Posted on: January 5, 2012 12:50 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 12:51 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A look at the key matchup that could determine the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois vs. Arkansas State defense
Northern Illinois' offense is averaging 481.8 yards per game in 2011, good enough to place the unit ninth in the nation. Quarterback Chandler Harnish finished the season eighth in the country in total offense, averaging 332.6 yards of total offense per game. All of which means Harnish was accountable for 69% of the Huskies offense this season.
So, as you can see, as Harnish goes, so go the Huskies.
Harnish did all of this with both his arm and his legs, averaging 245 yards through the air and 115 yards on the ground per game. With a dual threat like that at quarterback, to stop him it will be up to the entire Arkansas State defense, not just its defenslve line, linebackers or secondary. Not an easy task, but one that Arkansas State's defense seems up to. This unit, which finished 14th in the nation in total defense, is easily the best defense statistically that Harnish will face this season.
The best way for Arkansas State to do this would be to make Harnish one-dimensional. Whether that be by forcing him to throw to beat them, or taking away the passing game, that's up to the Red Wolves. This defense is strong in both areas. What matters is that they execute their game plan and force Harnish to be predictable because Northern Illinois' defense -- which gave up 31.1 points per game -- is going to give up a lot of points. So if Arkansas State can slow Harnish down and keep the Huskies from putting up a ton of points, then Arkansas State should win this game rather comfortably.
Check out all the latest updates on Northern Illinois and Arkansas State right up until kickoff at the GoDaddy.com Bowl Pregame
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Posted on: December 30, 2011 4:09 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A look at the key matchup that could determine the Cotton Bowl.
Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas vs. Kansas State secondary
Arkansas' offensive line hasn't been great this season, but considering the amount of times that the Razorbacks dropped back to pass, the fact that Arkansas only allowed 25 sacks on the year is somewhat impressive. Combine that with a Kansas State pass rush that only tallied 19 sacks on the season, and it's reasonable to believe that Tyler Wilson is going to have some time to throw against Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl.
Which is terrible news for Kansas State.
An offense like Arkansas', which averaged 321.7 yards per game passing and scored 37.4 points per game is not one that you want to give a lot of time to, nor is Tyler Wilson. A quarterback with a strong arm and a lot of weapons at his disposal. Then there's the Kansas State pass defense which finished the regular season ranked 73rd in the FBS in defensive pass efficiency (132.79) and allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 63% of their passes and throw for 24 touchdowns.
Which has to have Wilson licking his chops, but he can't get too cocky because the Kansas State defense was also good at picking off passes, snatching 18 on the year. Only five other teams in the country finished with more.
So while Wilson will have plenty of chances in this contest, and has a plethora of dangerous options to choose from, he's going to have to be smart with his decisions. While trusting your receivers while the ball in the air is a good thing, you don't want to trust them too much because the Kansas State secondary has players like Nigel Malone (led Big 12 with 7 interceptions) and Tysyn Hartman (3 interceptions) who are more than capable of making a play on the ball.
If Wilson makes the right decisions and goes with the plays that are there, and doesn't try to make the play that isn't, then Arkansas has a very good chance to win this game. If not, then the opportunistic Kansas State secondary could make Arkansas its eleventh victim of the year.
Posted on: December 23, 2011 2:18 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Alamo Bowl
Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor vs. Washington pass defense
Though some of you may have not been familiar with him before the season started, every college football fan in the world knows who Robert Griffin is now. Winning the Heisman tends to increase your visibility. Of course, knowing who Robert Griffin is is a lot easier than having to stop him, and that's what Washington will be dealing with down in San Antonio during the Alamo Bowl.
It sounds incredibly simple because it is: Washington is not going to win this game if it can't corral Griffin. Easy to know, hard to do.
Even harder when you realize that the Washington pass defense hasn't exactly been good in 2011, allowing 283.8 yards per game with a defensive pass efficiency of 136.05. Both of those numbers put Washington's pass defense in the bottom third of the country. The Huskies also only managed 10 interceptions on the season, while allowing 21 passing touchdowns, so the idea that they'll be able to get Griffin (he of the 6 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio) seems to be a silly one.
