Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
MICHIGAN WILL START FRESHMAN SHANE MORRIS AT QUARTERBACK SATURDAY NIGHT VS. K-STATE
Well, there’s good news and bad news for handicappers trying to pick a winner Saturday Night in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl matching Michigan and Kansas State. The good news? You don’t have to worry about any coaching dramatics. Brady Hoke isn’t leaving Michigan any time soon. Bill Snyder can stay as long as he wants at Kansas State. No interim coaches. No worrying about whether USC, Boise State, or Bowling Green will show up amidst turmoil. All clear on that front!
The problem is…Michigan will be without starting quarterback Devin Gardner. He was originally reported to be suffering from turf toe. But, Michigan announced the other day that they were concerned he may have suffered a broken foot. He won’t be in uniform. And, the Wolverines will be trying to win with unproven freshman Shane Morris.
We’ll still review our standard preview numbers to get a big picture sense of the teams. Handicappers will have to adjust their estimates for what Michigan’s offense can do against Kansas State’s defense.
Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)
Michigan: 7-5 (#38 schedule in USA Today)
K-State: 7-5 (#43 schedule in USA today)
Very similar teams here. So, it’s a shame that Gardner is out! Thus far, we haven’t seen many bowl games where teams with similar records played similar schedules. They went about it different ways. But, Michigan and Kansas State were the same caliber of team. And, both were disappointed with 7-5 records given prior success under their head coaches. Michigan in particular believed Hoke was the guy who was going to save their program. 2013 was a step backward in Ann Arbor.
Michigan: 5.5 on offense, 5.2 on defense
K-State: 6.3 on offense, 5.1 on defense
Wow…big edge there to Kansas State. How did they have such even records given those numbers? Michigan had a knack for manufacturing points when the offense wasn’t gaining many yards. That was a result of special teams and big defensive plays…which the team will surely need to make use of if they plan on spring an upset here. It’s a bad sign for the Wolverines that they could only gain 5.5 yards-per-play on offense when Gardner was healthy.
Kansas State didn’t help themselves in this category. A two-quarterback system can be mistake-prone because both players fail to get enough repetitions to iron out miscue tendencies. In fact, Kansas State lost the ball two or more times in eight of their 12 games. That will give Michigan a chance to hang around too, as long as their freshman replacement isn’t giving the ball right back.
Michigan: 7-5 ATS
K-State: 7-5 ATS
Bowl teams were slightly better than market expectations on a game-by-game basis, even if they underachieved preseason expectations. Kansas State would go 6-2 ATS after a 1-3 start. Michigan closed with three straight covers vs. Northwestern, Iowa, and Ohio State after the market had given up on them. Worth nothing here that Michigan was 3-1 ATS as underdogs, with those three wins being the season finale trio. Kansas State was 4-4 ATS as favorites, losing outright late in the season as chalk to both TCU and Oklahoma.
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Current Line: Kansas State by 6, total 54.5
K-State opened as a field goal favorite. The news of Gardner’s absence has doubled that early spread. The Over/Under has dropped from an opener of 56 because Michigan’s likely to lose offensive production.
Is Michigan going to be outmatched with an inexperienced quarterback? Or, will their ability to hang tough as underdogs show up again versus a mistake-prone favorite that may have relaxed too much after they themselves heard about the injury?
JIM HURLEY knows that INFORMATION IS EVERYTHING in a game like this. He’s been working with his on-site sources to get a sense of the mindset for both teams. Michigan/Kansas State will likely be included amongst the Saturday Slam of possibilities. You can purchase the final word for the day’s bowl slate any time before the Rutgers/Notre Dame kickoff right here at the website with your credit card. Or, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
Back with you Sunday to crunch the numbers in Eagles/Cowboys, the final Sunday Night TV game of the year. Then, it’s back to the bowls every day through New Year’s week…
Monday: Texas Tech vs. Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl
Tuesday: Duke vs. Texas A&M in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl
Wednesday: Baylor vs. Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl
Thursday: Alabama vs. Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl
Friday: Ohio State vs. Clemson in the Orange Bowl
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