Tag:Bowl Previews
Posted on: December 30, 2011 4:09 pm
 

Cotton Bowl Key Matchup



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 30, 2011 2:57 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 2:58 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Cotton Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

KANSAS STATE WILL WIN IF: Kansas State is an odd team in that it wasn't exactly outstanding in any one area this season, yet that didn't stop the Wildcats from winning 10 games. So how can it go about winning an eleventh game against a team as good as Arkansas? Well, it should probably follow the same formula that it used all season. Give the human wrecking ball that is Collin Klein the football and let him run people over for 60 minutes. As a team the Wildcats rushed for 193.7 yards per game in 2011, with Klein totalling 1,099 yards on the year. He was also virtually unstoppable in the red zone, as he scored 26 rushing touchdowns. This should not change against Arkansas. The Razorbacks allowed 174.33 yards per game on the ground, giving up 4.5 yards per carry and allowing 20 touchdowns on the season. Numbers that will go up if Kansas State is going to be successful. And running the ball will not only help Kansas State's case on offense, but by using Klein and John Hubert to move the ball on the ground, the Wildcats will also give their defense a break. Arkansas' offense is not one you want to keep on the field for too long because it's explosive and can rack up a lot of points, and Kansas State's offense isn't designed for shootouts. Though it has participated in a few. Still, if the Wildcats want to win this game, they'd be better served to keep this score in the upper 20s, lower 30s.

ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: Arkansas' strength is clearly its offense, and considering that the Razorbacks have a brand new defensive coordinator for this game, that's not likely to change. Arkansas should pay close attention to what quarterbacks like Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma's Landry Jones did against the Wildcats. Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State run offenses that are similar to Arkansas, and those two signal callers combined to throw for 1,007 yards and 9 touchdowns against Kansas State. The Wildcats defense is a lot better suited to stopping the run than it is spread passing attacks, and Arkansas is the perfect kind of offense to exploit that. Though Tyler Wilson will have to take care of the ball as well, because while the Kansas State secondary may not be great, it is opportunistic and guys like Nigel Malone can make a big play. So as long as Wilson takes care of the ball and spreads it out amongst his many weapons, then Arkansas should be able to put up a lot of points in this contest.

X-FACTOR: Joe Adams. It's a shame that Kansas State's Tyler Lockett lacerated his kidney in November and will miss this game not only because of the concern for the freshman's safety, but because we could have had two of the most explosive kick and punt returners in college football this season if he were healthy. However, we still get the chance to watch Joe Adams, and he has the ability to make any punt into one of the most exciting plays in a football game. While Kansas State's kickoff coverage unit has been one of the best in the country this season, its coverage on punts has been pretty average, and if they leave the slightest crack open for Adams in this game, then he may change the outcome of the Cotton Bowl by himself.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 10:11 am
 

Outback Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A look at the key matchup that could decide the Outback Bowl. 

Georgia's interior offensive line vs. Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy

Though it wasn't the grueling grind of past years, Georgia still made it through the SEC schedule and saw plenty of good defensive linemen. Outside of games against South Carolina and LSU however, they haven't seen anybody playing at the level that Jerel Worthy has been for Michigan State this season. Named a first team All-American, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound junior racked up 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks but the numbers don't show how dominating he was during games. His play is one reason why CBSSports.com draft experts have him pegged as a first round pick should he decide to leave school early.

The Bulldogs offensive line has come together better than expected after dealing with injuries and other issues at the beginning of the year. They had their issues with good defensive lines from Boise State, South Carolina and LSU and better buckle up to face another big test in Michigan State. The group gave up just over two sacks a game on the season, good (bad?) enough to rank 80th in the country in that category. Ben Jones is an experienced and battle-tested center who will likely be part of plenty of double-teams of worthy with young guards Kenarious Gates and Chris Burnette. The ability to contain worthy and keep quarterback Aaron Murray upright to deliver a few throws will be key for the offense to move the ball at all down in Tampa.

It's not all about the passing game either, as the Spartans allowed just 104 yards per game on the ground thanks in large part to Worthy. The UGA run game is a bit of a mystery at the moment but they no doubt need all the backs healthy and for the offensive line to get some push up front. Don't expect this to be a high scoring game given the way both teams are constructed but the ability for the Dawgs to break big plays comes down to their offensive line creating holes and time to throw.

This should be a great battle in the trenches but based on how Georgia has fared in other games this season, expect Worthy and his defensive teammates to get plenty of pressure. Don't be surprised if a running back is kept back to pass block more than usual and, given the amount of time between games, expect Mark Richt and the coaching staff to develop an offensive game plan that avoids Worthy as much as possible. In a matchup of two 10-3 teams, this one should go to the group who controls the line of scrimmage the best.

Posted on: December 29, 2011 9:21 am
 

Keys to the game: Outback Bowl

Posted by Bryan Fischer

GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: The Bulldogs' defense continues to perform like it has all season. Though the bookends for the year didn't go as fans had hoped, the team still ran off 10 straight wins and likely saved head coach Mark Richt's job. The biggest reason behind the surge is the defense, which is third in the country in yards allowed and features stud linebacker Jarvis Jones and a secondary led by Brandon Boykin and Bacarri Rambo. The offense has done ok behind quarterback Aaron Murray and freshman running back Isaiah Crowell but they have a knack for turning the ball over at times and that could prove costly in a close game against a very good team like the one they'll face in the Outback Bowl.

MICHIGAN STATE WILL WIN IF: The Spartans have to remain balanced on offense and limit turnovers. This is the first time the team has won 10 games in back-to-back years and given the bad taste left in their mouths in the Big Ten championship game, figures to a game they come out prepared for and ready to win. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has elevated his game this season, throwing for over 3,000 yards and posting a 24-7 TD-INT ratio. If he can make some plays in the passing game to open things up for Le'Von Bell and Edwin Baker on the ground, MSU should have a great chance to win the game given how good their defense is.

X-FACTOR: These two teams met just three years ago at this bowl game so there is some familiarity between them. Both are also coming off championship game losses and while a trip to Tampa isn't bad, it's not exactly what either had in mind at the beginning of the season. The key to winning this game undoubtedly belongs to who can control the trenches. Michigan State appears to be the more physical team but Georgia's front seven is very good and their offensive line has done better than expected over the course of the season. The Spartans also have an impact player on the defensive line in first-team All-America Jerel Worthy, who should be a load to handle for the Bulldogs' offensive line. Both teams want to play sound football and control the clock so winning the battles along the line will be paramount.


Posted on: December 29, 2011 3:06 am
 

Insight Bowl Key Matchup

Posted by Adam Jacobi



A look at the key matchup that could decide the Insight Bowl

Jamell Fleming, CB, Oklahoma vs. Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa

Marvin McNutt
is pretty indisputably the best pure wide receiver to ever wear the Iowa uniform. He holds the Iowa season and career records in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, he's five catches away from the team season record, and he's eight receptions away from the Iowa career record -- all in just three seasons of work as a regular contributor at WR. Not bad for a converted three-star QB out of St. Louis. The 6'4", 215 lb. wideout excels in making catches on the run -- often difficult or even one-handed grabs -- and he and QB James Vandenberg have been lethal on fade routes this season (see above). Iowa is 7-2 when McNutt gets the ball six or more times, and 0-3 when he doesn't meet that mark, so shutting McNutt down is a high priority for OU.

Where McNutt is not particularly effective, however, is route precision. McNutt's stride is long enough that while it's not necessarily a negative on long-developing plays or other routes where he gets a free release, it does affect his agility and ability to shake a cornerback who just needs to play press coverage for three or four seconds, like on hooks, short outs, and other single-move timing routes. And lo and behold, that's two-time first team All-Big 12 cornerback Jamell Fleming's specialty.

Fleming gives up plenty to McNutt in terms of physicality at 5'11" and 191, as most corners do, but his agility and ball skills are advanced enough that he's going to be able to play within five yards of the line of scrimmage with confidence -- especially if OU's pass rush is as effective as expected. Fleming excels in shuttle agility and should be able to make a play on most quick throws that go McNutt's way. Now, if McNutt makes a catch, he's strong enough that Fleming isn't guaranteed to make the tackle, which could spring a big gain or two on slants or any route that ends with Fleming tailing McNutt, but OU's going to be primarily concerned with disrupting Iowa's timing to the extent that those plays are minimized from the start. 

Keep up with all the latest on Oklahoma and Iowa at the Insight Bowl Pregame.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview  
Posted on: December 29, 2011 2:22 am
 

Keys to the Game: Insight Bowl, Iowa vs. Oklahoma

Posted by Adam Jacobi

IOWA WILL WIN IF: Oklahoma feels like loaning the Hawkeyes a few starters, especially one at RB. Iowa faced long, long odds in this game even with its backfield at full strength. Now, starting RB Marcus Coker -- second only to Montee Ball among Big Ten RBs in rushing yards and touchdowns -- has been suspended and will not join the team at the Insight Bowl, and top backup Mika'il McCall was also suspended before the Nebraska game and will also not join the team. Iowa had a chance to pull an upset here with a running game to fall back on; now, QB James Vandenberg's going to have to basically carry the offense, and that's not a recipe for success.

OKLAHOMA WILL WIN IF: The pass rush on the edge continues its dominance. Oklahoma is seventh nationally in sacks per game at just over three per, and defensive ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis are a big part of that; the two players lead the Sooners in sacks and have combined for 14 on the year, but the beauty of Oklahoma's pass rush is its ability to get production out of its blitzers. 15 out of the 37 sacks racked up by the Sooners this year have come from the back seven, often from the edge, and that's precisely where Iowa has faced its most difficulty picking up blitzes when they've come from outside rather than up the middle. So being that Iowa's not going to keep OU on its heels with an effective running game, the Sooners should be prepared to pin their heels back on the outside and tee off with the pass rush.

