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Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl 2012 picks and predictions

TCU's top-flight defense takes on Le'Veon Bell and Michigan State in what will probably be a low-scoring game.

USA TODAY Sports

TCU may not be in the bowl it hoped for at season's start, but the experts think they should be able to top Michigan State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

After a 7-5 season that saw the Horned Frogs lose their starting quarterback and running back before year's end, TCU will take on another team with high expectations and mixed results: Michigan State. The Spartans won 11 games in both 2010 and 2011, but struggled to finish .500 and qualify for a bowl in 2012.

Neither team is particularly gifted offensively: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin has been up and down all season, as has Michigan State signal-caller Andrew Maxwell. But the Spartans have arguably the best offensive player on either side in Le'Veon Bell. The junior running back is tops in the Big Ten in rushing with 1,648 yards, or 137 yards a game.

Nonetheless, the odds appear to favor TCU and its defense, which is ranked 18th in the nation. The Dallas Morning News predicts a 20-17 win for the Horned Frogs, expecting the TCU defense to bottle up Bell and force Maxwell into mistakes. Over at NBC Sports' College Football Talk, the pick is also for TCU, 24-19. But bettors aren't convinced: The spread for the game is only a single point in the Horned Frogs' favor.

Kickoff for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl will be at 10:15 p.m. ET on Dec. 29.

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