It’s been almost a month since the Michigan and Kansas State football teams have played their final regular season games. The teams finished its respective seasons very differently. Michigan (7-5) lost four of its last five games, including a heart-breaking defeat to Ohio State in the final week of the season. Kansas State (7-5), however, won five of its last six, with its only loss coming to No. 11 Oklahoma.
While the Michigan football team would much rather play in a bigger bowl than the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, it still has quite a bit to play for. Both teams enter with a record of 7-5. I would have to think 8-5 is much more preferred over a 7-6 record. The teams are set to play tomorrow night in Tempe, Arizona at 10:15 p.m. ET. You can watch the action on ESPN.
Shane Morris Time
Throughout Michigan’s struggles over the course of the year, many fans believed that Brady Hoke and Co. should have given freshman quarterback Shane Morris a chance to play in place of Devin Gardner. While there is no denying that Morris has tons of potential, I always believed the Wolverines were a better team with Gardner at the helm of a terribly inconsistent offense. Fans were upset with Gardner’s early season turnover problems and wanted change.
Well, those fans are about to get what they asked for. Shane Morris was announced as Michigan’s starting quarterback for its bowl game, as Gardner will be out with a turf toe injury. It will be a different Michigan offense, as Morris is more of a dropback passer. It will definitely be interesting to see how the offense looks and what Al Borges draws up for his new QB.
Expect Morris to to target standout wide receivers Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess early and often to get a good rhythm going. I see Kansas State trying to limit these guys, so I look to guys like Jehu Chesson and Jake Butt to have big games. Butt broke out against Ohio State and Chesson has gotten better and better as the season has progressed. We could be seeing next year’s star receivers in the spotlight tomorrow night for the first time.
I still think Gardner is Michigan’s number one option in 2014, but if Morris plays well against Kansas State tomorrow night, we could see more of a competition for the position next season.
The running game
Something that has been talked about all year is Michigan’s inability to run the ball effectively or consistently. It doesn’t really matter who plays quarterback if the Wolverines can’t run the ball. If they can’t run it, they just won’t win.
We will probably see a running back rotation of Derrick Green, DeVeon Smith and Fitzgerald Toussaint in the game. I’d expect more of Green and Smith, but it is Toussaint’s final game, so who knows.
Kansas State has been average against defending the run, allowing nearly 150 yards per game. I really think the game comes down to how Michigan can get its backs going, especially with its first non dual threat starting quarterback in a few years.
Can the defense rebound from OSU?
The Michigan defense was probably the team’s strength for most of the year, until the Ohio State game. No, Kansas State isn’t anywhere as talented as the Buckeyes, but there is no denying that there were things to address following the game last month. the Wolverines allowed 400 yards on the ground to OSU and were beat deep a number of times on passing plays.
Kansas State is pretty balanced offensively, and they are led by quarterback Jake Waters. Waters has thrown for over 2,100 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. He can run a little bit as well, and so can his backup, Daniel Sams. Sams is Kansas State’s running QB. He has attempted just 52 passes this seasons, but has rushed for over 700 yards. The way Michigan handles the mobile quarterbacks will be key in this game.
John Hubert is the Wildcats’ primary running back, as he is nearing 1,000 yards on the season and has scored nine touchdowns. The Michigan secondary should key on Tyler Lockett, who is the leading receiver for KSU at over 1,100 yards.
Hopefully the last month of preparation has gotten Michigan ready for the challenge that Kansas State brings. With a new look offense, the defense will need to remain reliable and steady if the Wolverines want to come out on top.
Notable stats, news
This is the first time Michigan and Kansas State have played.
Michigan has lost six of its last eight bowl games, with its last win coming in the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago.
Kansas State enters as a 5.5 point favorite.
Jeremy Gallon needs one reception to break Braylon Edwards’ consecutive games with a catch record at Michigan. Gallon also needs 47 yards to pass Edwards as Michigan’s best single season for a receiver (1,330 yards).
Shane Morris has attempted just nine passes this season, completing five of them for 65 yards and an interception. His last live game action came late in the Michigan State game on Nov. 2, nearly two months ago.
This is a pretty even matchup overall, with both teams coming in at 7-5. Michigan has had a disappointing and frustrating season which ended on a sour note. Kansas State got off to a sluggish start, but rebounded to finish strong. None of that matters come 10:15 tomorrow night, though.
If Shane Morris and the Michigan offense can get things going, I really like the Wolverines’ chances. The offense has been anything but reliable, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it took a while to shake off the rust and break in the new quarterback. I think it’s as simple as that, though.
Kansas State will be eager to face off against one of the most successful programs in college football for the first time, and would love nothing more than to knock them off to end its season.
Michigan has been a hard team to predict nearly every week. With the talent that they have, I still think they have yet to live up to its potential. I’m sticking with Michigan against Kansas State. I think Morris will do just enough, even though he will have his first game mistakes. Michigan wins 27-21.
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