No. 16 Michigan State (9-3) and No. 18 Washington State (9-3) play in the 2017 Holiday Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. Find game time, TV channel and how to watch online information below.
The Spartans look to finish with double-digit wins for the eighth season in program history. A victory over the Cougars would be coach Mark Dantonio’s fifth bowl win at Michigan State and his 100th overall win with the Spartans.
Michigan State returns to the postseason after a one-year absence. The Spartans will compete in their 10th bowl game in 11 seasons under Dantonio, but it will be the program’s first appearance in the Holiday Bowl. Washington State will play in its fourth (and second consecutive) Holiday Bowl.
Holiday Bowl 2017: Michigan State-Washington State TV channel, time, live stream
Kickoff time: 9:05 p.m. ET
Date: Thursday, Dec. 28
Location: SDCCU Stadium, San Diego
TV channel: FOX Sports 1
Live stream: FOX Sports GO
Holiday Bowl 2017: Michigan State-Washington State football picks, odds
Michigan State is a 1 1/2-point favorite on MyBookie. The over-under is 47 points.
Holiday Bowl 2017: Michigan State-Washington State preview
Thursday will mark the first meeting between Michigan State and Washington State in 40 years. The two programs have faced off seven times, with the Spartans holding a 5-2 advantage, but this will be the first time they have battled at a neutral site. Here are three things to watch.
1. Michigan State’s pass rush
It’s pretty clear how Washington State is going to attack on offense. The Cougars have the second-best passing offense (374.8 yards per game) and the second-worst rushing offense (71.7 yards) in the nation. Quarterback Luke Falk was seen with a cast on his non-throwing hand in the lead-up to the game, but coach Mike Leach did not sound concerned about his record-breaking signal-caller.
“He’s doing great,” Leach said. “You can use your imagination all you want about the cast. He has had something on his hand all year and hence we named him the Kingslayer. Beyond that you’re on your own.”
Expect Falk to play, expect Washington State to air it out and expect Michigan State to try to get plenty of pressure on him. Defensive end Demetrius Cooper will look to go out with a bang, and Kenny Willekes has been a menace all season. If the Spartans can force Falk outside the pocket and give him less time to throw than he’d like, they will be in good shape.
2. Wide receiver play
A lot will depend on Brian Lewerke. The Michigan State quarterback’s accuracy has been inconsistent at times, and he will likely have to keep plays alive with his legs against a Washington State pass rush that averages 3 sacks per game. But the Spartans’ wide receivers against the Cougars’ standout secondary will be key on Thursday.
“We’ve got to make plays on 50-50 balls much like they do,” Dantonio said. “You’ve got to put the ball in the vicinity, and the receiver has to make the tough catch. That run after catch is very important as well, so we’ve got to limit it on our defensive side and be able to exploit it on our offense.”
When Michigan State hears “50-50 balls,” Felton Davis comes to mind. Lewerke has lofted balls up and put his faith in Davis to come down with them all year. At 6-foot-4, Davis will have a significant size advantage against the Washington State defensive backs. The Spartans’ leading receiver needs to make his presence felt.
Mistake-free football usually wins the day. That will especially be the case on Thursday, because Washington State has issues with protecting the football. The Cougars have thrown 19 interceptions and lost 10 fumbles on the year, and four of those giveaways were returned for touchdowns.
Michigan State had concern about fumbling issues early in the year but those problems seem to have been ironed out. Should they protect the ball, they will give themselves a good chance of winning the field position battle. And considering all the close games Michigan State has played in this season, one crucial turnover could decide it.