THE X-FACTOR: Motivation. Oklahoma spent most of the season as a legitimate national championship contender, so to slide this far and end up in a December bowl against a 7-5 opponent like Iowa is probably going to have a deleterious effect on Oklahoma's ability to get motivated for this game. Additionally, Iowa just slodged through its most mediocre season since 2007 and already played in the Insight Bowl last year. So between those two factors, it's easy to envision that players on both sides might have a tougher time than usual getting up for this game. As such, whichever team blocks out the distractions and puts together good, honest hard work in preparation for this game is probably going to have an early edge. Bowl teams from BCS conferences are generally good enough to beat any opponent that isn't adequately prepared or motivated for the game, but there's really no telling who holds the edge here.

Keep up with all the latest on Oklahoma and Iowa at the Insight Bowl Pregame.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview 
Posted on: December 28, 2011 10:58 pm
 

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A look at the key matchup that could decide the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. 

UCLA's pistol offense vs. Illinois defensive line

When it comes to stopping UCLA's Pistol, an attacking front four can cause havoc against the run-based offense. The Bruins have been pretty good on the ground this year - one of the few things they've seemed to execute ok - finishing 29th in the country with 190 yards per game rushing. Kevin Prince wasn't the greatest signal-caller (1,627 yards passing, 10-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio) but was a solid trigger man who could pull the ball and run for a first down when needed. Johnathan Franklin had a big game against Colorado but other than that was nothing to write home about after being held under 100 yards rushing in all but three games this season. Fellow back Derrick Coleman was on and off throughout the year but turned in a productive season.

Though the Bruins have faced some good defensive lines, they haven't faced anybody like defensive end Whitney Mercilus. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound All-American led the country in sacks with 14.5 and led the conference in tackles for loss with a total of 19.5 for the year. Though Illinois struggled down the stretch by losing six straight, it wasn't because of the defense, which finished seventh overall in total defense. Michael Buchanan finished 8th in the Big Ten in tackles for a loss playing on the line and was also a disruptive force at times this season. If the line can get penetration and make some plays, that allows the back seven to matchup well against UCLA's skill position talent that hasn't done much all at all outside of Nelson Rosario. Freeing up linebacker Jonathan Brown to make some plays will be something to watch if the Illini want to win the game.

Points might be hard to come by given the way Illinois' offense has looked down the stretch so that puts the pressure on the defense once again. If the team has any hope of ending the slide, they're going to have to limit big plays from an offense that can create some with misdirection. A good push from the defensive line against a bad UCLA offensive line is where things start.

On the other side, if the Bruins want to avoid going 6-8 on the year, the offense has to execute less like they did against USC and show some of the signs of life like they did against Oregon. Prince can pick up first downs and there should be a solid rushing game but if the o-line can't block Mercilus and the defensive line, interim head coach Mike Johnson could be in for a long night.

Posted on: December 28, 2011 8:44 pm
 

Keys to the game: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Posted by Bryan Fischer

UCLA WILL WIN IF: The defense has to step up and get some stops. The Bruins defense looked better in the Pac-12 Championship game than they did in the regular season finale but still gave up nearly half a hundred. The secondary is young but has come along late in the season and should be healthier than they were at the end of the year. Both lines need for a few players to step up and become solid contributors this game, especially along the disappointing defensive line that was among the country's worst at getting into the backfield. The offense should be solid but if UCLA wants to get back to .500 for the season, they're going to need the defense to play the best they have since the Colorado game in mid-November.

ILLINOIS WILL WIN IF: The Illini have a pretty solid defense that has surprised some folks this season so it's up to the offense to use the extra time off before the game to get things going again. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino has already left the team and that might be a good thing considering the team averaged just 11 points per game in their six game losing streak to end the season. Luckily their weakness (the offensive line) is matched up against the Bruins' weakness (the front seven - without middle linebacker Patrick Larimore) so it's likely quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase could have some time to make some plays. You can probably put All-American defensive end Whitney Mercilus down for a big game against the UCLA line he'll be facing.

X-FACTOR: Does anybody really want to be here? That seems to be the biggest question surrounding the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl given that two interim head coaches will be leading two teams that ended the year by falling flat on their faces. Illinois, sans Ron Zook, lost six straight games and you would figure that they want to get that taste out of their mouths. UCLA was thumped in their final two games to become the first team to make a bowl game at 6-7 and has several players who didn't make the trip up to the Bay Area due to a variety of reasons. Needless to say, motivation will be an issue in this one.

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