After disappointing seasons for both schools, the Michigan Wolverines (7-5, 3-5) and Kanas State Wildcats (7-5, 5-4) hope to end on a positive note during Saturday’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium.
Following the program’s most successful season in nearly a decade, Kansas State began the year 2-4 and stood little chance in the Big-12 after starting the conference calendar with three consecutive losses.
But quarterback Jake Waters and top receiver Tyler Lockett rallied the Wildcats with five conference victories in the final six games, including a drubbing at Texas Tech and a near win over Oklahoma.
Waters passed for 2,198 yards and 15 touchdowns, and Lockett was third in the Big-12 with 1,146 yards and eight touchdowns.
On the other hand the Wolverines blew past their early opponents before trudging through the Big Ten, with a narrow quadruple overtime loss to rebuilding Penn State and a crushing 29-6 letdown to Michigan State. In the regular season finale, Michigan nearly derailed Ohio State but fell just short after quarterback Devin Gardner’s two-point conversion pass was intercepted.
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Unfortunately that’s how Gardner’s season will end, as a foot injury will keep him out against Kansas State. Michigan will start freshman Shane Morris, who totaled five completions, 65 yards, and one interception on nine pass attempts this season.
Morris’s best chance for success lies on feeding Wolverines leading receiver Jeremy Gallon. The senior made 80 receptions for 1,284 yards and nine touchdowns, and is a mere 47 yards away from breaking Michigan’s single-season receiving record.
Should both teams take to the air considering their top flight receivers, Michigan’s secondary holds the advantage, ranking second in the Big Ten with 17 interceptions on the year. Defensive backs Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor have accounted for 10 of the Wolverines picks.
The Wildcats best defensive strength comes from junior defensive end Ryan Mueller, who came in second in the Big-12 with 11.5 sacks this season. Michigan’s offensive line allowed 35 sacks this season, the third worst mark in the Big Ten.
Betting Odds: Kansas State -5.5
Over/Under: 54.5 points
Time: Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Prediction: Michigan 34, Kansas State 27