WHO: 7-5 Michigan (Big Ten) vs. 7-5 Kansas State (Big 12)
WHAT: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (25th year)
WHERE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
WHEN: Dec. 28 at 10:15 p.m. ET
WHY: It seems like these two teams are headed in opposite directions. Kansas State won five of its last six and rebounded from a 2-4 start to finish up as one of the Big 12’s hottest teams. Michigan started 5-0 and then lost five of its last seven.
The Wildcats are looking for their first bowl win since 2002. They’ll rely on the two quarterbacks to get them there: Jake Waters is an adept passer (2,198 yards, 15 touchdowns) who has decent mobility while Daniel Sams is a powerful runner (784 yards, 11 touchdowns) who throws it on occasion. Add in diminutive running back John Hubert’s 968 rushing yards and wide out Tyler Lockett’s 71 catches for 1,146 receiving and this is an offense that can put up points in a hurry (it scored at least 31 in its last six games).
Michigan’s offense is less settled due to the loss of quarterback Devin Gardner to a turf toe injury. Freshman Shane Morris, who has thrown just nine passes this year, will make his first career start in his place. With such a young signal caller, you’ll probably see the Wolverines try to grind this one out on the ground. They’ve got a solid stable of backs to do that, including Fitzgerald Toussaint (646 yards, 12 touchdowns) and freshman power back Derrick Green, but they’ll miss Gardner’s mobility and moxie.
You have to give K-State the edge going in, at least until Morris proves he is up to the task of running the Wolverine offense. If Michigan’s defense can keep Waters and Sams in check, his first start might be a successful one. But the Wildcats are probably hungrier for the bowl win and they should take care of business.
PREDICTION: Kansas State 35, Michigan 17