They Are Saying

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, via the Detroit News:

    It’s been a disappointing season in some way, because we’ve lost a number of games by very close scores. But playing one last game gives us an opportunity to do what we have to do.

    Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, via the Detroit News:

    We’re very excited about our football team. We feel very strongly the young men we recruited in the two or three years are the right young men, and now it’s getting experience. You can’t put a price tag on these 15 more practices where you can become a smarter football player

    Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, via the Kansas City Star:

    We are honored and proud to be selected for the bowl game. We’ve had so many opportunities to be in Phoenix and the surrounding areas for this bowl game and the Fiesta Bowl as well.

    Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, via the Kansas City Star:

    I just admire what they’ve meant to college football and the kind of program that they have — a very first-class program.

    Kansas State linebacker Jonathan Truman, via the Kansas City Star:

    Nobody on our team has won a bowl game, with the exception of the coaches. We need it. We want it really bad.



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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    The Michigan offense rolls behind an offensive line that blocks and play-calling that shreds the Kansas State defense, while the Michigan defense does just enough for the team to beat the Wildcats.

    Michigan 37, Kansas State 28