This weekend the Michigan State Spartans will travel to Tempe, Arizona to take on the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs. Both teams are looking to cap off the season with a win after each of them finished in the middle of their respective conference standings. The game will be a close defensive battle, with Michigan State’s defense being ranked fourth nationally while TCU led the Big 12.
The Michigan State Spartans finished their regular season with a 6-6 record, 3-5 in conference play. Five of the losses were decided by four points or less. It was a grueling schedule against some of Division I’s best teams including a 16-17 loss to the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes, a tough-to-swallow loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers who made a comeback late in the game to win 24-28, and a crushing defeat from rival Notre Dame 20-3, a team that is on their way to play for the National Championship. The loss that hurt the most was to bitter rival University of Michigan, whom the Spartans have beaten the last four years. The only real key wins for the Spartans were against Boise State, beating them 17-13 in week one in a highly publicized prime-time game, and Rose Bowl-bound Big Ten Champs Wisconsin Badgers, winning 16-13.
It’s pretty obvious the Spartans had an off year after going 11-3, with a trip to the inaugural Big Ten Championship in 2011. Most of this downfall was due to the departure of many key players such as quarterback, Kirk Cousins, and defensive tackle, Jerel Worthey. New starting quarterback, junior Andrew Maxwell, was jumpy and had a few mistakes at the beginning of the season, but seemed more effective in the pocket as time went by. He finished the regular season with 2,578 passing yards, 13 TD passes and 9 interceptions. Junior running back, Le’Veon Bell, had a great year with 1,648 rushing yards, averaging 4.7 per carry, and 11 touchdowns. He wowed fans with his vertical ability and explosiveness early in the year, which is not too shabby for a two star recruit from Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
The Horned Frogs look to finish 8-5 this season by relying mostly on their defense. Quarterback, Trevone Boykin, took over the starting spot for only the last five games, when former starter Casey Pachall left mid-season for an off-field incident. Boykin can be effective outside the pocket, once scoring on a 77-yard rush against Texas, but it will be more difficult than usual for him against the powerful Spartan defensive line, led by William Gholston. TCU’s own defensive line, led by DE Devonte Fields, will be looking to shut down Le’Veon Bell and put serious pressure on Andrew Maxwell.
For both teams, shutting down offensive drives and forcing turnovers will be key. Michigan State needs to establish their run game with Bell, if he can explode pass the line of scrimmage; he can post some serious yards and plenty of first downs for the Spartans. Maxwell needs to stay consistent with the passing game, and not get overly spooked by heavy pass rush, because he’ll be seeing it all game.
The game takes place at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, this Saturday the 29th, at 10:15pm ET on ESPN.
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