Michigan State vs. Washington State: Holiday Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Michigan State vs. Washington State: Holiday Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Big Ten

Michigan State vs. Washington State: Holiday Bowl Prediction, Game Preview


Three reasons why you should watch the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl, why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.

Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews

San Diego Country Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Michigan State (9-3) vs. Washington State (9-3)


Date: Thursday, December 28th
Game Time: 9:00 pm
Venue: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
Network: FS1

Contact/Follow @PeteFiutak

The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness
(1 best-39 worst): 
19 out of 39

2017-2018 Bowl Central: Schedules, Picks, Love
CFN Expert Consensus Confidence Picks

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The San Diego Country Credit Union Holiday Bowl

You don’t think Michigan State might be a wee bit motivated? After missing out on the bowl world last year, the Spartans are back for the first time since getting erased by Alabama in the nightmare of a College Football Playoff Cotton Bowl. The Spartans won their previous four bowls under Mark Dantonio before the Bama disaster.

You don’t think Washington State might be a wee bit motivated? After not showing up in last year’s 17-12 Holiday Bowl loss to Minnesota, and after struggling late in the year, the Cougars could use a big performance. Wazzu in on an every other year bowl win thing – going win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss. It’s due.

The bowl has been great again. From 1998 to 2003, all six games were decided by eight points or fewer, and seven games in an eight game stretch were close. There was a lull for a long time from 2006 to 2012 with a whole slew of bad games, and then the last three have been terrific. If Wisconsin’s 23-21 win over USC wasn’t the best game of the 2015 bowl season, it was close. These two will put on a good show.

Here’s Why Michigan State Will Win The San Diego Country Credit Union Holiday Bowl

The secondary is strong enough to hang on. It’s possible to throw for a ton of yards on this group – Penn State’s Trace McSorley hit the 400-yard mark – but the secondary wins its share of plays. MSU has given up 13 touchdown passes on the year and picked off 13 passes. Only the Nittany Lions and Northwestern threw for over 300 yards, and only Iowa and Minnesota went for 200 yards.

– Washington State will throw, because that’s what Washington State does, but Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke is a terrific passer who struggled against Maryland – hitting just 2-of-14 passes – and has just one scoring throw in the last three games, but when he’s hot, he can be a machine. In those shootouts with Penn State and Northwestern, he threw for 885 yards. The Spartan passing game can keep up.

The Spartan pass rush has to rock right away. The Washington State offensive line gives up a ton of plays in the backfield – that’s what happens when you throw the ball 663 times – ranking last in the Pac-12 and 125th in the nation in sacks allowed. After generating just 11 sacks last season, Michigan State has come up with 28, with 11 in the last six games.

Here’s Why Washington State Will Win The San Diego Country Credit Union Holiday Bowl

As long as the interceptions slow down, the passing game should be fantastic. The Cougars are bombing away – as always – but the 15 interceptions in the last six games are an issue. Luke Falk tends to bomb his way out of mistakes, and Wazzu has been able to win in spite of them. The Cougars threw five interceptions in the nine wins and eight picks in the three losses.

This isn’t your normal Wazzu when it comes to time of possession. Most pass-heavy teams try to do things in a hurry. But with the way the Cougars convert third down chances – hitting over 42% of their tries – they’re able to own the clock and control games. That’s Michigan State’s world – it has to own third downs and keep the opposing offense off the field. Washington State led the Pac-12 in time of possession

The Cougar defensive front should be energized. The run defense is good enough, and the plays behind the line are steady, leading the Pac-12 in tackles for loss. Led by Hercules Mata’afa and his 21.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, he should be a nightmare for the Spartan offensive front. MSU has a great front five, but Washington State has the defense to hold down L.J. Scott and the ground attack.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The San Diego Country Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Mike Leach has a new contract and a whole lot of momentum. This was a good season, but it was yet another run for him without a championship. He didn’t get the Tennessee job, and he didn’t follow his athletic director to Nebraska. The stability is there in Pullman – a win will make this seem like the first game of the rest of his new life.

