Printed on: December 29, 2012

Frogs, Spartans each looking for momentum


TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- All those years TCU was winning conference championships and busting the BCS, the Horned Frogs' accomplishments were always couched with this caveat: Look at who they played against.

All it took was one middle-of-the-pack season in the Big 12 to change perceptions.

"The interesting thing is perception-wise, as far as the media and the fan base, I think we gained more respect being 7-5, than we did 11-2 last year," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.

TCU's next chance to prove something will be against Michigan State tonight in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

It figures to be as tough a task as anything the Horned Frogs (7-5) faced in the Big 12, at least from a defensive standpoint.

Instead of the quick-and-athletic defenses TCU faced in its first season in the Big 12, the Spartans (6-6) are big, physical and love to knock opponents around.

Michigan State finished the regular season with the nation's fourth-best defense, giving up 273.25 yards per game, and was 10th in scoring, allowing 16.33 points.

The Spartans' defense allowed them to keep every game but one -- a 20-3 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 15 -- close, with five of their loses coming by a combined 13 points.

"Their D-line and linebackers are one of the best in the nation," TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin said.

Boykin will be the key to TCU finding holes in it.

The redshirt freshman was thrust into the starting role against Iowa State in the fifth game of the season after Casey Pachall was arrested on driving while intoxicated charges and later left the team to enter an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

A dual-threat quarterback, Boykin had a less-than-stellar start, throwing an interception on his first pass and two more in the fourth quarter of the 37-23 loss to the Cyclones.

Insight Bowl Glance

TCU (7-5) vs. Michigan St. (6-6)

Time: 8 p.m. (ESPN) at Tempe, Ariz.

Line: TCU by 21/2.

Series Record: Michigan St. leads 1-0.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Both teams are trying to build momentum for next season after limping down the stretch in 2012. TCU opened with four straight wins in its first season in the Big 12 before losing four of six while the Spartans had a similar finish after opening 4-2.

KEY MATCHUP

TCU's defense against Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell. The Horned Frogs had the nation's 10th-best rushing defense during the regular season, allowing 103.92 yards per game, but haven't seen many backs like Bell. The junior was third nationally with 147.3 yards per game and had 1,648 yards, second-most in Michigan State history.