The Michigan State Spartans will lineup on December 29, 2012 in Tempe, Arizona against the TCU Horned Frogs in what could be called the, “Who Wants It More,” Bowl. Of course it’s called the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but with two teams entering that both were at least in the top 15 this season, both teams are trying to finish a disappointing campaign with an uptick.
Both schools know the power of perception and a long off season coming off of a disappointing year that ends with a loss can be a momentum killer. The TCU fan base is not as angry as the Spartan Nation, but they are frustrated. That sends the stakes much higher for both teams.
TCU Coach Gary Patterson is one of the elite in the nation. His TCU teams are known for tough grinding defenses and he had a lot to say about the Spartans. Does he think this game turns into a defensive struggle for points? “We play in a conference where there’s a few more points scored. But definitely against two really good defenses, probably if you looked at it, both teams, when you go into a bowl game, I’ve always said you have to be careful what you wish for, what you talk about, because usually it changes when you give two teams a month to prepare for a ballgame. “
Patterson went on to say, “They said when I played in the Rose Bowl it was going to be a scoring fest. It ended up 21‑19. For us, we want to find a way to win the ballgame. I don’t know about a defensive struggle. I think the little I’ve watched so far of Michigan State, very good on defense. I’m sure both teams get a little healthier, get a little fresher, will have some tricks up their sleeves.”
Patterson talked about all world running back LeVeon Bell. He said of Bell, “We already knew about Bell. Good offensive line, big tight ends. We have our hands full. Obviously one of the bigger teams we will have played this year. We’re going to have to physically get ready for this ballgame come the 29th.”
Patterson tried to explain the Spartans offensive attack. He described it in this way. “They’re multiple. They like to pound it. They like to get after you up front. They’ll play‑action, get into some one‑back stuff. You have to get ready to play. They’ve been to bowl games. They understand the importance of winning. This team will be no different”
Everyone knows about TCU getting the opportunity to play the Badgers recently. Patterson was asked if having played a fellow pro style B1G offensive attack is a help for his Frogs? He wasn’t so sure. “Well, everybody’s different. It’s really hard to compare different football teams. Obviously Bell has run for almost 1600 yards, so he’s very good. Probably the difference is he carries the ball most of the main load. Comparatively, you had to play three tailbacks at Wisconsin. They were all a little bit different. But both are very powerful. Both can come right at you. Both play‑action you.”
He added, “We don’t see as much of the big groupings in the Big 12. One of the things, though, for these bowl practices, we have LSU starting off the season next year. It will be a good 1‑2 punch. “
It isn’t the offensive attack that only concerns Patterson. He knows the Frogs are going to have to manufacture a way to score points against a dominating MSU D. He said of the Narduzzi led Spartans, “I tell you, if you look at their scores, they obviously have a really good defense. They run the ball, keep it close. As always, me being a defensive guy, your defense wins ballgames for you, keeps you out of the end zone. That will be our challenge is to try to produce points against a group that hasn’t given up a lot of points this season. We have quite a challenge on our hands. “
As December 29 approaches the Spartans have a monumental task. Six years into the Dantonio program a loss will carry a major stench. It won’t revert the program back to where it was prior to his arrival as the head man in East Lansing, but it will put the brakes on momentum.
There is no doubt that both teams need a win, but the Spartans are desperate. December 29 can’t get here fast enough so the page can turn and the Spartan Nation can forget 2012.