2010 Valero Alamo Bowl Preview
Michigan State (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) vs. Texas Tech (8-4, 5-3; Big XII)
January 2nd, 2009 @ 9:00 PM (EST) – ESPN – San Antonio, Texas
The Alamo Bowl is one of the best-known staples of late December. Played in San Antonio, this game has been the site of some incredible moments in recent years, such as Michigan’s near-defeat of Nebraska on a crazy last play that featured half of a dozen laterals and last year’s overtime victory for Missouri over Northwestern. This will be the final season of the Big Ten’s affiliation with the Alamo Bowl and next year will pit the Pac Ten against the Big XII.
Michigan State had an extremely disappointing season. The Spartans ran off a 9-4 record, their best in a decade, in 2008 and were considered potential conference challengers this fall. However, MSU’s defense massively underperformed and the Spartans lost multiple close games to fall all the way to a 6-6 dud of a year. To make matters worse, no team in the country is dealing with more off field distractions than Michigan State as they have suspended eleven players, including seven starters, for their part in a dorm room brawl. There are a lot of concerns for head coach Mark Dantonio, whose record now sits at 22-16 in three years in East Lansing, and it will be difficult to keep his depleted team focused in this game.
The Spartans were plagued by a season-long quarterback controversy. Sophomores Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol were both solid at different points in the season but neither really outplayed the other and that ended up as a constant distraction all year despite a solid amount of production. Michigan State’s passing attack was actually quite productive but they will be missing some important pieces, especially receiver Mark Dell, in San Antonio.
Michigan State’s secondary was the primary reason for their defensive struggles as they clearly missed the steady veteran presence of 2008 senior Otis Wiley. With a few defensive backs suspended for the Alamo Bowl, there are going to be serious issues for the Spartans defending the pass. Luckily, they are fairly solid in the front seven, led by Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones, who was the nation’s 3rd leading tackler. Jones is simply a machine and will singlehandedly hurt Texas Tech. However, with their secondary problems, this team was already unlikely to slow the Red Raiders and that task seems almost impossible with multiple suspensions.
Texas Tech continued their winning ways under Mike Leach in 2009. After putting together a school record 11-2 season in 2008, the Red Raiders fell back to the middle of the pack in the Big XII this fall. While Leach’s teams are seemingly always good for 8-9 wins every year (Leach’s career record is 84-43 in nine years) they were upset last year in the Cotton Bowl and are only 2-2 in their last four bowl games. Can they take advantage of perhaps the most favorable matchup in the postseason (their opponents are in disarray, Tech is playing close to home and MSU will see this a disappointment postseason destination) and earn a bowl victory for Leach?
The largest reason for the Red Raiders’ success under Leach has been their air raid offensive attack. Despite playing three quarterbacks in 2009, Tech finished ranked in the top ten in the country in passing offense! The Red Raiders were also one of the country’s highest scoring teams and they put up some truly impressive numbers against top defenses, especially in their blowout win over Oklahoma. With MSU’s pass defense problems, this seems like an ideal matchup for Texas Tech.
There are a lot of variables that go into a bowl game. With so many games decided purely by difference in the level of preparation, some games can be outright decided by motivation and/or distractions. In this game’s case, that edge has to belong to Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are playing fairly close to home, they are excited to be in the Alamo Bowl and they’re at full strength. Meanwhile, Michigan State has to see this game as a step down from their preseason expectations, they are traveling over 2,000 miles from campus and they’re missing 15% of their scholarship players.
On top of that, throw in the major mismatch that Texas Tech will surely exploit against Michigan State’s porous pass defense and then include the fact that the Red Raiders have been significantly better for the vast majority of the season and this game looks like your classic bowl blowout. Michigan State probably just wants this season to be over and I wouldn’t be surprised whatsoever if they came out and played like it. Expect Texas Tech to bombard the Spartans through the air and win the Alamo Bowl decisively.
Alamo Bowl Pick: Texas Tech 42, Michigan State 24
by Matt Baxendell
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