Kansas State dominates Michigan in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

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Jake Waters completed 21 of 27 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns — all to Tyler Lockett — as Kansas State (8-5) won its first bowl game since 2002 by whipping Michigan (7-6), 31-14, in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Saturday night.

Waters threw all his touchdown passes in the first half as K-State jumped out to a 21-6 lead. That turned out to be all it needed. Ian Patterson’s 22-yard field goal and a short TD plunge by John Hubert in the fourth quarter closed out the scoring for the Wildcats.

Michigan struggled on offense without quarterback Devin Gardner, who sat out the game with a turf toe injury. True freshman Shane Morris got his first start, but outside of two early field goal drives and a late touchdown, he failed to get the Wolverine offense going. Morris went 24 of 38 for 196 yards and one interception, but Michigan’s ground game (65 net yards) gave him no help.

It was Michigan’s fifth loss in the last six games and Kansas State’s sixth win in its last seven. Still the Wolverines should be better in 2014 as Brady Hoke’s recruiting classes continue to accumulate. Improving the defense and the running game will be the first priorities.

As for Kansas State, it returns Waters, who could be among the Big 12’s best quarterbacks in 2014. Add in the seemingly endless array of talented junior college transfers and don’t be surprised if Bill Snyder has the Wildcats in a much better bowl this time next year.

Sneak Peek: 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

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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

The Fifth Quarter: Week 14 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

THUMBS UP

Bama bummer a boon for Buckeyes
Well, that escalated quickly.  With an Alabama-Florida State BCS title game tucked comfortably into the vast majority of people’s minds, Auburn done went and did that damn thing: a stunning 100-yard return of a missed field goal with no time left on the clock to send Alabama to its first loss and very likely ending the SEC’s streak of seven straight BCS titles.  And, at the same moment, sending the entire state of Ohio — and the bus carrying the Buckeyes back home — into a mix of stunned joy and utter elation.  Suddenly, Ohio State sits firmly in the driver’s seat for one of the two spots in the BCS title, with only Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game standing between the Buckeyes and a trip to the Rose Bowl Jan. 7.

Let’s also get this straight while we’re here: a one-loss SEC champion Auburn/Missouri will not leapfrog an unbeaten Big Ten champion Ohio State.  They shouldn’t, and they won’t.  It’s simply not going to happen, so that little meme — which is already being pushed by one SEC athletic director — needs to be nipped in the bud before it gains any type of serious traction.  Yes, it’s quite possible Auburn/Missouri could jump past not only Ohio State but Florida State as well in the computer composite with a win next weekend; no, they won’t jump either in the two human polls that make up the other two-thirds of the BCS rankings.  To put it in a historical context, no undefeated automatic-qualifying conference team has been ranked behind a one-loss team in the final rankings in the 15-year history of the BCS.

Boiled down?  If Ohio State and Florida State handle their respective conference business next weekend, it will be a Buckeyes-Seminoles BCS title game.  If one or both stumbles?  Some combination of Auburn, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Michigan State and, yes, Alabama, could be right back in the mix.  The title-game scenario has the opportunity to be relatively simple and very straightforward… or turn into utter chaos once again.

As for the rest of the BCS bowl games, they are shaping up to look as follows if it’s an OSU-FSU title game:

  • Rose Bowl: Stanford/Arizona State vs. Michigan State
  • Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Alabama
  • Sugar Bowl: Auburn/Missouri vs. UCF
  • Oklahoma State/Baylor/Texas vs. Northern Illinois

Obviously, that’s a very tentative look at how the BCS will look, depending on how next weekend plays out.  Still, it gives you a fairly solid idea of which direction the major bowls appear to be headed.

Exiting Week 14, the second-to-last BCS rankings that are released Sunday night should look as follows: No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Auburn, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Alabama.  Exiting Week 15?  Based on the past couple of weeks, who the hell knows.

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Kansas State’s two-headed QB beats Texas Tech’s two-headed QB

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One month ago, Kansas State looked like it was headed for a lost season as its record fell to 2-4 following a tough loss to a very good Baylor squad.

Fast forward a few weeks and, suddenly, the Wildcats have turned it around, winning via blowout for the third time in row by defeating No. 25 Texas Tech, 49-26, in Lubbock.

