Texas Tech (8-4) vs. Michigan State (6-6)
Jan. 2, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Mike Leach’s season was marked with several up-and-down performances. Leach’s offense never found any real continuity under one quarterback as injuries resulted in the use of three different starters over the course of the season. The Red Raiders looked like world beaters in a blowout home victory over Oklahoma and a strong road performance in a loss at Texas. But they also struggled in an embarrassing home loss to Texas A&M and were lucky to beat Baylor in their regular-season finale.
Leach has alternated between Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield at quarterback. Potts started and finished the season after Sheffield underwent foot surgery. It’s a typically high-powered Texas Tech offense that ranks second nationally in scoring, seventh in total offense and ninth in scoring. But the biggest surprise has been the emergence of a strong defense keyed by Brandon Sharpe, who notched a school-record 15 sacks this season to rank second nationally. They will be facing a Michigan State program that has already been ravaged by controversy after two players were kicked off the team and eight others were placed on suspension. The Spartans look like an appealing opponent for the Red Raiders, considering they rank 96th in pass efficiency defense and 103rd in pass defense. Michigan State will counter with All-American linebacker Greg Jones and leading receiver Blair White, but the Spartans have lost two of their top receivers to suspension and likely won’t have the firepower to match Tech in a shootout.