Tempe, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - The Michigan Wolverines take a two-game losing
skid into the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 28, where they'll meet
up with the Kansas State Wildcats.
Brady Hoke's Wolverines are 7-5 on the season, but have lost four of their
last five matchups. The one win in that five-game span was a triple overtime
edging of Northwestern, 27-19, at home. Their most recent game against Ohio
State was a one-point loss at home to the third-ranked Buckeyes, 42-41.
Kansas State, on the other hand, has won five of its last six, including a
trouncing of 25th-ranked Texas Tech, 49-26. Bill Snyder's Wildcats have only
lost once, to Oklahoma (41-31), since Oct. 26. Kansas State is also 7-5 on
the season after the team lost four of its first six games.
It's the first-ever meeting between Michigan and Kansas State. It will also
mark the first game for Michigan against a Big 12 program this season, and the
first Big Ten team Kansas State has faced this season.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, who started all 12 games for the
Wolverines this season, could miss the bowl game as he is nursing a foot
injury. Gardner was solid in 12 games this season, completing 208-of-345 pass
attempts for 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Gardner
ranks 31st in the FBS in passer efficiency with a 146.1 rating. If Gardner
is unable to suit up, the team will be in the hands of freshman Shane Morris.
Regardless of who is throwing the ball, the go-to target is Jeremy Gallon, who
caught 80 passes this season - 33 more than the second leading receiver on the
Wolverines. Gallon amassed 1,284 receiving yards and nine touchdown grabs,
averaging 107 yards per game.
Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint gives the Wolverines another dimension on
offense, despite his low rushing average. Toussaint carried the ball 183 times
this season and gained 646 yards on the ground - averaging 58.7 rushing yards
per game - but scored 12 touchdowns. Gardner helped the Michigan offense with
his legs as well, rushing for 483 yards and 11 touchdowns.
As a team, Michigan outscored its opponents 405-318 this season, averaging
33.8 points per game, good for 37th in the FBS.
Defensively, the Wolverines were led by defensive back Raymon Taylor and
linebacker James Ross III. Both players recorded 81 total tackles, although
Ross played in one fewer game than Taylor. Ross, who is questionable to play
in the game with an undisclosed injury, also recorded five tackles for
loss, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Taylor led the
Michigan defense with nine pass breakups and had four interceptions in 12
The Wolverines ranked 38th in the FBS defensively, giving up an average of
367.4 yards per game. Keeping opponents out of the end zone is where the
Wolverines struggled a bit. Michigan was 64th in the country in scoring
defense, giving up an average of 26.5 points per game.
Defensive end Frank Clark was the team leader in tackles for loss (12), sacks
(4.5) and quarterback hurries (7).
This is Hoke's third bowl game as head of the Michigan program. He's 1-1 with
an overtime win in the 2012 Sugar Bowl, and a loss last season in the Outback
Bowl. Michigan is 20-21 all-time in its bowl history.
"We are excited to represent the Big Ten Conference in the Buffalo Wild Wings
Bowl and to face a challenging Big 12 Conference opponent in Kansas State,"
Hoke said. "This is a great opportunity for Team 134, and we relish the chance
to play one of college football's most successful programs."
Kansas State finished right behind Michigan in scoring offense this season in
the national rankings, averaging 33.4 points per game in the team's 12 games
played. The Wildcats operated with two quarterbacks that were both adept at
passing and running the football.
Junior Jake Waters completed 138-of-233 pass attempts in 12 games for 2,198
yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Sophomore Daniel Sims also played
in 12 games, and served more of a rushing purpose. Sims attempted just 52
passes all season, but carried the ball 148 times for 784 yards and 11
Senior running back John Hubert led the team in carries with 182, gaining 968
yards on the ground with nine touchdowns.
The most consistent receiver for the Wildcats was Tyler Lockett, who hauled in
71 receptions in 11 games played, for 1,146 yards and eight scores.
Although Kansas State's offense was ranked just behind Michigan's in terms of
points per game, the Wildcats' defense can be found just slightly ahead of the
Wolverines' in total defense. Kansas State allowed 367 yards per game to
opponents this season.
Senior linebacker Blake Slaughter led the team in total tackles with 103,
while also notching three sacks, an interception, three pass breakups, a
forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Defensive end Ryan Mueller dominated
opponents' backfields, as the junior recorded 11.5 sacks and 18 tackles for
loss. The Wildcats are 36th in the country with a 23.7 points against average.
Snyder knows the importance of playing in a bowl game, and said his team
obviously wants to win badly. But going up against Michigan is always a tough
"No. 1, it is just Michigan," Snyder said. "I know there is talk about trying
to get back to the `old Michigan,' and it is evident. You can see it on tape.
I was at Iowa for 10 years and when Bo Schembechler was at Michigan, we played
them every single year and I know what that is like. They are a very physical
football team. They are a team that will beat you with fundamentals and
execution and toughness. They are moving in the direction that they are
wanting to move in, and I think that is very, very positive."
The Sports Network