A lot of credit has to go to the development of Kansas State’s two-headed quarterback duo of Daniel Sams and Jake Waters. Sams is the tough runner who passes just enough to keep the defense honest, while Waters is the accurate passer who can also get good yards on the ground.

Against the Red Raiders, Waters was 6 of 9 for 65 yards and he added 38 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Sams rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and completed one of his two passes for 11 yards. They got extra help on the ground from running back John Hubert, who scampered for 157 yards on 23 carries.

The duo of Waters and Sams was enough to offset Tech’s quarterback duo. Davis Webb was 13 of 20 for 78 yards and one touchdown while Baker Mayfield was 32 of 41 for 251 yards and an interception.

The key stretch of the game came when K-State, down 10-7 late in the first quarter, scored 28 unanswered points to go ahead, 35-10, at the half. From there, it was smooth sailing.

Looking at the schedule, it appears Kansas State (5-4) has a chance to finish 8-4 or 7-5. That’s a far cry from last year’s 11-win season, but still pretty good when you consider where the Wildcats’ fortunes stood in mid-October.

As for Texas Tech (7-3), that’s three losses in a row. With Baylor and Texas on the horizon, a once-promising season appears to be falling apart.

CFT Predicts: the Big 12

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As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Big 12. 

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SECBig TenPac-12

1. TCU (Last year: 7-6; lost to Michigan State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl) 
What happened last season?
Thanks to injuries, dismissals and attrition of various varieties, the Horned Frogs tossed a lot of young players into their first Big 12 fire and still managed to win seven games. Included in the list of new faces was quarterback Trevone Boykin, who played out the final two months of the season while Casey Pachall dealt with substance abuse issues. Of all the success Gary Patterson‘s had in Fort Worth, 2012 may have been was his best coaching job, and a young defense buckled down in the final month of the season.

So why are they picked here?
Most of them youngins mentioned above are back. The offense should be fine no matter which quarterback, Pachall or Boykin, takes the field. And they’ll have options at their disposal too. Running back Waymon James averaged nearly 10 yards per carry in two games before going down with a season-ending knee injury. In that vein, TCU’s backfield had its fair share of injuries, but when healthy, it should flourish alongside a solid receiving unit.

And that defense? It should be the best in the conference with just about everybody coming back (minus linebacker and second-leading tackler Joel Hasley).

Anything else?
Some departures just before, and around the start of, preseason camp have put a dent in the offensive line and linebacker units. Defensive end Devonte Fields will miss some early-season action as well. But Patterson is well-respected around these parts and he’s shown as recently as a year ago that he can coach around injuries. Also, the Horned Frogs have some intriguing road games at Oklahoma (Oct. 5), Oklahoma State (Oct. 19) and Kansas State (Nov. 16) that should provide tough tests. Going to Lubbock in the early portion of the season (Sept. 12) and Ames in November (Nov. 9) aren’t always picnics, either.

2. Texas (last year: 9-4; beat Oregon State in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Texas experienced about as many ups and downs as a nine-win team could possibly go through in one season. The Longhorns got taken to the woodshed (again) by Oklahoma and still couldn’t find a way to beat Kansas State, but a come-from-behind win against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl cleansed the football palate just enough to make the offseason bearable. The offense, led by quarterback David Ash, was inconsistent and the defense exhibited too many breakdowns in fundamentals and tackling. 

So why are they picked here?
That’s a handsome question considering there wasn’t a lot praise being doled out in the 2012 recap. But the simple answer is Texas brings back among the most experienced group of starters not just in the Big 12, but in the country. There’s no denying the skill position talent on offense, where receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley should be complemented by the deepest backfield in the conference. If the defense can improve even a little — getting Jordan Hicks back should help — this team has the potential to be dangerous.

Anything else?
Yeah, about that Mack Brown. Two BCS championship appearances (and winning one) would normally eliminate Brown from being mentioned as a concern, but media members in Big 12 country didn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in him when they picked Texas to finish fourth in the conference this year. I’m a little more convinced Texas will ascend to the top, or near the top, of the Big 12, which should be wide open this year. But if Brown can’t make it happen this year, it’s hard to see him hanging around much longer.

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