2010 Alamo Bowl - Michigan St vs. Texas Tech
Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts & MSU QB Kirk Cousins
Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts & MSU QB Kirk Cousins
Posted Dec 28, 2009

This just went from good to interesting. The suspension of Mike Leach has made the last game on a long January 2nd more of a must-watch than before. Check out the CFN 2010 Alamo Bowl Preview - Michigan State vs. Texas Tech

2010 Alamo Bowl

Michigan State (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (8-4)

San Antonio, TX, Jan. 2, 9 pm, ESPN

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Team Pages and 2009 Season
Michigan StateTexas Tech 


- 2008 CFN Alamo Bowl Preview
- 2007 CFN Alamo Bowl Preview
- 2006 CFN Alamo Bowl Preview
National Rankings
41st Total Offense 7th
62nd Total Defense 46th
44th Scoring Offense 9th
61st Scoring Defense 35th
78th Rushing Offense 115th
24th Run Defense 37th
26th Passing Offense 2nd
103rd Passing Defense 73rd
94th Turnover Margin 94th
Position Ratings
relative to each other
MS 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 4
2 RBs 3
4 Receivers 4
3.5 O Line 2.5
3.5 D Line 4
4.5 Linebackers 3.5
2 Secondary 3
4 Spec Teams 4
4 Coaching 4
Alamo Bowl History
2008 Missouri 30, Northwestern 23 OT
2007 Penn State 24, Texas A&M 17
2006 Texas 26, Iowa 24
2005 Nebraska 32, Michigan 28
2004 Ohio State 33, Oklahoma St 7
2003 Nebraska 17, Michigan State 3
2002 Wisconsin 31, Colorado 28
2001 Iowa 19, Texas Tech 16
2000 Nebraska 66, Northwestern 17
1999 Penn State 23, Texas A&M 0
1998 Purdue 37, Kansas St. 34
1997 Purdue 33, Oklahoma St. 20
1996 Iowa 27, Texas Tech 0
1995 Texas A&M 22, Michigan 20
1994 Washington St. 10, Baylor 3
1993 California 37, Iowa 3

Everything is in place for this to be one of the best bowl games of the season. Texas Tech can't play an uninteresting bowl game with three of the last four decided by three points, and last year's Cotton Bowl loss to Ole Miss a wild 47-34 shootout. Michigan State played seven games decided by eight points or fewer, including, arguably, the most exciting game of the year in a 15-13 loss to Iowa. And then there's the Alamo, which always delivers. The last four games have been fantastic and six of the last eight have been decided by a touchdown or less with Missouri pulling off an overtime win over Northwestern last year. Texas Tech is second in the nation in passing, while Michigan State led the Big Ten in passing yards.

So why does this seem like a blowout waiting to happen?

Maybe it's the way Michigan State stunk in a 24-12 loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl, or maybe it's because the Spartans have lost their last three bowl games including a 17-3 clunker to Nebraska in the 2003 Alamo Bowl. Maybe it's because Texas Tech has shown the ability to win big when everything's clicking, like the 41-13 destruction of Oklahoma and the 31-10 blasting of Nebraska, or go in the tank because of "fat little girlfriends," as head coach Mike Leach famously groused, like the 52-30 loss to Texas A&M. Maybe it's because nine of the Red Raider games were decided by ten points or more. Maybe it's because Michigan State's best win this year was over Northwestern while it gave up 42 points in a miserable loss to Minnesota and lost to Central Michigan and lost to Penn State 42-14. Or maybe it's because the Texas Tech offense seems to struggle with its consistency when it has several weeks off before a bowl.

Or maybe it's because Leach is suspended for his treatment of Adam James, the son of Craig James, who suffered a concussion and was stuck in a closet as a sort of punishment.

The storyline for this game became crazy in a big hurry with Leach not being able to coach the game, and now it'll be defensive coordinator, Ruffin McNeill, talking over, but that doesn't mean that Texas Tech will be any different.

Graham Harrell threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns in last year's Cotton Bowl loss to Ole Miss, but the yards came early to get up and late to try to rally. It took all-timer comebacks to get by Minnesota in overtime of the 2006 Insight Bowl and over Virginia in the 2007 Gator, and the O was shut down cold by Alabama in the 2006 Cotton Bowl by Alabama before it became Alabama. The theory is that after a month off, offenses that rely on timing and precision aren't going to be at their sharpest, and if that's the case, Michigan State has to take advantage.

