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The race for 10 wins ends for Washington State and Michigan State in this year’s Holiday Bowl. Both programs have experienced some golden eras under their respective head coaches, though both came up a bit short in their respective division races this season.
Still, the Holiday Bowl is usually a fun matchup and despite the preconceived narrative for offense with Washington State, this one has more of a defensive feel to it. Which team can finish its 2017 campaign on a strong note with a little momentum going into the offseason
Facing a defensive-minded Big Ten team dealing with suspensions, Washington State flubbed its way to a 17-12 loss to Minnesota in last season’s Holiday Bowl.
This time, Mike Leach’s team meets another Big Ten program defined by its defensive prowess. And the Spartans faced roster attrition in the offseason when the program dismissed three players charged with sexual assault. While following up a playoff appearance in 2015 with a 3-9 showing last season was a miserable development for a program that had finally become a consistent top-15 presence, the off-field problems created even larger questions about the state of Mark Dantonio’s team.
After the early-season issues, the Spartans won at Michigan in a predictably low-scoring 14-10 game, then derailed Penn State’s playoff hopes for good with a 27-24 triumph a week after the Nittany Lions fell at Ohio State.
Lewerke is trying to get where Falk is. Because of Lewerke’s quick feet, he could soon be a more dangerous quarterback. Against Penn State this season, he looked like an All-American. Against Ohio State, he looked overmatched. Against Rutgers, he was mostly back in control. Washington State is the Pac-12’s best pass defense, in part because it has 36 sacks this year. If Lewerke looks good, it means he’s playing really well.
If you can believe it, a win here would give coach Mark Dantonio his 100th victory with the Spartans. Only Duffy Daugherty has more with 109 wins (but in 19 seasons). This would also give Dantonio his sixth 10-win season in eight years. This was already a banger of a turnaround season after Sparty went 3-9 a year ago, but 10 wins would be a perfect topper for 2017.