Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Junior LeVeon Bell has gradually grown into a Spartan star over the past three seasons, establishing himself as a premier back in college football. Following solid freshman and sophomore years, in which he gained 605 and 948 rushing yards respectively, Bell broke out with a 1,648 yard, 11 touchdown season in 2012. Thanks to his stellar play for the Spartans, if Bell chooses to stay for his senior season, he has the potential to be a Heisman candidate. If he leaves for the NFL, he could be a second round draft pick, according to Mel Kiper, Jr. But before Bell can make his decision, a stout TCU defense stands in his way. The junior playmaker recently took time to talk to the media about a variety of topics, from sending out the team’s seniors on a high note to beating TCU’s 4-2-5 defense.
- The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl was not where the Spartans expected to be at the beginning of the season. Many MSU players believe that this team is much better than its 6-6 record. So in the upcoming bowl game against the Horned Frogs on Dec. 29, “We want to go out there and prove some things, like how we should have been this year,” Bell said.
- Due to the Spartans’ disappointing season and a long trip to Tempe, Arizona for fans in East Lansing, ticket sales for the game are lackluster. As of Dec. 20, as reported by Spartan Nation, 3,000 of MSU’s allotted 11,000 tickets have been sold. But Bell is not worried about it. “It hasn’t affected me… I don’t really pay attention to tickets and everything,” the junior back said. “Whoever’s there to watch us play is going to get a show.”
- Another motivation to win the game is for the team’s 38 departing seniors. “We want to go out there and send them out on the right note: on top, another bowl win, two in a row,” Bell said. “That hasn’t been done since Coach D[antonio] has been here, so that’s what we want to do.”
- The Spartans will need to figure out TCU’s “versatile” 4-2-5 defense. Bell explained the formation that MSU will be up against. “It’s basically like a nickel, but they bring in an extra DB [defensive back] for the linebacker position and they play him wide out of the box,” Bell said. “It’s going to be a little different, but nothing we haven’t seen. Nebraska did a lot of that, Northwestern did a lot of that, too.” The designed objective of TCU’s 4-2-5 is to slow an offense down to a crawl. The Horned Frogs will “try to control you and make you nickel and dime them all the way down the field,” the star MSU running back said.
- But the formation is not what makes TCU’s defense a stout unit. The Horned Frogs play with a passion and have many talented players on that side of the ball. “They play hard and they’re unique. Their defensive line is a very good defensive line…Their d[efensive] ends are young but athletic,” Bell asserted. “They get in passing lanes, they get their hands up and get their hands on balls. Their secondary is fast, they can run.”
- Despite all the Horned Frogs have to offer, Bell believes that as long as the Spartans stick to their game plan, Michigan State can take down TCU. “I feel that if we go out there and stick to our game: stay balanced on offense, get the run game going and wear those guys down, we should be fine,” the Spartan stud said. “Just make sure our defense stays off the field. Those guys like to play up-tempo on their side of the ball offensively, so we want to make sure we control the ball and keep our defense fresh.”
- Bell will be a crucial part of Michigan State’s efforts to possess the ball. Head coach Mark Dantonio has full confidence in the player whom he believes has a solid shot at winning a Heisman next season. When asked if Dantonio’s words put any stress on him to perform, Bell said: “I just want to go out there and play to the best of my abilities. At the same time, I want to play for my team and I want to play for the coaches and Spartan Nation, and I want to make myself better.”
- One piece of motivation for the junior is being passed over for the conference’s running back of the year. The Big Ten coaches chose Wisconsin running back Montee Ball for the honor, despite the fact that Bell had 100 more rushing yards during the regular season. “I’ve always been looked at… as kind of a second guy, I guess you could say,” Bell stated. “I don’t really pay attention to it, I just keep a little chip on my shoulder: I always have since I came in. I run like nobody knows who I am, so I just want to go out there and keep that mentality as long as I’m here.”