Two teams that struggled through their regular seasons will try to end 2012 on a good note when the 7-5 TCU Horned Frogs hook up with the 6-6 Michigan State Spartans in the Buffalo Wild Wings (formerly Insight) Bowl Saturday, Dec. 29 in Tempe (10:15 pm ET, ESPN). The early Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl odds listed TCU as a one-point favorite; most books have since bumped the Frogs to -2.5.
TCU has been a money loser at bowl time, going 0-4-1 ATS in five recent games.
Michigan State, even after losing several key people, especially on offense, from last season, was still expected to contend in the Legends Division this season. The Spartans then started 3-1, with a win over Boise State and a loss to Notre Dame. But they then lost three of their first four Big Ten games, by one point vs. Ohio State, three points to Iowa and two points vs. rival Michigan at the Big House.
MSU then won a close game, beating Wisconsin in Madison 16-13 in overtime, but then lost on a late score vs. Nebraska and by three points to Northwestern. The Spartans had to beat Minnesota 26-10 in the season finale just to become bowl-eligible.So Michigan State finished in fourth place in the Legends Division, going just 3-5 in conference play.
TCU, meanwhile, after going 7-0 in the Mountain West last year, figured to have a little tougher time in its first season in the Big 12. The Frogs then started 4-0 this year, but lost QB Casey Pachall to some personal problems, and were forced to go with freshman Trevone Boykin.
TCU proceeded to lose five of its last eight games, although that certainly was not all Boykin's fault. The Frogs beat three ranked teams with Boykin, topping Baylor, West Virginia and Texas, one of their three losses one came by a field goal vs. Texas Tech, and two others came in tough games vs. Kansas State and Oklahoma. TCU finished 4-5 in Big 12 play, which got them a tie for fifth place.
By the numbers this season the Frogs averaged 397 YPG on offense, held opponents to 332 YPG, and outrushed foes by a 158-104 YPG margin. Michigan State, on average, outgained opponents 370-275, and outrushed 'em 152-100.
TCU, playing in a bowl for the eighth straight season, is 7-4 in bowl games under Gary Patterson. Two years ago the Frogs beat a Big Ten team, when they knocked off Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, and last year they beat Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl 31-24.
Michigan State, playing in a bowl for the sixth straight season, is just 1-4 in bowls under Mark Dantonio. Last year the Spartans broke a four-bowl losing streak when they upset Georgia 33-30 in the Outback Bowl.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Pick: Michigan State lost a bunch of close games during the regular season; Maybe it's time they won one. We'll take the Spartans plus the points. (courtesy of PickShark.com)
Look through SB Nation's many excellent college football blogs to find your team's community.