Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
 
Tag:Darius Nall
Posted on: December 29, 2010 3:57 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Liberty Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Basics: UCF (10-3) vs. Georgia (6-6), Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. EST.

Why You Should Watch: The SEC's bowl tie-ins give the non-AQ teams of the world just one shot at the nation's highest-profile conference, and this is it; the Liberty annually pairs one of the SEC's also-rans against the Conference USA champion. But even with the field seemingly as tilted in favor of the C-USA upset as it could possibly be, it hasn't happened yet, as the SEC has swept all four of the SEC-vs.-C-USA Liberty Bowls to date. UCF represents maybe the best chance for C-USA yet, as they have both the airtight defense (18th nationally) and offensive starpower (in freshman quarterbacking prodigy Jeff Godfrey) to give Georgia all they want.

Of course, the Dawgs have A.J. Green and Justin Houston and Aaron Murray and a whole bunch of other SEC athletes, not to mention a statistical profile much better than their 6-6 record. Last year's Liberty went into overtime, and on paper this one's evenly-matched enough to make it 2-for-2. For depth of talent on display and a well-balanced, competitive matchup, you're not going to do much better before New Year's than the Liberty.

Keys to Victory for UCF: Frankly, the Knights should come into this game the substantially more motivated team. They're coming off of a championship season, but one without a win over BCS competition (after close losses vs. N.C. State and at Kansas State); they couldn't ask for a more perfect finishing touch than beating a traditional SEC power for the program's first-ever bowl victory. That should give the Knights an emotional edge, one that could give them a fast start against a Bulldogs team that badly underachieved to land at 6-6 and no doubt had their sights set on a bowl destination more glamorous than Memphis.

If the Knights do come away with a halftime or three-quarters lead, Georgia will be in trouble. Godfrey was a revelation after taking over for the injured Rob Calabrese at midseason, finishing eighth in the country in passer rating with a sparkling 68.4 completion percentage and 9.8 yards-per-attempt average. He added 10 touchdowns and 546 yards on the ground for good measure, pacing the Knights to the kind of balance (2,502 rushing yards, 2,493 passing) and steady efficiency (fifth in the FBS in time-of-possession at 33:09 a game) that most teams can only talk about.

But as effective as the Knight offense was, it was the defense that did the heavy lifting, starting with a secondary that placed both corner Josh Robinson and safety Kemal Ishmael on the All-C-USA first team and finished in the national top 30 in opponent's passer rating, opponent's yards-per-attempt, and interceptions. But the Knights also have a pair of fearsome defensive ends in Bruce Miller and Darius Nall, who combined for 21 tackles-for-loss and 15.5 sacks to give UCF the nation's 10th-ranked rush defense. (Ishmael's team-leading 82 tackles helped, too.) The absence of a big-play passing game means they won't want to fall behind, but if the Knights can get out in front, their combination of sound defense and clock-killing offense will have them well-positioned for the victory.

Keys to Victory for Georgia: It's simple: if the Dawgs overcome their disappointment of a season and match UCF's levels of energy and focus, they win.

Because while UCF might have several awfully solid players, Georgia has several All-Americans. Houston led the SEC in sacks, finished second in tackles-for-loss, and was a finalist for multiple national awards; Murray might be the only freshman quarterback in the country to have had an even more impressive season than Godfrey, posting an incredible 24-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio; and Green might be the most purely talented college receiver since Larry Fitzgerald. And even aside from their headlining stars, Georgia can boast an offensive line packed with both experience and future NFL players like senior tackle Clint Boling; dangerous skill position weapons like tight end Orson Charles and running back Washaun Ealey; maybe the nation's best pair of specialists in punter Drew Butler and cannon-legged kicker Blair Walsh; kickoff returner Brandon Boykin, who's taken four kicks to the house the past two seasons; two steady senior linebackers in Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble; etc.

All of that talent means it's something of a mystery how Georgia ever wound up at .500, though plain old bad luck in the form of poorly-timed fumbles and critical defensive breakdowns in close games -- the Dawgs went 0-3 in games decided by 7 points or fewer -- probably had something to do with it. Their average per-play margin of +1.2 (6.4 gained per snap, 5.2 allowed)
ranked first by a wide margin in the SEC East and fourth in the conference behind the leagues' two BCS teams and Alabama. In short, this is a team that's been much better than their place in the SEC standings (or their Liberty berth) would indicate, and if they play to that same standard, they should have enough to overpower the less-talented Knights.

The Liberty Bowl is like: That one sharp-witted, twinkly-eyed elderly gentleman in your neighborhood who you knew from church, or the diner down the street, or maybe just the rocking chair on his front porch, who told stories and though not all of them were classics, he always had one you'd never heard before and some of them stayed with you like Louisville beating Boise State 44-40 in 2004. The Liberty has been in business since 1959, making it one of the oldest pre-New Year's games, and though it's not the game it once was, UCF and Georgia promise to give it another memorable chapter in its distinguished history.


Posted on: October 29, 2010 1:33 pm
 

Below the Radar: three other games to watch

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Every week there's plenty of interesting matchups -- no, really -- that don't feature ranked teams and don't make anyone's "must-watch" list other than the team's fans. Here's three of them you should keep an eye on regardless (all times Eastern)
:

East Carolina (5-2, 4-0) at UCF (5-2, 3-0) , 3:30 p.m. It's a straight-up, head-to-head battle for first place in Conference USA 's East division, but there's plenty of other reasons to pay attention to what ought to be the C-USA game of the year. With Houston 's Case Keenum out for the season and Southern Miss having already lost to ECU at home, these appear to be the best two teams in the conference; the Pirates have the league's best nonconference win, over Florida State conquerors N.C. State , but UCF boasts C-USA's stingiest defense by a mile. Both teams have brand-name playmakers in elusive ECU quarterback Dominque Davis and explosive UCF defensie end Darius Nall. Thus far this season ECU has specialized in winning barnburners (51-49 over Tulsa , 44-43 over Southenr Miss) and this should be another tight contest on the road in Orlando, but with starting quarterback Rob Calabrese out, expect the Golden Knights to play things as close to the vest as possible.

Cal (4-3, 2-2) at Oregon State (3-3, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. His brother may be lost for the season, but any time Jacquizz Rodgers suits up for the Beavers, it's worth paying attention to. Beyond that, despite their nonconference losses at TCU and Boise State , the Beavers can still have a major say in the Pac-10 race with a win here; they'll play host to both USC and Oregon and must still travel to take on Stanford . Cal, meanwhile, has been more up-and-down than a yo-yo taken for a bungee-jump. After destroying Arizona State a week ago (a week after being destroyed at USC), they'll be expected to fold at Corvallis. But if you look past the margin of defeat, there's no particular shame in losing in Los Angeles, or at Arizona or Nevada . Both teams will still feel like their season to-date is a success with a win ... but both might also start to feel like the year might be a lost cause with a loss. The game promises to be a turning point for both.

Michigan (5-2, 1-2) at Penn State (4-3, 1-2), 8 p.m. It's pretty simple: at some point, Rich Rodriguez must start winning Big Ten games that aren't against Indiana to keep his job. (Against all other Big Ten teams, he's lost his last 11 in a row.) There's no time like the present, what with the Nittany Lions giving a sophomore walk-on his first start and their banged-up front seven looking like an excellent matchup for a fully-armed and operational Denard Robinson . On the other sideline, last week's win at Minnesota stopped the bleeding for Joe Paterno and Co., but a second straight home defeat to one of the conference's middle-of-the-pack teams -- particularly one with a Swiss cheese defense like the Wolverines' -- is not going to sit well with the Happy Valley faithful. Both teams will feel like they have reason to win this game, and as with the matchup above, the victor will wind up with plenty of reason to feel good about itself going forward. But the loser is going to have some very, very difficult questions to answer.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com