By Jeremy Clark, HornedFrogBlitz.com
Three players to watch
Jason Verrett, CB -- Verrett has been the most consistent defender on a Frogs defense that ranks first in the Big 12. He leads the conference with six interceptions and 20 pass breakups. He was the only player in the country to finish in the top 10 in both categories. He has been named to four All-American teams.
Devonte Fields, DE -- Fields played like a seasoned veteran in his first season as a college player. Fields led the Big 12 in tackles for loss (17.5) and was second in sacks (9). He was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press and National Defensive Freshman of the Year by Scout/FOX Sports NEXT.
Trevone Boykin, QB -- Boykin was dealt the tough task of replacing lost starter Casey Pachall in the fifth game of the season. Boykin responded by leading the Frogs to their eighth straight bowl game and notched road wins against Baylor, West Virginia and Texas. He threw four touchdown passes against Baylor and Texas Tech and threw for a career-high 332 yards against the Red Raiders.
Just a freshman, defensive end Devonte Fields is already a star for TCU.
Stopping the run. The Frogs rank 10th in the nation, surrendering only 103 yards per game. The biggest difference from last season to 2012 is the interior of the defensive line. Sophomores Chucky Hunter and Jon Lewis have been consistent all year, and their improvement has allowed ends Stansly Maponga and Fields to have great seasons. Davion Pierson is another defensive tackle who has been a force in the middle for the Frogs as a redshirt freshman.
Defending the pass. This can also be credited to the outstanding pass rush from the defensive line, but the secondary has played exceptionally well this season compared to last. In the pass-happy Big 12, the Frogs are giving up only 228 yards per game through the air. Verrett headlines the group and was responsible for containing All-Big 12 West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey to just two catches and Oklahoma wideout Kenny Stills to just two catches for 16 yards. Sam Carter and Elisha Olabode lead a very talented group of safeties -- both hauled in four interceptions.
Utilizing Boykin. It’s been said 100 times, but Boykin does add versatility to the offense in areas that Pachall couldn’t. Plays such as the 94-yard touchdown pass to Josh Boyce against West Virginia don’t happen without Boykin’s ability to move around the pocket and make plays with his feet. He’ll be asked to do so again against the Spartans as he continues to develop more into a passer.
Important thing you may not know
While they don’t receive the same accolades as other freshmen, kicker Jaden Oberkrom and punter Ethan Perry will play an important role in this game just as they have all season.
Oberkrom has one of the strongest legs in the country and one of the best assets he gives are his kickoffs. Of 65 kicks this season, Oberkrom has 31 touchbacks. He has also gone 8-for-9 on field goals from 40-49 yards.
Perry, meanwhile, led the Big 12 and finished ninth nationally with an average of 45.2 yards on 56 punts, which included 16 punts inside the opponent's 20.
What TCU must do to win
Michigan State uses a balanced offense that relies heavily on the legs of junior running back Le'Veon Bell, who finished second in the Big 10 with 1,648 yards on the ground. Bell is a big, bruising back, but TCU has usually had great success under Gary Patterson stopping big backs.
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TCU’s defensive line has to stuff the middle and allow the linebackers and ends to make plays. They’ll use an eight- or nine-man rotation on the defensive line to keep fresh legs in at all times, much like they did against Wisconsin in the 2010 Rose Bowl.
Offensively, they have to attack the Spartans defense and not turn the ball over. Against a Michigan State team that ranks fourth in the country in total defense, handing the ball over spells doom. The Spartans may have a 6-6 record, but five losses were by a combined 13 points.