Michigan State and Wake Forest will meet on the gridiron for the first time in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Spartans are 4-3-1 against opponents from the Atlantic Coast Conference, and 0-2 in bowl games. The Demon Deacons have a 4-10 record versus Big Ten teams. They have never faced a member of the Big Ten in a bowl game.
Wake Forest holds a 9-4 record in bowl games. Those previous bowls include winning games at the end, in the last three seasons. The Demon Deacons have no prior appearances in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Michigan State will also make its first trip to the Pinstripe Bowl. The Spartans’ history in bowls has more appearances in bowl games (28) but less overall success (12-16). They have won five of their seven most recent bowl games. This is MSU’s twelfth bowl appearance in the past 13 seasons.
Spartans’ Rushing Defense vs. Deacons’ Running Attack
Michigan State’s rushing defense has declined from the dominating force that it was a year ago. However, the Spartans finished 13th in the nation in terms of average rushing yards permitted per game (109.5). They allowed only 11 touchdowns on the ground, tied for 16th fewest. Seventy-five rushing yards serves as the goal as they are 3-1 when holding an opponent below that total.
Wake Forest’s running attack ranks higher than average though not outstanding. The Deacons gained an average of 175.7, tied for 47th highest in the FBS. They average one-a-half touchdowns rushing, placing them in an eleven-team tie for 70th place nationally. Cade Carney, despite missing two games, rushed 143 times for 556 yards and five touchdowns. Kenneth Walker III has appeared in all 12 games, carrying the ball 90 times for 555 yards and four touchdowns. In the two games in which they failed to score a rushing touchdown or exceed 100 rushing yards, they lost both times.
Struggling Spartans Offense vs. Mediocre Deacons Defense
Michigan State’s offensive woes have continued from last season. The Spartans offense scored more than one touchdown in only five games. In five games, they failed to score more than ten points. Opponents have held them under 300 total yards from scrimmage in four contests which all resulted in defeats.
The Spartans do not compare favorably to the rest of the Football Bowl Subdivision in terms of offensive production. Their average offensive production of 362.6 yards per game ranks 101st in the nation. They have averaged 20.7 first downs per game, 74th nationally. They have turned over the ball 1.8 times per game, tied for 18th highest amount.
Wake Forest has struggled to stop opponents from moving the ball with ease. Its defense has held only three opponents below 300 total yards from scrimmage: Elon, an FCS member, plus North Carolina State and Duke, both of whom finished with losing records. Actually, the Deacons allowed four opponents to pile up more than 500 yards on offense. Eight opponents have scored three or more touchdowns against the Deacons’ defense.
Who will emerge victorious from this competition: the easily resistible force or the easily moveable object?
Motivation For This game
What is Michigan State’s mindset coming into this game? The Spartans began this season ranked 18th in the Associated Press’ poll and 20th in the coaches’ poll. They stumbled from the beginning of October through the middle of November, losing five consecutive Big Ten contests. They rallied to defeat Maryland and Rutgers to gain bowl eligibility despite finishing 3-6 and in fifth place in the Big Ten East. Do they care about avoiding the third losing season in the 13 year tenure of Mark Dantonio?
As for Wake Forest, what do the Deacons have at stake? They did not receive a single vote in either of those two pre-season polls. Nevertheless, they finished 4-4 in the Atlantic Division and 8-4 overall. With a victory in the Bronx, they would finish with their highest number of wins since 2007.
Michigan State’s players cannot be blamed for disinterest in playing at a cold-weather venue to close the season. No doubt, they would have preferred a bowl game in Florida or California. However, they have prepared more effectively for the conditions expected in the Bronx. They did that simply by practicing outdoors in East Lansing in the days leading up to the game.
Wake Forest figures to be outnumbered in the stands of Yankee Stadium. Wake Forest has one of the smallest enrollments among FBS member universities. Not many Wake Forest alumni exist, especially more than 500 miles from Winston-Salem. In contrast, Michigan State rates as one of the ten largest student bodies in the FBS. MSU’s enrollment is approximately ten times larger than Wake’s. Does Wake Forest have a large legion of subway alumni in the New York metropolitan area dying to see the football team play in person?
Final Score: Michigan State 17, Wake Forest 13