Michigan Wolverines (7-5) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (7-5) 12/28- 10:15PM EST
BUFFALO WINGS BOWL- Tempe, AZ
Line: KSU -5.0
The Kansas State Wildcats, winners of five of their final six games and feeling confident, head into Tempe on Saturday night in search of their first bowl game victory since 2002 as they take on a Michigan team that has struggled down the stretch and will be without their starting quarterback.
The Wildcats (7-5) have been a successful program under coach Bill Snyder, but haven’t tasted a bowl win in five postseason games since beating Arizona State in the 2002 Holiday Bowl.
“It is obvious that one of my many failings is that I do not have to answer to that,” the 74-year old Bill Snyder said. “It could be a multitude of things, and perhaps it is, or maybe it’s something simple that I am overlooking. …. The bottom line is I really do not know.”
Kansas State was eluded victories in its last two major bowl games in the 2011 Cotton Bowl and 2012 Fiesta Bowl, but like their chances this year in the Buffalo Wings Bowl with a Wolverines team without their star quarterback.
After a 2-4 start, the Wildcats went on a 5-1 run to put themselves in a great bowl game after Big 12 foes Baylor and Oklahoma wound up in BCS bowls this year. They were headed for the Holiday Bowl, but Saturday’s bowl game is a step up and they plan to take full advantage of it.
“Nobody on our team has won a bowl game, with the exception of the coaches,” junior linebacker Jonathan Truman said. “We need it. We want it really bad.”
Michigan (7-5) started out 5-0, but lost four of five to finish the season with four of those losses by four points or fewer, with its last loss at the heals of their biggest rival Ohio State 42-41 back on November 30th.
It was that game that knocked Devin Gardner out of Saturday’s contest with a turf toe injury, a big blow after their star threw for 451 yards and four touchdowns. It was that impressive showing that gave the Wolverines the nod over Nebraska, who had two more wins in the Big 10 than Michigan a spot in Saturday’s game.
With Gardner out, the spotlight will be on freshman quarterback Shane Morris to lead the Wolverines as he makes his first career start.
“Obviously, we recruited him at Michigan to be the quarterback at Michigan,” coach Brady Hoke said. “This is a great opportunity. We have a lot of faith in how he goes about his business getting ready to play.”
With a Michigan running game that ranks 112th in the nation with a paltry 3.2 yards per carry, it will be vital for the young Morris to find success through the air to have a chance, so look for Morris to target Jeremy Gallon, who had 80 catches for 1,284 yards with nine touchdowns.
Kansas State will counter with Tyler Lockett who had 71 receptions for 1,146 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the Wildcats, who use a two-quarterback approach… junior Jake Walters averages 9.43 yards per attempt and sophomore Daniel Sams, who ran for 784 yards with 11 touchdowns.
“I’ve never been a fan of having two guys at that position that play equally,” Snyder said. “But both of them are very deserving of having the opportunity to play.”
With Gardner out, the oddsmakers have made the Wildcats a (minus -5.0) point favorite on Saturday night, but as always, get the latest spread on the game(s) up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.
On defense, watch for Michigan cornerback Blake Countess tied for fourth in the nation with six interceptions and Kansas State defensive end Ryan Mueller who had 11 ½ sacks and a Big-12 leading 18 ½ tackles for loss.
It’s tough to go with a young quarterback without much game experience and without a solid running game for the Wolverines, I like and predict the Wildcats notching their first bowl win in over a decade.
Prediction/Pick: Kansas State
By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter