It may not have the allure of a New Year’s Day bowl, but the Holiday Bowl stands up as one of the best matchups of this year’s bowl season, as the high-octane Washington State Cougars take on the stingy defense of Michigan State. A couple of late-season blowout losses squandered each team’s shot at a conference championship, but this is still nevertheless an intriguing Top-20 matchup in San Diego.
The game starts Thursday, December 28, at 9 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1. If you don’t have cable or can’t get to a TV, you can watch FS1 online, on your phone or on another streaming device by signing up for a free trial of one of the following cable-free, live-TV streaming services. They all cost a monthly fee but come with a free trial, allowing you to watch the Holiday Bowl live online at no cost:
FuboTV: Fox Sports 1 is included in the “Fubo Premier” channel package, which is $19.99 per month for the first two months and $39.99 per month after that. It comes with a free 7-day trial, and you can watch on your computer via your browser, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the FuboTV app
DirecTV Now: Fox Sports 1 is included in all four channel packages, which range from $35 to $70 per month. It comes with a free 7-day trial no matter what package you choose, and you can watch on your computer via your browser, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the DirecTV Now app
Sling TV: Fox Sports 1 is included in the “Sling Blue” channel package for $25 per month. It comes with a free 7-day trial, and you can watch on your computer via your browser, or on your phone, tablet or streaming device via the Sling TV app
It’s a tantalizing battle of strengths, as Mike Leach’s proficient air raid attack clashes with Mark Dantonio’s stifling defense. The Cougars, led by Pac-12 all-time career passing leader Luke Falk, are 29th in the country in total yards per game (439.9), while the Spartans counter with a unit that allows just 297.4 yards per contest, which ranks them eighth in America.
“We’re going to have to play well in space on defense,” Dantonio said. “Always how you affect the quarterback usually affects the football game.”
Of course, while Washington State’s offense typically garners most of the acclaim as they go for their first 10-win season since 2003, the defense has quietly been a steady force. With AP Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Hercules Mata’afa anchoring the defensive line, and with D-coordinator Alex Grinch doing a job that has made him a hot name around the country, the Cougs rank 16th in the nation in yards per game allowed (329.5), 29th in yards per play allowed (4.9) and second in opponent third-down conversation rate (26.03 percent).
“The best thing about our team this year is we’re a pretty complete team,” Leach said. “We had contributions pretty consistently throughout the season on all three sides of the ball: special teams, offense and defense.”
As such, while the teams look to be a pretty even matchup when Washington State has the ball, the Cougars’ defense going up against a Michigan State offense that is just 87th in yards per game (378.3) and 103rd in yards per play (4.9) is likely what made Washington State the early 4.5-point favorite. But money has poured in on the Spartans, making them a 1.5-point favorite.
All things considered, this sets up as a really tight matchup inside SDCCU Stadium. The over/under of 46 suggests it may turn into a defensive battle, but it should nevertheless turn into one of the most exciting games of the busy week.