TCU Horned Frogs vs. Michigan State Spartans (+2.5, 40.5)
WHEN: 10:15 PM ET, Saturday, December 29, 2012
WHERE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL STORYLINES
1. A pair of sturdy defenses and Michigan State junior running back Le'Veon Bell will take center stage when a battle of teams which finished below .500 in conference play meet in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Tempe, Ariz. The teams should feel more comfortable on the road as neither won a conference game at home.
2. Texas Christian and Michigan State had high hopes for 2012 after racking up 11 wins apiece last season, but things didn't quite materialize. Michigan State dropped five conference games by a combined 11 points while TCU lost starting quarterback Casey Pachall after the fourth game of the season when he left school and checked into a rehab program for substance abuse after being arrested for DWI.
3. Bell ran for 587 yards in his final three games, including a monstrous 266 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota to cap the regular season. The Spartans' formula is simple - control the ball with Bell and rely on their powerful defense which ranked fourth in the nation at 274 yards per game. TCU is no slouch on that side of the ball either as the Horned Frogs ranked 18th in the country in total defense.
TV: 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE: TCU opened as a 1-point favorite and was bet up to -2.5. The total opened at 41.5 and has come down to 40.5.
CONSENSUS: 61 percent of Covers Consensus picks are on TCU while 56 percent are on the over.
WEATHER: The forecast in Tempe is calling for cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 40s. Winds are expected to blow ESE at 2 mph.
* Horned Frogs are 0-4 ATS in their last four Bowl games.
* Spartans are 1-5 ATS in their last six vs. Big 12.
* Under is 6-0-1 in Horned Frogs' last seven bowl games.
* Under is 3-0-1 in Spartans' last four non-conference games.
ABOUT TCU (7-5, 4-5 Big 12, 5-7 ATS): The Horned Frogs wound up 10th in the conference in total offense and lost three of their next four games after Pachall left the team. That put the burden of running the offense on the shoulders of freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin. Pachall was 15-2 in his career and threw 25 touchdown passes last season, giving TCU plenty of hope for 2012. When he was gone, the Horned Frogs had to throw Boykin into the fire and he threw three interceptions in his first start. Boykin rebounded with a fabulous four-touchdown game against Baylor, but then battled with his consistency the rest of the season. The Horned Frogs had a signature 20-13 victory at Texas late in the season in a game when Boykin threw only nine passes.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten, 4-8 ATS): The Spartans defeated Georgia 33-30 in the Outback Bowl last season, but exceeded that point total only once in 2012. Michigan State ranked ninth in total offense in the Big Ten. Bell, however, seemed to get stronger as the year went along and finished with 1,638 yards on the ground, good for sixth in the nation. Andrew Maxwell completed only 53 percent of his passes this year as the receiving unit was labeled as one of the most unreliable corps in the nation. With top wideout Keshawn Martin now playing for the Houston Texans, the Spartans dropped passes at an alarming rate. Michigan State flashed its enormous potential with wins over Boise State and at Wisconsin, which is headed to the Rose Bowl, but it needed a win in its season-finale to even become bowl eligible. Tight end Dion Sims, who went over 100 yards receiving twice this season, will play after recovering from an ankle injury.