If the Michigan State Spartans accept their invitation, and they will, they'll have the pleasure of tangling with the Red Raiders of Texas Tech in the Valero Alamo Bowl, January 2nd, 2010 in San Antonio.
Good thing that the legions of Spartans travel well, otherwise this would essentially be a home game for Tech.
The Spartans didn't exactly live up to their expectations in the 2009 season, but they did become bowl eligible for their third straight year. Mark Dantonio has the program leaning toward the right direction, it'll just take a little more time. Spartan fans are patient, and a third consecutive post season game is a sign of success to come in East Lansing.
Michigan State defeated their mortal enemy, the Michigan Wolverines for the second straight year (26-20), looked impressive in their loss to Iowa (15-13 w/ :02 seconds left), and brandished Don Treadwell's potent offense against the Boilers on Senior Day in Lafayette, in a 40-37 shoot-out win versus Purdue.
Finishing the year at 6-6 wasn't what Michigan State's football program intended on doing this year, we all know that. After a 9-3 campaign in '08, East Lansing was buzzing with anticipation for the upcoming season.
The Spartans have shown glimpses of greatness, but on the other side of the coin, signs of mediocrity.
The high-flying Red Raider offense will be no slouch come January 2nd, the Spartans are aware of that. If they're not, they should be.
Texas Tech is one of the array of Big 12 teams that are capable of running up the scoreboard.
Here's where we compare some numbers:
Michigan State's tale of the tape. (6-6 overall, 4-4 Big Ten play)
Michigan State's offense averaged just a hair under 30 points a game, 29.5, the second ranked scoring unit in the conference.
Pat Narduzzi's defensive squad had their troubles this year, but were never really "lit up" on a regular basis. They only surrendered more than 40 points once this year, and that was to Penn State (L 42-14). Good news if you're a Spartan fan, because the Red Raiders like to score big.
The Spartans' gun-slinging quarterback, Kirk Cousins, passed for 2,460 yards on the season, a mark good enough to be in the top amongst Big Ten signal callers. He was 5th overall in the conference.
Cousins threw for 18 touchdowns, but here's the stat that impressed me: Kirk Cousins' interception rate was the second lowest in the Big Ten, a paltry 2.33%. That beats out the likes of Penn State's Darryl Clark, Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, and Purdue's Joey Elliott.
With the departure of Javon Ringer in last spring's NFL Draft, there were questions floating around on just how good the Spartan running game would be. Considering that the back-field was incredibly young (two freshmen in Larry Caper and Edwin Baker), they exceeded expectations when it came to the ground and pound.
MSU was the 7th best rushing team in the league (135 ypg), factor in that just 60 yards per game seperated them from the top position, with two frosh's carrying the majority of the load, not too shabby.
The Spartan secondary was spotty as best this season. If you watched any MSU football this year, you most assuredly noticed that they were burned for a few big plays. The safeties and corners also came up big, especially when it counted vs. Michigan.
When Chris L. Rucker, Danny Fortener, and Jeremy Ware are on their A-Game, they're a dangerous bunch. Throw in Marcus Hyde and Ross Weaver, the green and white secondary has the potential to be lethal.
Thanks to the electrifying play of the X-Factor, Keshawn Martin, the Spartan special teams were ranked amongst the elite of the Big Ten in '09. With the big-play-ability that Keshawn Martin possesses, he'll be sure to give the Red Raiders all that they can handle on the 2nd of January.
Texas Tech's tale of the tape: (8-4 overall, 5-3 Big Twelve South)
The Red Raiders play in one of the toughest divisions in college football, the Big Twelve South. With perennial duels with Texas and Oklahoma, these guys are tested every year.
The Red Raiders lost a couple close ones to Texas and Oklahoma State, but they handled the hearty Sooners with ease, all three BCS contenders in recent years.
The Raiders were unable to dodge a bullet from the dynamic Houston Cougar passing attack, courtesy of Case Keenum, they dropped that match by a point, 29-28. That's a stat/game that should be of the encouraging nature to the Spartan faithful. The Raiders have had trouble when they encounter exceptional quarterbacks (McCoy, Keenum, Cousins?)
The Tech offense is scary.
This is a team that puts up about 42 points per game. They eclipsed 40 points five times, and if I were a betting man, I'd wager that Tech is going to give Sparty all they can handle. That's probably an under-statement.
No Graham Harrell, no Michael Crabtree, no problem?
Texas Tech's Junior quarterback Taylor Potts led the Big Twelve in passing yards per game with an astonishing 306 per. Potts threw 12 picks on the year, but he also connected for 20 touchdowns while running that fast paced Red Raider offense. To put it plainly, this guy is dangerous.
Tech's tailback Baron Batch was in the mix when it came to the league leaders in rushing in the Big Twelve.
The Big Twelve is widely considered one of the FBS' elite conferences, but it's a pass-happy league.
Batch avergaed just under 65 yards on the ground per game, but he led all running-men with 12 touchdowns.
Guys like Greg Jones and Trevor Anderson might want to keep an eye on this fella as well.
Tech's defense surrenders around 22 points per contest, but they gave up 52 to a mediocre Texas A&M squad, again, encouraging if you're a Sparty supporter.
I'd hate to be a homer and take the Spartans based on faith. If there's one thing I've learned about college football it's this: if something can happen, it usually does.
The Texas Tech offense is NOTORIOUS for their fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants style of play, and I fear that will be the case come January.
Michigan State's best chance to beat Tech is this: Contain Potts, run the ball, and hope that Keshawn Martin wears his track shoes.
State is fast, Tech is faster.
If this game comes down to a track meet, which wouldn't surprise me, I like Tech by 10, 45-35.
If the Spartans can manage to dictate the pace and methodically slow it down, there's a chance they can keep it closer.
I'm going to be unbiased here, and take the Texas Tech Red Raiders either way....
Track meet: Tech 45, State 35. Slower pace: Tech 28, State 21.
I'm looking to eat my words on January 2nd, here's to an impressive showing by the Michigan State Spartans in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Michigan State is 7-12 all time when it comes to the post season, 2-3 in the last decade. Sparty's last bowl win came against Fresno State in the 2001 Silicon Valley Classic, 44-35.
Here's how the boys from Lubbock have lucked out in their bowl apperances:
Tech has been bowling every year since the turn of the century, compiling a 5-5 record. The Raiders' last win in a post season game came against the Cavaliers of Virginia in the 2007 Gator Bowl. Tech edged out the Cavs 31-28.
Food for thought: The Red Raiders are 1-2 all time vs. Big Ten teams in bowl games. They've lost to Iowa twice in the Alamo Bowl.
'06 Tech defeated Minnesota 44-41, OT, in the Insight Bowl.
'96 Iowa shut the Raiders out, 27-0.
'01 Iowa edged out Tech, 19-16.
Michigan State is 0-1 vs. the Big Twelve in bowl games, losing to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl, 17-3 in '03.