With Devin Gardner Out, KSU Defense Should Have Edge in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterDecember 26, 2013

Nov 23, 2013; Manhattan, KS, USA; Kansas State Wildcats defensive end Ryan Mueller (44) sacks Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Trevor Knight (9) during the first half at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan's starting quarterback won't take the field for Saturday's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Naturally, Kansas State should be the biggest benefactor. 

According to Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke, Devin Gardner will not play because doctors fear possible broken bones in Gardner's foot. Instead, true freshman Shane Morris will start. 

Via Nick Baumgardner of Mlive.com: 

Gardner has taken just about every snap for Michigan this season, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. While Morris was a highly touted 4-star quarterback prospect according to 247Sports, he has barely played as a true freshman. 

Morris appeared in three games and attempted just nine passes for 65 yards and an interception. 

B/R's Big Ten Lead Writer Andy Coppens writes that Morris' opportunity to start has Wolverine fans excited about the possible future of the program. However, Kansas State's defense should be salivating at the thought of playing against Morris.

Typically, a sound running game is an inexperienced quarterback's best friend, but the Wolverines haven't run the ball well. The lowlight of the year came in back-to-back games against Michigan State and Nebraska, when Michigan combined for -69 yards rushing. 

EAST HARTFORD, CT - SEPTEMBER 21:  Devin Gardner #98 and Shane Morris #7 of the Michigan Wolverines talk before a game with Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field on September 21, 2013 in East Hartford, Connecticut.   (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Granted, sacks and bad snaps have to be factored into that number, but the Wolverines' offensive line was getting abused nonetheless.  

Now, imagine that group lining up against K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller, who has 18.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks on the year. 

What's interesting is that K-State's defense, as a whole, isn't one that forces too many sacks or negative run plays. But a look back at the 35-25 loss to Baylor in October shows the Wildcats did an excellent job against the best rushing attack in the Big 12. K-State was able to go sideline-to-sideline with the Bears, stopping runs before they got past the first level of the defense. 

K-State's secondary has also done a nice job against the pass, where Michigan gets a bulk of its offensive yards. The Wildcats rank in the top 25 nationally in interceptions and pass efficiency defense. Put a quarterback in his first career start against defensive backs like Ty Zimmerman, and K-State should win that battle every time. 

On paper, it looks like Kansas State's defense has an answer for Michigan's offensive attack. Unless Morris has the best game from a quarterback all season for Michigan, K-State should be well prepared to stop the Wolverines. 


Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All stats courtesy of the NCAA. Follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval