A Defensive Battle: A Preview of TCU vs. Michigan State


For the first time since 1953, the Michigan State Spartans will face off against the TCU Horned Frogs.

The Spartans took a 26-19 decision on Oct. 10, 1953 in East Lansing, Mich., in the only previous game between the teams. Back then, Dwight Eisenhower was president, the Cold War had just begun and Elvis Presley had recently graduated from high school.

The headlines and culture have changed dramatically in 59 years, but the unfamiliar faces come into a bowl game with a similar mindset. Here’s a catchup on history and a few other notes as TCU heads into the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl:

Conference Histories

Against the Big Ten, TCU is undefeated in the Gary Patterson era. With three games played against the Big Ten (two games against Northwestern and the 2011 Rose Bowl against Wisconsin), the sample size may be small for the Horned Frogs, but the games have been memorable.

In 2002, Sean Stilley led TCU to its first win against the Big Ten with 255 passing yards to blow out Northwestern 48-14. Two years later, Peter LoCoco kicked a 47-yard field goal in double overtime to give TCU a 48-45 win in Fort Worth.

Perhaps no better memories were made in TCU’s program history than when Tank Carder knocked down a two-point conversion attempt to seal a 21-19 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers to give the Horned Frogs their first ever BCS game trophy.

Under Mark Dantonio, Michigan State has had one game against the Big 12: a 41-31 loss in the Alamo Bowl to Texas Tech in 2010.

Bowl histories

In the past years of bowl games for both TCU and Michigan State, the Horned Frogs have found success against mostly mid-major programs, while the Spartans have struggled against traditionally SEC opponents.

Gary Patterson is 7-4 in bowl games as a head coach, with three games against BCS opponents. TCU fell to Texas A&M in the 2001 Galleryfurniture.com Bowl, while posting wins against Iowa State in the 2005 Houston Bowl and against Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl. Every other bowl matchup has been against a Mountain West, Conference USA, MAC or WAC opponent.

Mark Dantonio has led his Spartans to a 1-5 postseason record in his tenure, with Michigan State’s sole bowl win being in a 33-30 triple overtime win against Georgia. Under Dantonio, MSU has faced the SEC three times in postseason play, the Big 12 once and the ACC once. Michigan State has lost to opponents such as Alabama, Georgia and Boston College.

Coaching Matchups

The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is not the first time these coaches have battled one another before. As the head coach at Cincinnati in 2004, Dantonio’s Bearcats defeated the Horned Frogs 21-10 in a Conference USA game. It’s worth noting 2004 is the only year in the Gary Patterson era that the TCU Horned Frogs did not make bowl eligibility.

Dantonio is 50-28 at Michigan State, while Patterson is the all-time winningest coach at TCU with a 116-35 record.

Patterson, largely known for his defensive strength, has rose to national prominence in his ability to take low-star recruits from overlooked high schools into starters and draft prospects.

Dantonio, a former assistant to current Alabama head coach Nick Saban, is known for his defensive mindset. He has led the Spartans to bowl eligibility every year during in his tenure, the first Michigan State head coach to lead the team to six consecutive postseason appearances.

What to Expect

The game will be a defensive battle between two physical defenses. For a more in-depth look, read the official bowl preview here.