Mark Dantonio proved that 2016 was an aberration. This were a few moments that could’ve and should’ve gone the other way – for good or bad – but it was a huge bounceback campaign. After going 3-9, 10-3 will feel like winning the Rose Bowl.

Here’s the big issue for both sides. Michigan State faced three teams with big-time college quarterbacks – Northwestern, Penn State and Ohio State – and again it was lit up by Clayton Thorson and Trace McSorley, and Ohio State rolled 48-3 under J.T. Barrett. Wazzu has to be Wazzu throwing the ball.

Washington State handled one power team, but Bryce Love was really, really limited for Stanford, and Washington ran wild. the Spartans have to bring the pop.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The San Diego Country Credit Union Holiday Bowl?

As good as the Michigan State coaching staff is, and as much as this year has been about the rebound, it’s about to get bombed on.

This will be a different Washington State team than the one that showed up in San Diego last season.

Now, don’t blow off the possibility that Wazzu just doesn’t have it – the team has a puzzling way of being unfocused at weird times – but Falk will go off, the defensive front will be inspired, and Leach will get a nice win to cap off a terrific season.

Final Score

Washington State 33, Michigan State 27
More Bowl Info & Get Tickets


Washington State -2, o/u: 46

ATS Confidence: 1
5: Being in the bar already
0: Watching ball drop … and then trying to get into the bar

Must See Rating: 4
5: New Year’s Eve: Ministry of Sound, Defected London NYE
0: New Year’s Eve with Maroon 5, Las Vegas

Holiday Bowl History, Results

Dec. 27, 2016 Minnesota 17, Washington State 12
Dec. 30, 2015 Wisconsin 23 USC 21
Dec. 27, 2014 USC 45 Nebraska 42
Dec. 30, 2013 Texas Tech 37 Arizona State 23
Dec. 27, 2012 Baylor 49 UCLA 26
Dec. 28, 2011 Texas 21 California 10
Dec. 30, 2010 Washington 19 Nebraska 7
Dec. 30, 2009 Nebraska 33 Arizona 0
Dec. 30, 2008 Oregon 42 Oklahoma State 31
Dec. 27, 2007 Texas 52 Arizona State 34
Dec. 28, 2006 California 45 Texas A&M 10
Dec. 29, 2005 Oklahoma 17 Oregon 14
Dec. 30, 2004 Texas Tech 45 California 31
Dec. 30, 2003 Washington State 28 Texas 20
Dec. 27, 2002 Kansas State 34 Arizona State 27
Dec. 28, 2001 Texas 47 Washington 43
Dec. 29, 2000 Oregon 35 Texas 30
Dec. 29, 1999 Kansas State 24 Washington 20
Dec. 30, 1998 Arizona 23 Nebraska 20
Dec. 29, 1997 Colorado State 35 Missouri 24
Dec. 30, 1996 Colorado 33 Washington 21
Dec. 29, 1995 Kansas State 54 Colorado State 21
Dec. 30, 1994 Michigan 24 Colorado State 14
Dec. 30, 1993 Ohio State 28 BYU 21
Dec. 30, 1992 Hawaii 27 Illinois 17
Dec. 30, 1991 BYU 13 Iowa 13
Dec. 29, 1990 Texas A&M 65 BYU 14
Dec. 29, 1989 Penn State 50 BYU 39
Dec. 30, 1988 Oklahoma State 62 Wyoming 14
Dec. 30, 1987 Iowa 20 Wyoming 19
Dec. 30, 1986 Iowa 39 San Diego St. 38
Dec. 22, 1985 Arkansas 18 Arizona State 17
Dec. 21, 1984 BYU 24 Michigan 17
Dec. 23, 1983 BYU 21 Missouri 17
Dec. 17, 1982 Ohio State 47 BYU 17
Dec. 18, 1981 BYU 38 Washington State 36
Dec. 19, 1980 BYU 46 SMU 45
Dec. 21, 1979 Indiana 38 BYU 37
Dec. 22, 1978 Navy 23 BYU 16

More College Football News