Two strangers, TCU and Michigan State, who have not met on the gridiron since 1953, clash in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium on December 29.
"As we kick off our first major sponsorship with this bowl game, we extend our congratulations to the TCU Horned Frogs and the Michigan State Spartans," said Kathy Benning, Buffalo Wild Wings executive vice president, global brand and business development. "We have long been a game-day destination, and on Dec. 29, the destination will be Tempe, Arizona. We look forward to welcoming college football fans, students and alumni to what we predict will be an exciting match up."
The Big 12 Conference Horned Frogs appear in their eighth consecutive bowl game and the 11th since Gary Patterson became head coach in 2001. Ranked no. 17 nationally in early polling, TCU climbed as high as no. 13 before losing three of four games in October. The young Frogs have played more true freshmen (16) than it has scholarship seniors (11). They are tied for the national lead for most combined true and redshirt freshmen (28).
Fielding a young but staunch defense, TCU held six opponents to season-low point totals — Grambling State (0), Kansas (6), Virginia (7), Baylor (21), Kansas State (23) and Texas (13). The Frogs led the Big 12 in several defensive categories — total defense (332.0 yards per game), passes intercepted (21), third-down defense (29.6 pct.), rushing defense (103.9 yards per game), first downs allowed (17.3 per game) and turnovers gained (31). Only three teams (Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma) topped 400 yards total offense against TCU.
Since 2005, TCU’s 84-18 (.824) composite record is the second-best mark in the nation. Also, TCU is one of just three schools (Florida, Utah) to win at least six bowl games in the last seven seasons.
The Big Ten Conference Spartans marched through a harrowing gauntlet of close games in a schedule ranked the Big Ten’s toughest and fifth most difficult in the nation. Nine of Michigan State’s 2012 opponents competed in bowl games a year ago and eight of the 112 are bowl eligible this season. Only one of MSU’s six losses was more than four points. Its five conference losses came by just 13 combined points.
The Spartans entered the season ranked no. 13 in two polls, MSU’s highest preseason ranking since 1979.
Michigan State led the Big Ten in several defensive categories — scoring defense (16.3 points per game), total defense (273.2 yards per game), rushing defense (99.6 yards per game), and opponent third-down conversions (30.9 pct.).
The Spartans have appeared in eight bowl games since 2001. Their senior class owns a 34-18 records since 2009, the second most wins by any senior class in the 116-year history of Michigan State football. Since 2008, MSU has won 27 conference games, most in the Big Ten.
The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com project TCU as a slim 2.30-point favorite.