Who: Kansas State Wildcats (7-5 Overall, 5-4 Big 12) vs. Michigan Wolverines (7-5 Overall, 3-5 Big Ten)
Where: Tempe, Arizona; Sun Devil Stadium
A second half charge from the Kansas State Wildcats, led by Bill Snyder, have his team back in Arizona once again for another bowl appearance, this time in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. K-State will take on the Michigan Wolverines, representing the Big Ten Conference. It will be the first ever meeting between the two schools.
Kansas State enters the bowl winning five of their last six games, finishing up with an overall record of 7-5, and 5-4 in conference play. They’ll be going up against a team losing the last four of five, including a heartbreaking loss to arch rival Ohio State. The Wildcats should have a lot of motivation to finally end their long drought of not winning a bowl game.
The first half of the season for the Wildcats looked like they would not be able to make it to the postseason following a 2-4 start. A loss to North Dakota State in the season’s first game did not look pretty. The ‘Cats did get going but hit another road block early in Big 12 play with losses to Texas and Oklahoma State.
The ‘Cats turned things around in the second half of the season with better offensive play, led by wide receiver Tyler Lockett. The improved offensive is match by a defense that has come alive.
Defensive end Ryan Mueller has become one of the leaders of the defense with Ty Zimmerman. Zimmerman, by the way, could be on the field Saturday night. That is big, big news for Wildcat fans. It will be Zimmerman’s final game at Kansas State.
Going up against one of the more historical teams in college football, the Wildcats look to finish off the season with a big win against a premier program.
What 2 Watch 4
Smooth Quarterback Play
It has been one of, if not the main story line of the entire season. Jake Waters has been the starter all year long, and do not expect it to change against Michigan. Waters comes in having thrown for nearly 3,000 yards on the year with 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
Daniel Sams has been a good change of pace off the bench for K-State by doing his damage on the ground – rushing for 830 yards and 11 touchdowns. For K-State to have a chance of winning this ballgame, it will be up to the quarterbacks to play well in this game going against a physical defense. In the last two gamesagainst Oklahoma and Kansas, Waters has gotten a big majority of the snaps. Look for Snyder to use Sams a bit more to throw the Wolverine defense off balance.
The Play Makers
Tyler Lockett has a made a big statement this season on the receiving side. Lockett has 1,146 yards on 71 catches in 2013, with 8 touchdowns. He will be tough to slow down in the game Saturday night against a shaky Michigan secondary. Lockett has been clearly the number #1 target for Waters and there is no reason this would change for the this game.
John Hubert will be playing his final game in a K-State uniform in Arizona. It seems like Hubert has done better away from Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Hubert lit up Texas Tech and Kansas on the road, and he will look to do the same here against the Wolverines. It will start with the offensive line. If they can give Hubert some room, then look out.
The return of Ty Zimmerman has the Wildcats defense at full strength once again. K-State is hopeful that with Zimmerman back in the secondary, it will give them at least some advantage to slow down Michigan’s top receiver Jeremy Gallon. Ryan Mueller has a tough task of his own, going up against Michigan’s left tackle Taylor Lewan. K-State may not have the size but it does have the quickness to try and handle the big physical Wolverine team. The Wildcats will need to match physicality to have a chance of winning this game. Look for Blake Slaughter, as he has all year, to make some key plays for Kansas State.
X-Factor: Ty Zimmerman
Just his presence out on the field defensively for K-State is big in multiple ways. Going up against quarterback Devin Gardner and the rest of the Michigan offense will be important. Look for him to have a few opportunities for a pick in this game. The defense has played well, especially in the second half of the year, by slowing down the opponent’s passing attack. And let’s not forget about Zimmerman’s ability to come up and stuff the run. The experience will come to the fore front in this game in Tempe; look for Zimmerman to have a big going out party.