(7-5) TCU vs. (6-6) Michigan State 9:15 CT Saturday, Dec. 29 | Sun Devil Stadium – Tempe, AZ
TCU: In the end, it was a brush of bad publicity, not the season wrecking ball that some predicted, when Casey Paschall left TCU after a brush with the law just before the Frogs were to play their first Big 12 home game against Iowa State. For the fan who doesn’t follow TCU closely, the name most easily lost is Waymon James. He was the Frogs leading rusher (875 yds) last year, but was lost for 2012 with an injury against Kansas in Week 3.
It was a rough initiation for Trevone Boykin, but the freshman survived and helped carry the offense. By season’s end, he was throwing to the endzone to upset Oklahoma on the game’s final play, but the ball sailed through the trusted hands of Trevone Boykin, bonking him in the facemask, while surrounded by two Sooners. Combine that with an overtime game with Texas Tech that could have easily gone another way and TCU could be looking at 9-3. Still, the Frogs must oddly wait until 2013 to win its first Big 12 game at home. They were 0-4 against the league at A.G. Carter Stadium, and 4-1 on the road. Perhaps the most interesting of Boykin’s stats that show what a grown-man quarterback he evolved into as the season rolled on, in beating Baylor he was 13-of-13 passing on third downs, with all four of his touchdown passes coming on third down.
But, 7-5 is better than 5-7, and it’s that way because TCU had the Big 12’s best defense, allowing 332 yards a game, and also boasting a dangerous duo on the defensive line. Freshman DE Devonte Fields led the league in tackles for loss (17.5 overall, 9.5 of those QB sacks), and was named Defensive Freshman of the Year by the Big 12 coaches. In the AP’s voting, Fields topped the coaches’ pick for overall Defensive Player of the Year, K-State’s Arthur Brown. On the other DE was Jr. Stansly Maponga, scrambling quarterbacks and helping Jason Verrett lead the league with six interceptions.
Horned Frogs in Bowls: Under coach Gary Patterson they are 7-3, winning six of their last seven. TCU is 2-0 against the Big Ten in bowls, both under Patterson, knocking off Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose and Illinois in the 2006 Poinsettia. Back in 1937, the Horned Frogs played Marquette in the first ever Cotton Bowl game. Overall, the Frogs are a break-even 13-13-1 in bowls, having played in 15 different bowl games. This is just the second in the state of Arizona, having recently lost the 2010 Fiesta to Boise State.
BWW Bowl: Same ownership, new name. Born as the Copper Bowl in 1989 and played in Tucson, before becoming the Insight.com Bowl, later shortened to Insight Bowl. A 14-year relationship with Insight Enterprises ended after last year’s game, then was renamed the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for the Minneapolis-headquartered restaurant chain. After years in Tucson the bowl had a brief stop in Phoenix at Diamondbacks home Chase Field, then found its permanent home at Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State campus once the Fiesta Bowl vacated for University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. This is easily the Big 12’s most successful bowl stop, going 8-2 overall. Since 2006, when the Big 12 vs. Big Ten arrangement was established in this bowl, the Big 12 is 5-1.
Michigan State: Finished in fourth place of the Big Ten’s Legends Division, the division won by Nebraska. Clinched a bowl-qualifying sixth win in its final regular season game, getting 266 rushing yards from Le’Veon Bell in a road win over Minnesota. In fact, much like TCU, most of MSU’s success came on the road – 4-1 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play. The Spartans, however, hang their hat on defense. They led the Big Ten and are No. 4 in the FBS for total defense, allowing 273 yards a game. Only Notre Dame (10), Florida (17) and Alabama (18) have allowed fewer touchdowns in 2012 than Michigan State’s 19.