1. Which defense will make the biggest statement?
Answer: The Horned Frogs showed the country that the Big 12 can play defense. Michigan State was held to season lows in yardage and first downs, and was forced to punt 10 times. However, after trailing 13-0 at halftime, the Spartan defense stepped up and flexed their fourth-ranked defensive muscles in the second half. The Horned Frog offense managed only one 53-yard Jaden Oberkrom field goal in the final two quarters, and Michigan State’s defensive unit finished the game in the spotlight after shutting down Trevone Boykin and the Frogs on the final drive.
2. Can the Horned Frogs contain Le’Veon Bell?
Answer: This storyline was a tale of two halves. Bell was repeatedly engulfed by TCU defensive linemen and gained just 38 yards on the ground in the first half. In the second half, however, the Bell Cow broke away for a key 21-yard run and punched one carry into the endzone, moving his rushing total to 125. Bell also completed a 29-yard pass to fullback TyQuan Hammock in the third quarter that set up the Spartans’ go-ahead touchdown. Bell’s consistency in the second half was pivotal in the 13-point Spartan comeback.
3. Will the 28 days between games result in rest or rust?
Answer: Neither team showed sign of fatigue in the clash of tough defenses. The slow start by Michigan State can be attributed to an effective TCU game plan rather than rust from a long layoff, and vice versa in the second half. Both teams seemed to take the field prepared after the month off.
4. Which team will perform better in crunch time?
Answer: It may seem like generic coach-speak when TCU head coach Gary Patterson or his players reference the ability to “make plays” late in games, but execution under pressure is something that great teams have to do. Michigan State did a better job when it counted on Saturday. While the Spartans were gifted with the ball on the one-yard line, they still had to put it in the endzone. The Spartan defense came up with the stops when it needed to in the final minutes and had one more “clutch” moment than the Horned Frogs.
5. How well will both schools travel for the game?
Answer: Pretty well. After the showing of just over 24,000 at the 2011 Poinsettia Bowl, Saturday’s announced attendance of 44,617 should be considered a success. The loyalty of the fans was a relatively even distribution. The lower bowl of Sun Devil Stadium was packed with fans, and the upper deck was full along the sidelines. Saturday’s announced attendance occupied just over sixty-two percent of the 71,000-seat stadium.
6. Will the results of the wing-eating contest translate to the field on Saturday?
Answer: In a defensive struggle decided by only one point, the 13 wings-per-person advantage Michigan State had over TCU might just have been the difference in the game.