Previewing the Fiesta Bowl: TCU vs. Michigan
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This is the preview for the Fiesta Bowl:
Date: Saturday, December 31, 4:00 p.m. ET
State Farm Stadium (Glendale, AZ)
Betting splits: 61% of handle, 61% of bets on Michigan -7.5
In his eighth year, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh finally has built a legitimate national title contender. Harbaugh reached the four-team playoff a year ago, yet after upsetting Ohio State in what amounted to their Super Bowl, the Wolverines seemed to have a just-happy-to-be-here mentality and were unprepared in a 34-11 loss to Georgia. Michigan is the No. 2 seed and a favorite this time around, so it’s a role reversal against a Texas Christian team that’s a Cinderella story.
Harbaugh has instilled a smash-mouth approach with his offense, and it has worked while overwhelming the Buckeyes and other Big Ten contenders. Even without injured leading rusher Blake Corum, the Wolverines pounded Ohio State on the ground while piling up 252 yards on 35 carries. Donovan Edwards did more than fill in for Corum while running for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Edwards backed up that effort by carrying the ball 25 times for 185 yards against Purdue in the conference title game. J.J. McCarthy completed only 12 of 24 passes against the Buckeyes, but he had 263 passing yards and three touchdowns as Harbaugh went more vertical with the aerial attack.
The Wolverines, who can bend defensively, allowed 456 total yards to the Boilermakers. Max Duggan, the Horned Frogs’ dual-threat quarterback, can take a page from what Purdue did effectively and add to it. Duggan has passed for 30 touchdowns with four interceptions while accounting for 3,725 total yards (3,321 passing, 404 rushing). Kendre Miller has rushed for 1,342 yards and 17 touchdowns in a balanced offense.
TCU’s defense did struggle against the run in a 31-28 overtime loss to Kansas State, which rushed for 205 yards, in the Big 12 title game. Michigan ranks No. 5 in scoring defense (13.4 points per game), and that’s the biggest difference between the teams in this matchup.
The Wolverines also have an experience edge on this stage. This is all new for Duggan, coach Sonny Dykes and TCU. Still, Duggan is arguably the best quarterback Michigan has faced this season, and the high-scoring offense (40.3 PPG) he operates is similar to the Ohio State and Purdue offenses that gave Michigan some problems. The Frogs will play with the fire of disrespected dogs. Harbaugh is 1-5 in bowls with the Wolverines and has lost five in a row. It’s tempting to play TCU and take 7.5 points.
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