Yeah, the Spartan passing game put up a ton of yards, but it wasn't consistent while the running game didn't help pick up the slack when things weren't clicking. Head coach Mark Dantonio has put together a nice young team that appears to be just scratching the surface, but after a rocky season, needing overtime to get by Michigan, a shootout to beat Purdue, and wins over Montana State and Western Michigan to get to six wins, beating the Red Raiders would be a really big deal. The defense has been a major disappointment, stopping the teams with awful offenses and getting blown up by the most mediocre attacks, while the offense hasn't been able to keep up the pace against the few good Big Ten teams with a strong defense. The Spartans caught a huge break not having to play Ohio State, but they got lit up by Wisconsin and Penn State. However, this is the type of team that might be able to catch fire in a shootout and play better than it has all season long. Texas Tech knows that it can get hot and put a big number up on the board.

The Alamo used to be one of the key early bowl games, always getting a prime time December slot all to itself, but this year it moved to January 2nd to end a long day of games. This is also the end of the Big Ten's association with the game with the Big 12 and Pac 10 to match up from now on.

Players to Watch
: Michigan State's Greg Jones was the best linebacker in college football this year. Every bit the leader and brain for the D that Butkus winner, Alabama's Rolando McClain, was, Jones ended up doing a little of everything for the Spartans finishing third in the nation in tackles per game, averaging 11.75 per outing, while leading the team with nine sacks. He's not the biggest defender, or the fastest, but he's tough as nails on the inside, has tremendous instincts, and he doesn't make a stop. While Texas Tech isn't a running team, Jones will have to keep his eyes on the speedy Red Raider backs on delays and on short routes. He'll also be used to generate pressure into the backfield.

The Texas Tech quarterback situation might be a battle this offseason with a few good options. But Taylor Potts can end any debates with a big bowl performance. After starting out the season throwing for over 400 yards in each of his first three games with 12 touchdown passes, he wasn't quite as sharp as Leach liked and then missed time with a concussion. It didn't help his cause that the Red Raiders blew away Kansas State 66-14 and Nebraska 31-10 when he was out, and it also didn't help that his first game back was the 52-30 loss to Texas A&M. Even so, he'll get the start over Steven Sheffield, an accurate veteran who threw for 490 yards and seven scores against KSU, but he broke his foot to open the door for Potts. Potts is the better, more talented option, but he'll be on a short leash and will get yanked if he struggles early.

Trying to keep up the offensive pace will be Kirk Cousins, an erratic but talented sophomore who has come on over the course of the year to be the Spartan offense at times. Most remembers for a mind-numbing interception thrown late against Notre Dame, when the offense was in field goal range and could have forced overtime, he has managed to bomb away for 200 yards or more in seven games and has kept his picks to a minimum throwing seven. His problem has been consistency, completing 22-of-25 passes for 353 yards against Western Michigan one week, and 11-of-25 passes against Purdue the next, but he has the potential to be the face of the franchise for the next few seasons.

Texas Tech will win if ... it makes Michigan State a passing team. The Red Raider run defense has been solid all season long, partly because few teams in the Big 12 can run. However, the teams that could run, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, did. The trend doesn't lie. Texas Tech was 8-0 this year when holding teams to under 130 rushing yards and 0-4 when allowing more. Houston and Case Keenum bombed away for 435 passing yards, but the offense ran for 144 yards, A&M ripped off 321 yards and six scores, and Oklahoma State ran for 243 yards. On the flip side, Michigan State is 5-0 when running for 150 yards of more and 1-6 when under the mark. The lone win came against Northwestern, and that was because Cousins got hot in the third quarter hitting Blair White for scores from 22 and 47 yards away. Texas Tech will be more than happy to get into a shootout; it has more firepower.

Michigan State will win if ... the defensive front four can generate consistent pressure. The Spartans don't get too crazy with blitzes and various looks, but they can get into the backfield from several spots and the will hit quarterbacks. However, the pass rush has come at the expense of a struggling secondary that got picked apart way too often this season. MSU would get a sack one play, and give up a 16-yard pass the next. The good quarterbacks on the slate, Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien, and Penn State's Daryll Clark all took target practice on the Spartans, while Purdue's Joey Elliott threw for 373 yards and Minnesota's Adam Weber threw for 416 yards and five scores. Texas Tech will throw for at least 400 yards, but the Spartans have to come up with enough timely sacks to throw off the Red Raider offense just a little bit. Coming up with a pick would also be nice. MSU has a mere five interceptions on the year and came up with just one in the last six games.

