By Nick Mordowanec and Adam Biggers
When numerous players were suspended from Michigan State’s roster and declared unavailable for the Alamo Bowl against Texas Tech, the Spartans’ stock dropped significantly in terms of giving coach Mark Dantonio his first bowl victory in green and white.
It is quite the fair assessment when you consider the playmakers the team has lost, like Mark Dell, Chris Rucker, and B.J. Cunningham. However, the team still has a pair of freshman running backs who have shown glimpses of success, as well as a maturing Kirk Cousins at quarterback and his favorite target, Blair White.
Adam Biggers and I will take a closer look at the bowl game and give reasons as to why Michigan State will, or will not win. Adam will play the role as the “bad guy,” picking five reasons why the Red Raiders will trump Sparty. I, on the other hand, will play the role as optimist, listing five reasons why the Spartans will defy the odds and get Dantonio a bowl victory.
Here we go!
Why Michigan State will beat Texas Tech
1. Taking the offensive
All college football fans are aware of mad scientist Mike Leach and his Red Raider offense. He had a great duo last season with Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, and now he has a gunslinger in Taylor Potts. Although, Michigan State’s offense is no laughing matter. The Spartans had the third-highest scoring offense in the Big Ten, and the third-highest total offense, as well as the number one passing offense.
2. Game plan
MSU has been struggling against the pass all season, but now they have almost a month to somehow devise a game plan to slow down Potts and not give up monster numbers through the air. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but we’ve seen it happen before in bowl games.
3. Playing for each other
Yes, many Michigan State players were [idiotically] involved in a campus melee and risked bowl eligibility, as well as future playing time. But most of the team is still intact and will play for one another. It’s times like these when pride and heart are more visible on and off the field.
4. Dual quarterbacks
I’ve mentioned how MSU’s compares to that of Texas Tech’s, but I didn’t point out how the Spartans have used a dual-quarterback system all season. If the Red Raiders figure out Cousins, or maybe if Dantonio wants to change the pace, the Spartans can put in Keith Nichol. It may keep Texas Tech off guard, but it does make Leach plan for two different players under center.
5. Respect the underdog
We’ve seen this tale in sports every year in every sport. Whether it’s Boise State upending Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, or the New York Giants beating the previously-undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, underdogs play with house money. The Spartans really have nothing to lose. They’ve lost two straight bowl games, they lost almost 10 players to suspension, they have a first-year starter at the helm and freshman running backs-not to forget they are playing Texas Tech in Texas! Playing with house money is like eating at an expensive restaurant and not having to pay for the filet mignon, and the Spartans are in that boat.
Now five reasons why the Spartans will lose…
Michigan State has only been bowling four times this decade. Texas Tech has earned themselves a postseason game EVERY year since 2000, going 5-5 in those bowls.
Consistency plays a big role in postseason successes, and Tech has shown that they are solid year after year.
2) Better conference
Texas Tech plays in the Big 12. The Big 12 is widely considered an elite conference within college football. Michigan State’s statement win came against a mediocre Michigan squad, a team that would be eaten alive in today’s Big 12. Tech played four Top-25 teams in 2009: Oklahoma State, Texas, Nebraska, and Houston. Tech beat Nebraska, a team that gave national title-hopeful Texas fits, 31-10. Tech went 1-3 against their Top-25 opponents, with their biggest loss coming at the hands of the Longhorns, 34-24.
3) Putting up points
Tech’s offense produces about six touchdowns per game—37.6 per to be exact. The Red Raider offense is second only to Texas in the conference. That’s impressive when you think of all the great offensive units in the Big 12. If Michigan State was in Tech’s conference, they’d be in the bottom four when it comes to offensive production.
4) Taylor Potts, Texas Tech quarterback.
Potts averages a gaudy 306 yards per game. He only played in 10 games this year and still passed for over 3,000 yards. He completed nearly 66 percent of his passes and threw for 20 touchdowns. Tech has the top rated passing offense in the Big 12, meaning that these guys are dangerous. If the game comes down to a quarterback’s duel, it’d be safe to say that Taylor Potts would out-gun Kirk Cousins.
5) Michigan State’s off-field distractions
Without getting too in-depth, the distractions that have led to criminal charges have loomed over the Spartans. Michigan State’s receiving core has taken a major hit due to the on-campus melee. B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell are suspended, and it just so happens that those two are the team’s top wide-outs. Chris L. Rucker—arguably State’s most stable secondary player and anchor of the defense—will also miss out on the Alamo Bowl. With a depleted team on their hands, Michigan State will be hard-pressed when it comes to keeping the Alamo Bowl competitive.
And there you have it. We will have to wait and see which of these points come to fruition and which ones were just shots in the dark. One thing is for sure: It should be a more competitive game than most people expect.