Well folks, it’s official: K-State will not be headed to San Diego to partake in the Holiday Bowl this year. Not after Oklahoma moved up to snag a second BCS Bowl game for the Big 12, earning a match against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The surprising decision pushed the rest of the conference’s teams up one in the picking pecking order. And the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, with the right to pick before the Holiday, took the Wildcats while pairing them with the Michigan Wolverines.
A little known (and somewhat embarrassing fact) is that I’m a Michigan Alum. At least for grad school. I remember rejoicing when Michigan got beat by Appalachian State back in 2007. One year later all my possessions were packed into boxes and I was on my way to Ann Arbor for two years of snow and the blandest food in the country. And no, my loyalties are not conflicted. I went to watch the two teams play in Madison Square Garden last Thanksgiving, and was proudly one of the few fans donning purple in the stands. If anything, I love the opportunity to take down such a big-name opponent this year.
I’m not sure whether to say Michigan finished the year in a slump or not. Sure, the team ended the season on a 2-5 streak after starting off 5-0. But the final loss was a 42-41 loss against an undefeated Ohio State team that would have been in the national championship game but for a hiccup against Michigan State in the Big 10 title game. Yet aside from that offensive outburst, Michigan exhibited a severe inability to run the ball. In one of the most pathetic rushing performances of the year, any team, the Michigan-Michigan State game saw the Wolverines earn a net -48 yards. That’s right, negative 48 yards (Michigan State had seven sacks on the day, and in the NCAA sacks are factored into rushing statistics, which partially explains the number. But still, -48?!).
It’s interesting that Michigan bypassed a couple other Big 10 teams that finished with better records (specifically Nebraska and Minnesota). However, as we saw in the Sugar Bowl two years ago when 10-2 K-State was objectively the better team but left out of a BCS invite over Michigan-Virginia Tech, bowls love Michigan. Because the school has a huge, rich alumni base (not to mention a huge, rich cadre of fans that have never been to the state of Michigan except to attend a football game or transfer airplanes at Detroit International). So better teams were available, but it’s the Maize and Blue that got the invite to Tempe.
Michigan quarterback David Gardner has been battling turf toe and hadn’t played healthy for the last portion of Michigan’s season. However, he’d be healthier if the offensive line could protect him. I’m looking forward to Ryan Mueller literally eating Gardner on December 28. The Michigan defense is not good. It cannot stop teams from scoring. While the squad will benefit from having three weeks to prepare for K-State’s two-quarterback threat, there’s no reason to believe a steady mix of Daniel Sams and Jake Waters won’t keep it off-balance. Rumor is, All-Everything safety Ty Zimmerman may be back. I love this match up. Tyler Lockett is going to have 200 yards receiving on the day. The only gripe is the time slot: kickoff is scheduled for 10:15 pm ET. People on the East Coast will be in bed by halftime. Still, the match against Michigan is a great opportunity for national exposure and a Saturday night game means there are no school night bedtimes to damage audience numbers. I’m really excited about this one. Go State.