What will happen: Bombs away. The two teams will combine for over 800 passing yards with the running game a mere afterthought. This game starts and 9 EST and will go well past midnight with close to 100 passes going through the air to make this a crawwwwwwwl. Texas Tech's passing game is far better than Michigan State's, and the Spartan secondary is too miserable to give the Big Ten a chance to pull off its final Alamo Bowl win. Potts will go ballistic and will be one of the hot names this offseason. The Red Raider players are big fans of McNeill and will play hard for him. Or at least hard enough to come up with the win.

CFN Prediction: Texas Tech 45 … Michigan State 38 ... Line: Texas Tech -8

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Best Spartan Bowl Moment: While rival Michigan has a timeshare in Pasadena, it's been a long time since Michigan State has played a meaningful game in January. The Spartans are 3-1 in the Rose Bowl, including a couple of wins over UCLA in the 1950s. In the 1954 game, No. 3 Michigan State rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit to pull out the win, getting a touchdown run and a back-breaking punt return for a score from RB Billy Wells.

Best Red Raider Bowl Moment: Over the years, the bowl season has been anything but festive for Tech. Covering 32 games since 1937, it's lost 21 times and played in January just four times over the last half century. The 1953 squad was a rare exception. That explosive 11-1 team blew out Auburn 35-13 in a historic 1954 Gator Bowl. The game marked the first time Tech was broadcast on television and gave birth to the Masked Rider as a fabled school tradition.

Michigan State Bowl History (7-12)
2008 Capital One Georgia 24, Michigan State 12
2007 Champs Sports Boston Coll 24, Michigan State 21
2003 Alamo Nebraska 17, Michigan State 3
2001 Silicon Valley Classic Michigan State 44, Fresno State 35
1999 Citrus Michigan State 37, Florida 34
1997 Aloha Washington 51, Michigan State 23
1996 Sun Stanford 38, Michigan State 0
1995 Independ. LSU 45, Michigan State 26
1993 Liberty Louisville 18, Michigan State 7
1990 John Hancock Michigan State 17, USC 16
1989 Aloha Michigan State 33, Hawaii 13
1988 Gator Georgia 34, Michigan State 27
1987 Rose Michigan State 20, USC 17
1985 Hall of Fame Classic Georgia Tech 17, Michigan State 14
1984 Cherry Army 10, Michigan State 6
1965 Rose UCLA 14, Michigan State 12
1955 Rose Michigan State 17, UCLA 14
1953 Rose Michigan State 28, UCLA 20
1937 Orange Auburn 6, Michigan State 0
Texas Tech Bowl History (10-21-1) 
2009 Cotton Texas Tech 47, Ole Miss 34
2008 Gator Texas Tech 31, Virginia 28
2006 Insight Texas Tech 44, Minn. 41 OT
2005 Cotton Alabama 13, Texas Tech 10
2004 Holiday Texas Tech 45, Cal 31
2003 Houston Texas Tech 38, Navy 14
2002 Tangerine Texas Tech 55, Clemson 15
2001 Alamo Iowa 19, Texas Tech 16
2000 Gallery furn. East Carolina 40, Texas Tech 27
1998 Indep. Ole Miss 35, Texas Tech 18
1996 Alamo Iowa 27, Texas Tech 0
1995 Copper Texas Tech 55, Air Force 41
1993 Hancock Okla 41, Texas Tech 10
1989 All-Am. Texas Tech 49, Duke 21
1986 Indep. Ole Miss 20, Texas Tech 17
1977 Tangerine Florida St 40, Texas Tech 17
1976 Astro-Blue Nebraska 27, Texas Tech 24
1974 Peach Texas Tech 6, Vanderbilt 6
1973 Gator Texas Tech 28, Tenn. 19
1972 Sun N Carolina 32, Tex Tech 28
1970 Sun Ga Tech 17, Texas Tech 9
1965 Gator G Tech 31, Texas Tech 21
1964 Sun Georgia 7, Texas Tech 0
1956 Sun Wyoming 21, Texas Tech 14
1954 Gator Texas Tech 35, Auburn 13
1952 Sun Texas Tech 25, Pacific 14
1949 Raisin San Jose St 20, Tex Tech 13
1947 Sun Miami Un 13, Texas Tech 12
1941 Sun Tulsa 6, Texas Tech 0
1938 Cotton St. Mary's (Ca) 20, Texas Tech 13
1937 Sun West Va 7, Texas Tech 6