Still, in order for Washington to have a good chance of winning this game, the Huskies will have to figure something out. Whether that means playing their safeties incredibly deep and forcing Baylor to dink and dunk down the field or some other strategy, they have to do something.
If not, well, then Griffin's final game as a college quarterback should be one to remember.
Posted on: December 16, 2011 2:43 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Belk Bowl
On paper, there's really only one candidate for the honor of being the best player on the field during the Belk Bowl: Amerson, the national leader in interceptions with 11 and receiver of multiple All-American honors. The Wolfpack finished 31st in the nation in opponent's passer rating and the sophomore was a huge reason why, smothering opposing receivers and regularly making the big play whenever the ball was thrown his way anyway. The ACC's coaches capped his season by naming Amerson first-team all-conference over even Virginia Tech's much-hyped shutdown corner Jayron Hosley.
So that's not good news for an occasionally erratic true freshman quarterback like Bridgewater, and it gets worse. The Wolfpack rank 13th in the nation in sacks, and they do it without relying on a single standout pass rusher on which the rapidly-improving Card offensive line could focus; instead, six different Wolfpack players finished with 3.5 or more sacks (junior linebacker Terrell Manning led the way with "just" 5.5). It's also not clear who the Cards can ask to get open against a talent like Amerson--Louisville's top two receivers (Michaelee Harris and Eli Rogers) were both true freshmen, and neither of them topped 35 receptions for the year.
Bridgewater took several steps forward late in the campaign, but he's still a QB who entered the final game of the year having thrown as many interceptions (nine) as touchdowns. But in that game, in a must-win situation on the road vs. South Florida, the freshman put together his best performance of the season: 19-for-28, 248 yards, 3 touchdowns, no picks. If Bridgewater can play with similar poise against the Wolfpack and keep the ball away from Amerson's sticky fingers, the Cards' superior running game and excellent defense should be enough to pull out the win.
But this is also shapes up as the kind of tight, low-scoring game in which one big play can make all the difference. If it's Amerson making that play at Bridgewater's expense -- and that's not a scenario we'd bet heavily against -- the Wolfpack will be in good shape.
Posted on: December 15, 2011 3:47 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 9:28 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
TCU WILL WIN IF: How's a trip to San Diego before Christmas for a Mountain West swan song sound? The Horned Frogs dominated conference play for the final time, including a memorable upset of Boise State, and will head to one of just four bowls matching up conference champions. Motivation would normally be a factor for some teams coming from two straight BCS bowls but not for one coached by Gary Patterson - as intense and well-prepared a coach as you will find.
"I think the key is, the team that wins bowl games is the team that wants it the most," Patterson said. "What I’ve found is that you usually find out in the first five minutes of the ballgame how that’s all going to go down, with the intensity level and how they do it. I think this is going to be one of the games people talk about, one of the better ball games in the bowl season."
A win in the bowl game would also give TCU 11 wins for the seventh time in a decade. Though they've taken a few lumps, this team is built on defense and linebacker Tank Carder is looking to cap off a great career by slowing down Louisiana Tech's high-powered offense with help from the secondary. The offense is pretty good too, rounding into form as the season progressed. The Horned Frogs have scored at least 27 straight in every game this year and if quarterback Casey Pachall and the offense - sans coordinator Justin Fuente - keep turnovers to a minimum, they should be riding off to the Big 12 with a bowl game win.
"This ball game is a challenge for us," added Patterson. "Not only is it a challenge at the end of the season but it’s a challenge to go into next season, to teach our kids what it’s about to play at a high level. There are no two ways about it."
LOUISIANA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Bulldogs certainly can score some points, averaging almost 450 yards of offense and 35 points per game ever since Colby Cameron took over at quarterback and started throwing the ball around. The offense gets most of the attention but the defense isn't too shabby either with 20 interceptions on the year - good for third in the nation.
"This will be a bit of a measuring stick for our program and where we are headed," head coach Sonny Dykes said. "This has been a great team to coach, we’ve had a fun ride."
A sound game plan that mixes up a few runs as Cameron finds top wide receiver Quinton Patton should be able to move the chains and find the end zone. If the defense can make some plays and slow down the TCU offense, special teams will come into play and the team has a great weapon in Ryan Allen, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter and can help flip the field position battle in favor of LaTech.
"Our guy Ryan Allen had plenty of punts," said Dykes. "We won ball games because of him, especially when we were trying to find an identity offensively early. We were making a quarterback switch and trying to find which direction we were going. Our defense was playing pretty consistent football and our punter was giving us a chance to win. He is a weapon."
"This is the biggest bowl game for us, probably in school history, so we have to see this as an opportunity."
THE X-FACTOR: As always, turnovers. Pachall has been pretty good in not throwing interceptions or fumbling the ball but he has to keep that up in this game. Give Louisiana Tech extra chances to score and things might get interesting. Spread offenses - Baylor, SMU - have hurt TCU already this year and the WAC champions know how to beat teams if the game is close.
Tags: Baylor, BCS, Big 12, Boise State, Bowl previews, Bryan Fischer, Casey Pachall, Colby Cameron, Gary Patterson, Justin Fuente, Key Matchups, Keys to the Game, Louisiana Tech, Mountain West, MWC, Non-BCS, Poinsettia Bowl, Quinton Patton, Ray Guy Award, Ryan Allen, SMU, Sonny Dykes, Tank Carder, TCU, WAC
Posted on: December 15, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 2:22 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Military Bowl
Toledo defense vs. Air Force option attack
I couldn't single out a single player on Toledo's defense for this matchup because when it comes to stopping an option offense like Air Force employs, it's not on one single player. It's a team effort. Everyone must stick to their assignment and execute consistently to be successful.
Something that isn't easy to do when you don't see a lot of option attacks. If it was then Air Force wouldn't have finished second in the nation in rushing yards this season with 320.3 yards per game (shockingly, the top four rushing attacks in the country are Army, Air Force, Georgia Tech and Navy). Unfortunately for Toledo, it's not accustomed to facing such an attack, and to do so will be quite an adjustment.
The best rushing attack Toledo faced this season was Temple, and in that game the Rockets held the Owls to only 145 yards on the ground, a full 111.5 yards below what Temple averaged on the season. More good news for Toledo is that it's 28th in the nation in overall run defense and 48th in the country on defense in yards per carry. So the Rockets can and have stopped the run this year.
That being said, stopping Temple's rushing attack is a lot different than Air Force's. Toledo's defensive line will have to focus more on maintaining their gaps rather than penetration into the backfield to force the ball outside. Once there it will be up to the Toledo linebackers to keep to their assignments.
Don't follow the ball, follow your assignment.
It's impossible to stop Air Force's offense on every play, and they will break through for some big gains, but if Toledo can stick to their assignments it could keep Air Force from being able to sustain long drives without turning to its passing game. And if you force Air Force to pass more than it wants to then you're at the advantage.
If Toledo isn't able to adapt to facing such an offense, then Air Force is going to control the ball and keep Toledo's offense on the sideline. Which would easily tilt this game in the Falcons' favor.
You can read our complete Military Bowl preview here.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:25 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A look at the key matchup that could decide the New Orleans Bowl
Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State vs. Lance Kelley, LB, Louisiana-Lafayette
This should be the biggest matchup in this game, as Hillman is one of the nation's leading rushers, finishing third in the country with 1,656 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Hillman also picked up another 221 yards on 20 receptions during the season, as he is the key component of the San Diego State offense which finished 28th in the country in rushing yards. Then there's the Louisiana-Lafayette defense which allowed 3.8 yards per carry and 144.5 yards rushing per game this season. More importantly, the Cajuns allowed 25 touchdowns on the ground this season.
So you can expect the Aztecs to try and take advantage of that, which means the matchup between Hillman and linebacker Lance Kelley will be huge in this game. Obviously, Kelley has ten teammates on defense who will have to help out, but he was the team's leading tackler in 2011 with 107 tackles. Nearly 30 more than his closest teammate.
How successful Kelley is in stopping Hillman, or at the very least keeping him in check, will go a long way in determining which way this game goes. If Hillman has a typical day of 138 yards and a touchdown or two, then San Diego State is going to win. If Kelley can slow him down and force San Diego State's offense into being more one-dimensional, then the Cajuns' chances only improve.
You can check out our extensive New Orleans Bowl Pregame preview here.