Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
A look at this week’s opponent…
TCU and Michigan State both had top 15 rated teams this season. MSU was as high as the top 10. The Horned Frogs are a much better team today than when they made a switch at QB early in the year when Coach Gary Patterson made the change for disciplinarian reasons. Trevone Boykin is now their QB and is making great decisions with the ball and the Frogs 7-5 record is deceiving. The Frogs are SIGNIFICANTLY better now than even a few short weeks ago.
When MSU has the ball…
The weakness that the Spartans hope to expose is the TCU DBs. Read into that the safeties. When you see Michigan State go to multiple WR sets they are trying to sync up on a safety. As the situation has been all year the Spartans will need to pass the ball to set up the run. MSU can’t go only to the air to win, but they must go to the air to change the TCU defense that will stack the box to stop the run.
Dantonio was full of praise for the Frogs D. He said, “Think they’re extremely active players. Statistically they’re very good as well. Fields has nine and a half sacks. Very athletic.”
He went on to add, “The thing that’s most impressive about TCU is their longevity in playing defense. That comes from structure, attention to detail, coaching. Coach Patterson has had that reputation for a long, long time.”
He then went on to say, “They’re next people up. They’ve had athletic guys in the past. Very, very good players, including their defensive tackles, which are young. They’re a young football team. That’s what is impressive, as well. Outstanding on defense. They run, play with power. They transition very well. So they’re a little bit readers versus the run. When it comes third down or pass situations, they turn into a little bit more attack pass‑rushers.
The thing that is most impressive to me is their ability to change direction in transition from the run game to the pass game, and they can run you down.”
Coach Patterson plans to bring the heat on Maxwell. He said, “The quarterback has been a first year quarterback, just like ours, so when you give him more time, that means he’s probably going to play better.”
Patterson elaborated on the MSU offense saying, “They can throw the ball down your throat. Have a big tailback come at you. Coach Dantonio also has a deal where they’re faking punts on fourth and 13 against Notre Dame. You can’t get lulled into sleep thinking he’s a conservative defensive guy. He has his own trickery.”
MSU QB Andrew Maxwell sees the TCU D in a way that most of us can’t. He said, “I’ll tell you, when I first turned on the film, they kind of reminded me a little bit of Boise State. They’re pretty multiple in their looks. They do a lot of variations of things.
They’re one of those teams where you turn on the film the first time, you have to run things back and rewind it a few more times than you usually do because it is a little more complicated. Just the feeling we’re getting about Boise State, and TCU, the more you watch the film, the more comfortable you get, the more recognizable it becomes to you.”
MSU QB Coach Dave Warner said this about the TCU D, “They have a little bit different of a look, but at the same time, they’re very talented. They have some pass rush guys that can really put some pressure on you. The back end of the secondary I think is excellent – as good as we’ve faced all year. It’s very difficult to simulate in practice. Our scout team has done a great job of getting us prepared. We have to be ready to go. We got some good work in against that defense in practice; now it’s a matter of going out and executing.”
When MSU is on defense…
The Spartans wrote the book on stopping the read option. They have essentially shut MOST of them down. MSU will do what they do. Stack the box and attack. With Johnny Adams out for the game look for TCU to go right at the three players who will try to fill the void left with the loss of Adams. The MSU D loves to attack and losing Adams won’t change that.
Patterson said of the MSU D that, “Defensively, because of their zone schemes, I would say this is probably the best defense that we probably have faced this year as far as how they do things, the way they go about things. I think that shows, by their stats, the way they played. They’ve been in every ballgame they’ve played. The only game you probably have had that you’re close to is the carry‑over game between Notre Dame and Oklahoma, which you can kind of see in comparison how they did against each other. That’s about all I have to go off of.”
The MSU D must stop the run and get pressure. If they can force the young QB to make quick decisions that is where they can change the tide of the game. The MSU D needs to get turnovers and maybe a score. Once again this side of the ball must carry their unfair share of the weight.
MSU DB Coach Harlon Barnett said this about the MSU D battle with the TCU O when he said, “They have a good scheme and they have good players. We have to play well with good eye control and execute all of our techniques. They (our players) will be just fine. Obviously TCU will make a few plays here and there, they are on scholarship as well, but we’re looking to make more plays. When you have a space game like this, you have to be able to get guys on the ground and get a chance to play another down, rather than give up big plays.”
TCU QN Trevone Boykin told me when I asked him about the MSU D, “I don’t know about the entire defense. All I can see is #2 (William Gholston) and he is like a video game. With his size and speed, watching him is like watching a video game and you have to think about that.”
In case you are wondering I did ask Gholston to comment on Boykin’s thoughts. He told me, “That is really nice that he would say something like that.”
There is an old adage that says, “How strong is your want to?” That is the question today. I can tell you that being around the Spartans this week they are lose and relaxed. The TCU players are all business. That has been unique for me. How do you read that?
TCU players all talked about a 7-5 season being unacceptable in Fort Worth. Talking with both sets of players was very strange. I have been to and covered many bowls and I haven’t seen it like this before. I think there is a part of MSU that just wants this season over, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Are they self-motivated? Are the Frogs so angry that they play that way?
You say it all the time that it almost sounds mundane. Turnovers can turn a game so fast. Early momentum can take a team and give them a missing burst and demoralize a team that is on the edge.
The intangible today is emotion. Is one team glad to be here? Angry that they season wasn’t what they wanted? Ready to go home? Both teams are close talent wise, who has the want to?
Make it 17-10 TCU