Those who prefer "old-time football" - run-oriented offenses and hard-hitting defenses - should check out the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The matchup between TCU and Michigan State promises to be low-scoring defensive struggle.
Both the Horned Frogs (7-5) and the Spartans (6-6) feature defenses in the top 20 nationally. Michigan State running back Leveon Bell is the nation's third-leading rusher. None of the team's 11 losses were blow outs; the Spartans lost five Big Ten Conference games by a total of 13 points.
"I think both teams have outstanding defenses," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "I've known (TCU coach Gary) Patterson for quite a while. He's a defensive-minded coach, as I am. We haven't had a football game where we've lost in a big way. They've all been close. One play here, one play there, we're a different football team."
For TCU, a victory would cap a challenging inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference. The Horned Frogs proved they belonged in The Big Time and finishing with eight victories would help confirm that fact.
"Our goal is to give them the best season we can, so that's why we're trying to win the ballgame," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "It's the same thing Michigan State is saying. You want to send the seniors out the right way. That's what you try to do.
"You'll remember this one more than any of the season's games. This is the one everybody will talk about when you go home. When you go back to your town, this is the one they'll talk about, right here."
Patterson believes that redshirt freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin, who was thrust into the starting role midway through the season, has benefitted from the extra snaps provided by bowl practice. Against the Spartans' defense, the Horned Frogs figure to need Boykin's passing and play-making abilities.
"That will be our challenge - to produce points against a group that hasn't given up a lot of points this season," Patterson said. "Obviously (Trevone) got us back to a bowl game, which was something that was a concern from the beginning anytime you make that kind of a change."
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
TCU vs. Michigan State
Need to know: 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Sun Devil Stadium, ESPN.
Team records: TCU 7-5, Michigan State 6-6.
The Horned Frogs overcame considerable obstacles to post a winning overall record in their first season in the Big 12. TCU lost its starting quarterback, its top two running backs and fielded a defense that had one senior in the two-deep. Redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin took over at quarterback and displayed promise, throwing for 15 touchdowns while also gaining 380 yards rushing. TCU led the Big 12 and was 18th in the nation in total defense, giving up an average of 332.0 yards. Freshman defensive end Devonte Fields led the Big 12 in tackles for loss (17 1/2) while adding nine sacks.
Scouting Michigan State
The Spartans five Big Ten losses came by a total of 13 points. Michigan State scored more than 30 points just twice and their scoring offense of 20.3 points per game ranks 109th nationally. The offensive struggles can be traced to an ineffective passing game, but running back Le'Veon Bell is capable of moving the chains on his own. He averaged 137.3 yards per game on the ground (third nationally) and his coming off a career-high 266 yards in the season finale. The Spartans are third nationally in total defense and allowed just five rushing touchdowns - second-fewest in the nation.
TCU got to the red zone 54 times this season but came away with only 27 touchdowns. The Horned Frogs also had eight turnovers in the red zone. ... TCU forced 25 turnovers in its seven wins and only seven takeaways in its five losses. ... TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin averages 7.3 yards a scramble, and 9.4 yards on third downs. He's averaging 4.1 yards a carry on designed runs. ... TCU is one of just three programs to win six bowl games in the past seven years. ... The schools haven't met since Michigan State beat TCU in 1953. ... The Horned Frogs are playing in a bowl game for a school-record eighth consecutive season and the 11th time in Gary Patterson's 12 years as head coach.