WHO: Michigan State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (8-4)
WHAT: The 10th New Era Pinstripe Bowl
WHEN: December 27th at 3:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York
THE SKINNY: Michigan State and Wake Forest will meet for the first time when they step onto the field at Yankee Stadium, home to Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The ACC-Big Ten matchup sees two programs that arrive in the postseason under much different circumstances. Wake Forest is looking to win nine games for the first time since 2007 as Dave Clawson has the Demon Deacons continuing to take steps forward as a program. Meanwhile, Mark Dantonio has Michigan State back in a bowl game for the 11th time in his 12-year run as head coach of the Spartans, although this year Michigan State slid their way to postseason eligibility by having to defeat Maryland at home in the final game of the season.
Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke hasn’t exactly had a banner season in East Lansing. He leads a struggling Michigan State offense with 16 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions, but hopes to end his collegiate career on a high note. Lewerke has been roughed up at times this season but will get to start the final game of his career. How long he remains the quarterback for Michigan State remains to be seen as Dantonio has said he will not shy away from playing sophomore Rocky Lombardi if a change of pace is necessary. A jolt on offense is always welcome for Michigan State as the Spartans rank 101st in the nation in total offense. Fortunately, the defense helps keep games from getting too out of hand most of the time, and that could be the case here.
Clawson is all about improving the offensive structure, and that is just what has been done with Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons come into the bowl season ranked 12th in the nation in total offense with 474.4 yards per game. But they will also be banged up for the game with leading wide receiver Sage Surratt out due to season-ending shoulder surgery. That will likely make Kendall Hinton a go-to option for Wake Forest. Hinton may be lacking in touchdowns (3) but he is certainly going to rack up yardage (70 receptions for 953 yards). Wake Forest’s quarterback situation will also be something to watch with starter Jamie Newman banged up and Sam Hartman preparing to go if needed.
Although Wake Forest’s offense will be tested physically by the Spartans, there may be enough scoring drives in them to edge Michigan State in the Bronx.
THE PICK: Wake Forest 20, Michigan State 17