The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Kansas State Wildcats vs. Michigan Wolverines Pick-Odds-Prediction 12/28/13
Michigan Wolverines (7-5) at Kansas State Wildcats (7-5)
College Football: Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 10:15 pm (Sun Devil Stadium)
The Line: Kansas State Wildcats -4 -- Over/Under: 57.5 See the Latest Odds
Storyline: Saturday’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl features a Kansas State team that hasn’t seen the winning side of the postseason since 2002 up against a Michigan side that because of an injury must now take the field without the quarterback that got them there.
The Breakdown: Head coach Bill Snyder has spent the last two decades and then some building a winner at K-State, a program with the kind of record (177-90-1 to be exact) that begs the question: Why in the world hasn’t this team won more bowl games? The Wildcats are 1-5 in the postseason over the past 11 years, dating all the way back to 2002 when K-State defeated Arizona State 34-27 in the Holiday Bowl. As for the here and now, the Wildcats’ 2013 campaign took a hit right out of the gate with a massive 24-21 upset loss to FCS North Dakota State in the season opener. K-State rebounded in successive non-conference games against lower grade competition and got above .500 before conference play started and the three-game skid that followed meant the Wildcats season at 2-4 was all but over. K-State would finish strong, however, rattling off four straight and taking five of its last six to end the season with a record of 7-4.
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Despite losing five games, the Wildcats did produce some good numbers this season, ranking 53rd in the nation in rushing yards per game at 180.4 and 38th in scoring offense at 33.4 points per outing. Junior QB Jake Waters (2,198 YDs, 15 TDs, 9 INTs) did most of the heavy lifting while sharing time with sophomore QB Daniel Sams (452 YDs, 4 TDs, 4 INTs), who also doubled as the team’s number two rusher with 784 yards and 11 TDs on the ground. Senior RB John Hubert (968 YDs, 9 TDs) led the team in rushing and All-Big 12 First Team WR/KR Tyler Lockett (71 REC, 1,146 YDs, 8 TDs) led the team in receiving. On the defensive side, junior LB Jonathan Truman (85 Tackles), All-Big 12 S Ty Zimmerman (71 Tackles, 3 INTs) and All-Big 12 junior DE Ryan Mueller (61 Tackles, 11.5 Sacks) are the top next-level talents on the nation’s 35th-ranked scoring defense, allowing 23.7 points per outing.
Michigan, meanwhile, is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Junior standout QB Devin Gardner (2,960 YDs, 21 TDs, 11 INTs) has been ruled out for the game with a broken foot, leaving the start to untested freshman Shane Morris, who’ll be making his debut in less than ideal circumstances. The Wolverines’ regular season was even more eventful, though, beginning with a five-game winning streak that included a thrilling 41-30 victory over then #14 Notre Dame. Michigan would reach the #18 ranking before falling to Penn State in an overtime shootout, then drop four of its final six, culminating with a 42-41 near upset of 3rd-ranked Ohio State in one of the best games of the year.
The Wolverines had respectable marks with Devin Gardner under center, ranking 43rd in the country in passing yards per game (252.1) and 37th in scoring offense (33.8), but without him, who knows? Morris has played so little, 5 of 9 for 65 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, he’s impossible to gauge. The ground game is also in question after ranking 101st in the country at 130.8 yards per contest, with a good amount belonging to Gardner. Senior RB Fitzgerald Touissant (646 YDs, 12 TDs) is this team’s leading rusher and boy will he need to up his 3.9 per carry average in this one. Michigan still does possess one of college football’s best wideouts in senior Jeremy Gallon (80 REC, 1,284 YDs, 9 TDs), but we’ll see if he can get his touches. On the defensive side, Michigan brings the nation’s 66th-ranked scoring defense at 26.5 points per contest and junior CB Blake Countess (42 Tackles, 6 INTs) is this unit’s standout.
Rick’s Pick: K-State is currently a 4 point favorite in this matchup with a 57.5 point total. You have to figure with Gardner out, Michigan’s chances are drastically reduced here as he accounted for at least half of their offensive production. And rest assured, K-State is sure bring vast numbers to try and rattle Morris so unless the freshman's got ice in his veins, the Wildcats cover easy.
Follow me on Twitter @SCPRick