December 28 at 10:15pm ET on ESPN, the Big 12 kicks off their Bowl Season in Tempe, AZ with Kansas State facing Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Amazingly, these two teams have never met.
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The 2012 Big 12 Co-Champion and BCS representative opened the season with an embarrassing loss to FCS North Dakota State.
"Now will you believe me when I say we're not very good?", Coach Bill Snyder asked after the loss.
Things seemed to go from bad to worse, and after three straight losses to Texas, Oklahoma State, and Baylor, the Wildcats opened the season a bleak 2-5. Going to a Bowl game seemed unlikely.
Bill Snyder is one of the greatest to ever coach the game, and as long as he is at K-State you can never count them out. After the loss to Baylor, K-State ripped off a four game win streak, and finished the regular season 7-5.
Michigan knows a little something about embarrassing losses. In 2007 the fifth ranked Wolverines were knocked off in the Big House by FCS Appalachian State. 2013 got off to a much better start as Big Blue opened the season 5-0, including a big win in Week 2 against Notre Dame.
The second half of the season didn't treat Michigan as well as it did K-State. The Wolverines faded down the stretch losing four of their last five games, and they finished 7-5.
So how do these teams compare?
Kansas State looks to have a slight edge on both sides of the ball, and is currently a 3.5 point favorite in Vegas.
On defense the two teams are separated by just 0.9 yards allowed per game. But the margin isn't nearly as close in scoring defense. The Wildcats rank 36th nationally in points allowed, while Michigan's 26.5 points allowed per game is good for 64th.
On the offensive side of the ball both teams have struggled at times. Michigan holds a very slight scoring lead, edging out K-State by just 0.4 points per game, but KSU has the advantage in total yardage.
The stat that jumps out is the second quarter scoring. If K-State can ride their late-season momentum and punch Michigan in the mouth early, it should be enough put the Wolverines away. Especially when you consider just how motivated Michigan will be after their disappointing end to the season.
MICHIGAN'S KEY TO THE GAME
Big Blue butters their bread through the air. Their passing attack ranks 43rd, while their rushing attack is an inept 100th in the nation. They will need to keep Devin Gardner protected. Without a productive run game they may look to the screen pass to keep K-State off balance.
KANSAS STATE'S KEY TO THE GAME
K-State should look to establish the run early. Offensively they are more balanced than Michigan. They rank 53rd in rushing, and 73rd in passing. If the Wildcat's can move the ball effectively on the ground, it will really test Michigan's will to be there.
The Wildcat's also need to limit the turnovers. The EMAW faithful would like you to believe there are no more issues holding onto the ball. For the most part that's true, but after sitting nearly a month without playing, those early season problems can creep back up in a Bowl game.
If you compare the programs based on history, Michigan would win in a landslide...
The Big 12 Bowl slate looks tough with five of the six opponents being ranked #11 or higher at some point this season. The conference could use a big win from K-State to get the 2013-14 Bowl Season off to a good start.
CHRIS ROSS: K-State
CADE WEBB: Michigan
HATCO COWBOY: K-State
CORY TREECE: K-State
GRAHAM COFFELT: K-State
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