Michigan State is the higher ranked team in this year's Holiday Bowl matchup. Can WSU win in its second-straight trip to the Holiday Bowl?
No. 21 WSU Cougars (9-3 overall, 6-3 Pac-12) vs. No. 18 Michigan State (9-3, 7-2 Big Ten)
When/Where: SDCCU Holiday Bowl Game, Dec. 28, 12 p.m, SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
TV/Radio: Fox Sports 1/710AM
Latest line: WSU favored by 3
Coach: Mark Dantonio. Now in his 11th season at Michigan State, Dantonio is one of the longest tenured and most respected coaches in the Big Ten. A win in the Holiday Bowl over WSU could give Dantonio his 100th career win at Michigan State (he’s currently 99-45). Dantonio was one of 16 semifinalists for the George Munger Coach of the Year award this season, and his three Big Ten championships are a program record for a Michigan State head coach. Coming off 3-9 campaign in 2016, Dantonio has led the Spartans to a 9-3 turnaround this season, coming with a win over a top-10 Penn State team.
QB Brian Lewerke: As a sophomore, Lewerke is in his first season as Michigan State’s starting quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder has completed 58.8 percent of his passes, and is averaging 215 pass yards per game. But he’s also proved quick adept as a runner. Lewerke led MSU in rushing in each of the first five games, and he’s averaging 40.5 rush yards per game and has five rushing touchdowns on the year.
WR Felton Davis III: Davis, a junior, finished the regular season as the Spartans leader in receptions (51), receiving yards (658) and touchdowns (8). Davis was recently named to the Big Ten media’s all-conference second team. He’s played in 31 games for the Spartans, and is their most experienced receiver.
DE Kenny Willekes: Willekes, a 6-foot-4, 244-pound sophomore, leads the Spartans with seven sacks and 14.5TFL this season, and also has seven quarterback hits. He’s a former walk-on who was put on scholarship in the spring and he’s started every game for the Spartan in 2017.
MLB Joe Bachie: Bachie, a sophomore, leads the team with 94 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, and he has 3.5 sacks, three interceptions, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles to go along with that. He was recently named an All-Big Ten third team selection by the league’s coaches and media.
By the numbers:
4 – All four of Michigan State’s bowl victories since 2010 have been decided by one score or less.
81 –Number of games Michigan State has won under Dantonio when outrushing its opponent – they’ve only lost 17 in that scenario. The Spartans under Dantonio generally live or die by the health of their ground game.
5—National ranking of Michigan State’s rush defense, which allows only an average of 101.3 rush yards per game.