Spartans await bowl opponent
Then-sophomore cornerback Darqueze Dennard makes his 38-yard interception return at the end of third quarter, Jan 2, 2012, at Tampa, Fla. at the Outback Bowl. The Spartans defeated Georgia in triple overtime, 33-30. State News File Photo
When the MSU football team walked off the field victoriously one week ago in Minneapolis, the Spartans (6-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) clinched bowl eligibility and a return to postseason play for the sixth time in Mark Dantonio’s tenure as head coach.
Bowl selections will be announced Sunday, but nearly all odds have MSU heading to Tempe, Ariz., to square off against a member of the Big 12 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Dec. 29.
The bowl, formerly known as the Insight Bowl, is where the Spartans will play unless Wisconsin beats Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game and Nebraska receives a nonautomatic bid to a BCS bowl, which is unlikely considering the perceived weakness of the Big Ten this season.
Here’s some info on the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and MSU’s potential opponents.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
When: Dec. 29 (10:15 p.m.)
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, in Tempe, Ariz.
Stadium info: Home of Arizona State football, Sun Devil Stadium began hosting Arizona State football games in 1958 and has an official capacity of 71,706.
History of the bowl: Formerly known as the Insight Bowl, this is the 24th year of the event, which has featured the Big 12 vs. the Big Ten for the past six years. It will be MSU’s first appearance in this bowl game, if selected.
No. 24 Oklahoma State (7-4, 5-3)
Biggest strength: Oklahoma State features a potent offense, ranking among the top five in the country in total offense and points per game, averaging 547.9 yards and 45.6 points per outing.
Key stat: The Cowboys use an explosive start to control most games, outscoring opponents by 113 points in the first half.
Top performers: Junior running back Joseph Randle and sophomore receiver Josh Stewart are the Cowboys’ biggest playmakers. Randle has rushed for more than 1,200 yards this season and averages more than 5.1 yards per carry, while Stewart has more than 1,000 yards receiving this season.
No. 23 Texas (8-3, 5-3)
Biggest strength: Balance. The Longhorns aren’t exceptional in any one category, but are efficient in most, ranking among the top 50 in rushing, passing and total offense, while finishing in the top 20 in scoring.
Key stat: Texas virtually is unbeatable when leading at halftime, with seven of the team’s eight wins coming when the Longhorns had a halftime lead, with only one defeat coming after Texas finished the opening two quarters in front.
Top performers: Nearly two-thirds of Texas’ offensive touchdowns come from their running game, which splits carries between freshman running back Johnathan Gray and sophomore Joe Bergeron.
TCU (7-4, 4-4)
Biggest strength: Stuffing the run. TCU features an imposing defense that specializes in stopping opponents’ rushing attacks. The Horned Frogs limit opponents to 97 rushing yards per game, seventh best in the country, and the team’s overall defense ranks 17th in the country.
Key stat: Despite being a top run defense, TCU also has playmakers in the secondary, ranking third in the nation in interceptions with 20 this season.
Top performers: TCU has two defensive backs among the top 20 in interceptions in the country, with juniors Jason Verrett and Elisha Olabode combining for 10 interceptions this season.