Two days have passed since the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl announced it was inviting Kansas State and Michigan to play in its annual postseason game.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
K-State coaches, no doubt, have been researching the Wolverines ever since. So have I. Here are a few things that stand out about their season:
1. Michigan and Kansas State have been polar opposites this year.
The Wolverines started 5-0 with a signature victory over Notre Dame. The Wildcats started 2-4 with an unexpected loss to North Dakota State. Yet, both teams finished 7-5.
Narrow wins over Akron and Connecticut can now be viewed as signs that Michigan wasn’t as good as its hot start indicated. But a loss to Penn State truly sent Michigan spiraling downward. The Wolverines lost that game 43-40 (in four overtimes) and never truly recovered. They needed 63 points to beat Indiana in their following game and then lost four of their last five, with the only victory coming in three overtimes against Northwestern.
Michigan didn’t play horribly during that stretch. It lost to Nebraska by four, to Iowa by three and to Ohio State by one. But it will head to Arizona with zero momentum.
2. Michigan is not a dominant running team.
K-State’s biggest defensive struggles have come against quality running teams. North Dakota State, Texas and Oklahoma all beat the Wildcats by topping 200 yards on the ground.
Michigan might have trouble doing the same. The Wolverines are not a power-rushing team. It averages 130.8 rushing yards, a number that ranks 100th nationally and 11th in the Big Ten.
Fitzgerald Toussaint is the team’s leading rusher with 646 yards and 12 touchdowns. Devin Gardner is also a capable runner. The mobile quarterback could potentially give K-State the most trouble, as he has amassed 483 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground this season.
Still, K-State should be able to defend Michigan’s rushing attack.
3. Michigan has one clutch kicker.
Don’t believe me? Check out this highlight, starting at about the 2:10 mark:
4. Behind Jeremy Gallon, Michigan has a capable passing attack.
Jeremy Gallon will rank among the best receivers K-State will see this season. The Michigan wide out has caught 80 passes for 1,284 yards and nine touchdowns. He is always a threat down field.
His best game came against Indiana, when he went off for 369 yards.
Gardner is also a capable passer. He has piled up 2,960 yards and 21 touchdowns while completing 60.3 percent of his passes. Though he has tossed 11 interceptions.
The Wolverines also have a weapon at tight end. Devin Funchess has complemented Gallon well, catching 47 passes for 727 yards and six touchdowns. He was recently named Big Ten tight end of the year. He will be the best tight end K-State has seen since Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, who caught nine passes for 67 yards against the Wildcats.
5. Michigan has an opportunistic secondary.
Michigan’s defense ranks near the middle of the pack in most statistical categories, allowing 26.5 points and 367 yards per game, but it does do one thing rather well: Create turnovers.
To more precise, Michigan is good at intercepting passes. The Wolverines grabbed 17 picks this year, with Clake Countess leading the way with six.
Raymon Tayor, who led Michigan with 81 tackles, also made four interceptions.
Jake Waters and Daniel Sams will need to be careful when challenging Michigan’s secondary. Its defensive backs know how to get in the way of passes.