Dec. 26, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
TEMPE, Ariz. - Michigan State tailback Le'Veon Bell could be cursing his rotten luck about having to face the Big 12's best rushing defense when the Spartans play TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
After all, he's 352 yards away from becoming MSU's second, 2,000-yard rusher and the sixth in Big Ten history. Furthermore, he's coming off a career-high 266-yard performance against Minnesota, which is eighth in the league against the run.
However, Bell, who leads the Big Ten with 137.3 rushing yards per game, is looking forward to the strength-versus-strength dynamic featured Saturday night in Sun Devil Stadium.
"When you hear you're going against a good defense that stops the run, you take it as a challenge," Bell said Wednesday. "You want to go out there and show why we can run the ball so well and what the Big Ten is all about."
Certainly, no one at MSU is taking TCU's rush defense lightly, and holding teams to 103.9 yards per game would be a worthy accomplishment in any conference.
But, the Horned Frogs' numbers don't tell the complete story of what Bell may be up against because truth be told, the Big 12 is more of a pass-oriented league.
For example, Indiana leads the Big Ten in passing with 311.2 yards per game, but the Hoosiers would rank sixth behind Texas Tech (361.9), Baylor (353.2), Oklahoma (341.3), West Virginia (340.9) and Oklahoma State (333.4) in the Big 12.
Conversely, Baylor's Big 12-best 225.5 rushing yards per game would rank behind Nebraska (254.5), Ohio State (242.2), Wisconsin (237.8) and Northwestern (231.8) in the Big Ten.
TCU's rushing numbers may be so good because its opponents favored passing the ball over running it.
Regardless, Bell said being able to run the ball against the Frogs would send a powerful message.
"TCU has a real good defense, they're real physical and they're first in the Big 12," he said. "They focus on stopping the run and we take pride in running the ball, and we're going to try to run it down their throats and wear those guys out.
"They're so prideful about stopping the run, and if you physically can't do it, I think it takes a mental toll. If we can do that, we'll be on a good course toward victory."
GoG Notes & Quotes: The Spartans are mourning the loss of former MSU middle linebacker Reggie Garnett, who died Tuesday of complications from diabetes. He was 38.
"We were very saddened to hear about the passing of Reggie Garnett yesterday," said head coach Mark Dantonio. "A four-year starter in the mid-1990s, Reggie was a tremendous player and a true Spartan.
"More importantly, he had remained connected to the MSU football program, returning to campus for reunions and games. Reggie was an outstanding young man who will be missed by all of us. We'd like to express our deepest sympathy to his family as well as his extended Spartan family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, teammates and friends."
Garnett, who came to MSU from Akron (Ohio) Buchtel High School and was living in the Detroit area, led MSU with 111 tackles in 1995 and is 14th on the school's all-time list with 327 from '93-96.
The average score in the first seven bowls is 38-22, which is consistent with the traditional wild nature of postseason football. Arizona kicked things off with a 49-48 victory over Nevada, Utah State pinned 41 on Toledo, Louisiana-Lafayette out-dueled East Carolina, 43-34, and SMU romped over Fresno State, 43-10.
Conventional wisdom suggests that the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl will deviate from the norm because Michigan State and TCU boast the best defenses in the Big Ten and the Big 12, respectively.
However, MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi isn't ruling out a high-scoring affair.
"I see a lot of games every Saturday, not just in the bowls, that look like shootouts, 46 to 52, but I have no idea (why there are so many points scored in bowls)," Narduzzi said. "We just try to coach it the same. It's no different than any other game."