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Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl 2012: Michigan State had rough year

The Spartans opened the season with big expectations, but ended up losing five games by a total of 13 points.

Kirk Irwin

When the 2012 season started, Michigan State was coming off an 11-3 season in 2011 and thinking about a trip to Pasadena. Instead, the Spartans lost a series of achingly close games, finishing the year at 6-6 and headed off to the far less glamorous Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Phoenix.

There's no question that TCU's opponent has struggled, but they're definitely a dangerous team with a lot of NFL talent. The real question is whether coach Mark Dantonio can get his players fired up to compete in a below-the-radar bowl a year after a dramatic New Year's Day bowl win against Georgia.

Michigan State's biggest problem came at quarterback, where junior Andrew Maxwell struggled mightily to replace Kirk Cousins, who is now playing for the Washington Redskins. Maxwell completed only 53 percent of his passes and threw for only 13 TD's on the season, which explains their anemic offensive output for most of 2012.

As a result, the Spartans defense was forced to play nearly perfect football for them to win, even with the presence star running back Le'Veon Bell in their backfield. They finished the year ranked No. 10 in overall defense, giving up an average of 10.9 points a game ... and they still lost six times!

Throw away a loss to Notre Dame and their other five losses were by a total of 13 points.

In that way, Michigan State is a mirror image of a TCU team that relied heavily on their defense in the aftermath of Casey Pachall's departure from the team.

So if you're expecting any type of offensive fireworks, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl probably isn't for you.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.