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2013 Buffalo WW - Kansas St 31, Michigan 14

2013 Buffalo WW - Kansas St 31, Michigan 14

2013-2014 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Kansas State 31, Michigan 14
Basically … Kansas State was in control throughout and pitched a nearly perfect game as Tyler Lockett caught three touchdown passes from six, 29 and eight yards out, and John Hubert ran for a one-yard score for a 31-6 lead. Michigan managed two Matt Wild field goals from 22 and 26 yards away, but the defense couldn't slow down the Wildcats and the O couldn't keep the chains moving. The Wolverines finally got into the end zone on a three-yard Fitzgerald Toussaint run with just over a minute to play, but Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder was already drying off from the Gatorade bath by then.

- Time of possession: Kansas State 35:04 – Michigan 34:56
- Rushing yards: Kansas State 149 – Michigan 65
- Kansas State QB Jake Waters completed 21-of-27 passes for 271 yards and three scores, and he ran 12 times for 42 yards.
- Kansas State RB John Hubert ran 16 times for 80 yards and a score.
- Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett caught ten passes for 116 yards and three touchdowns, ran once for four yards and returned two kickoffs for 74 yards.
- Michigan QB Shane Morris completed 24-of-38 passes for 196 yards with a pick, and ran four times for a team-leading 43 yards, with 40 coming on one big late dash.
- Michigan WR Jeremy Gallon caught nine passes for 89 yards.
- Kansas State SS Dante Barnett made a team-leading eight tackles with a pick for 51 yards. CFN PREVIEW

Michigan (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5) Dec. 28, 10:15, ESPN

Here's The Deal … Michigan is in a strange spot, and the next eight months could be very, very interesting depending on what happens in a relatively meaningless exhibition.

Michigan is going to be better than 7-5 in a big hurry. The recruiting classes have been terrific under head coach Brady Hoke, and now it's a question of just how soon it all comes together. There were areas that needed improvement this season – the O line, the running game, offensive consistency – but those will all correct themselves in time. For now, and for this game, the only thing that matters is whether or not Shane Morris can play college football.

With starting quarterback Devin Gardner out with a turf toe injury, Michigan will turn to its super-recruit, Morris, to show what he can do. Can a freshman make-or-break his career with one game? Not necessarily, but if he rocks and Michigan rolls to a win, all of a sudden, the narrative of the next eight months becomes Devin vs. Shane. If he stinks and he doesn't look like the quarterback of 2015 and beyond, while he could still develop, all of a sudden, the recruiting focus might change.

Of course, Hoke's life would be a lot easier this offseason with a win, no matter who's at quarterback. No, the game really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but after a rocky, disappointing season that needed a few minor breaks to avoid sliding into the abyss, a loss to Kansas State and a 7-6 record could set off panic sirens. While the Urbster and Ohio State got through the program's adversity to be in the national title chase, Michigan is in another rebuilding/reloading mode. The process will seem a lot further along – whether it actually is or not – with a win over the Wildcats.

On the flip side, Kansas State closed out the season well no matter what happens against the Wolverines. The season appeared to be going nowhere fast with a 2-4 start, and then the schedule lightened up and the results came winning five of the final six games with the only loss coming in a fun and wild shootout with Oklahoma.

This isn't the Kansas State team of the last two years, but it's resilient, solid, and good enough to come away with a good win that could and would show that the Bill Snyder way of doing things can still be successful. Unlike Michigan, Kansas State doesn't get the top-shelf talent, but the program has shown time and again that it knows what to do with what it gets.

A good bowl game over the years, the Buffalo Wild Wings, a.k.a. the Insight, two of the last four were decided by a point and the 2010 version was a 27-24 Iowa win over Missouri. The Big 12 is 5-2 in the Big 12 vs. Big 12 matchups in this game since 2006, but Michigan State set the tone last year for a big 2013 with a 17-16 win over TCU.

Michigan has been an awful bowl team after a run of being a rock-solid post-season squad. After winning four straight from 1997 to 2000 and five in six seasons, the Wolverines lost six of their next eight bowl games including a 33-28 loss to Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina in last year's Outback. However, as bad as Michigan has been, Kansas State has been worse losing five straight bowl games and six of their last seven going back to 2001.

Players to Watch: Okay, so can Shane Morris really play? A supposed can't-miss prospect with NFL upside, Scout.com's No. 3-ranked quarterback has the next-level arm and great mobility, but his problem so far is that arm – it only goes one speed. Does he have the touch and the accuracy to be more of a timing and rhythm passer? That comes with game experience and time, and now he'll get a little of both. All the tools are there to be special, but the spotlight is on after completing 5-of-9 passes for 65 yards and a pick in his limited time. Again, this game is all about him.

It's the final game for Kansas State safety Ty Zimmerman, who came up with yet another great season earning All-Big 12 honors making 70 tackles with three picks – taking two for scores – as the leader and steadiest producer in the secondary. With 252 career tackles, he has been a key part of a strong defense for the last four years, and he'll have to be accounted for by Morris.

The Wildcat offense needs a huge day out of Tyler Lockett, a small, lightning-quick playmaker who led the team with 71 catches for 1,146 yards and eight scores, while coming up with another great year as a kick returner averaging 25.45 yards per try. He made a signature statement against Oklahoma averaging 32.4 yards per kickoff return while making 12 for 278 yards and three scores, but he also scored three times against West Virginia and rolled for 237 yards against Texas.

Flying a bit under the radar this year was Michigan junior corner Raymon Taylor, a good, sound starter and a tremendous tackler, tying for the team lead with 81 stops with four picks, making 12 tackles against Michigan State and 11 against Notre Dame. He's not all that big, but he's a strong hitter who needs to come up with a big performance against Lockett.

Kansas State will win if … the front four takes advantage of the mediocre Michigan offensive line. The blocking has improved as the season has gone on, but for the most part, the Wolverine pass protection has been lousy and the O is dead last in college football in tackles for loss allowed. Gardner's scrambling had a little to do with it, trying to make things happen with his feet instead of getting rid of the ball, but the line wasn't very good, even with a future NFL starter in Taylor Lewan at one tackle. Kansas State's pass has been good, and occasionally great when all-star end Ryan Mueller gets on a roll. While sacks haven't necessarily translated into wins, going 5-3 with two or more sacks, bothering Morris and making him worry about the pass rush should cripple the Wolverine attack.

Michigan will win if … it doesn't turn the ball over. The Kansas State offense is efficient, and while Lockett might be great once in a while, it needs to run well to be effective and it needs to take advantage of every opportunity. It's no coincidence that Kansas State is 4-0 when coming up with two or more picks and have 14 interceptions in seven of the wins and just two in the five losses. The Wildcats are 1-3 when it's in the negative in turnover margin and 4-0 when in the positive. For all of Michigan's problems and issues, it's been terrific in terms of taking the ball away and managing the turnover margin, only in the negative in the way-too-close wins over bad Akron and UConn teams after starting out -1 in the win over Central Michigan. The Wolverines have been either even or in the positive over the last eight games – Kansas State won't win if loses the turnover battle.

What Will Happen: The Michigan defense will make amends for the Ohio State game. The run defense only allowed more than 170 rushing yards once all season long, and that came against the Buckeyes. With time off to prepare and rested with the layoff, the Wolverine D will be far stronger and better, making up for the potential issues on offense with Morris doing just enough to get by. It's not going to be a fun Michigan win, but it'll be a win.

Prediction: Michigan 28 … Kansas State 17
Line: Kansas State -3.5 … o/u: 55.5
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