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Tag:WAC
Posted on: December 21, 2011 11:35 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 11:35 pm
 

QUICK HITS: TCU 31, Louisiana Tech 24

Posted by Bryan Fischer

SAN DIEGO -- Let's face it, after two straight BCS bowls TCU wasn't exactly thrilled about ending the season well before Christmas at the Poinsettia Bowl. No matter what head coach Gary Patterson said or would have you believe, the Horned Frogs came out of the tunnel at Snapdragon Stadium uninspired and the play on the field clearly reflected as much. Penalties. Yards allowed like the opposing quarterback was named Robert Griffin III. Illegal formations. Muffed Punts. Turnovers. It wasn't the prettiest effort but considering the Horned Frogs only play in close bowl games - six of their last seven by a touchdown or less - they did just enough late to pull out a win against WAC champion Louisiana Tech

TCU WON. The bowl was just one of four games this postseason to match up conference champions, with the Horned Frogs winning the Mountain West in their final season in the league. They had their hands full with the WAC champs largely due to their own mistakes that gave the Bulldogs extra chances before taking control on both sides of the ball in the 4th quarter. Louisiana Tech's defense played extremely well and the offense was solid but TCU just found a way to win.

HOW TCU WON: It was not a game won by TCU's trademark defense, which struggled all night with LaTech's aerial attack. The secondary had trouble against option routes and anything down the field. They played man-to-man a good portion of the night and were torched for a long Myles White touchdown that gave the Bulldogs the lead in the second half. The offense was fairly effective, with running backs Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker getting up field for some nice gains and quarterback Casey Pachall did a good job on throwing intermediate routes. Special teams were not very good at all, with Brandon Carter muffing a punt that set up a later touchdown. Still, the offense got more creative in the final quarter and that was the difference in the game.

WHEN TCU WON: After Louisiana Tech quickly took the lead late in the 3rd quarter, TCU put together an impressive 18-play, 72-yard drive to tie the game - the team's longest scoring drive of the season in terms of time off the clock and number of plays. Thanks to good pressure by the front seven, the Horned Frogs forced a three-and-out then Pachall found Skye Dawson on a 42-yard touchdown pass after rolling out on third down to take a 31-24 lead to seal the win.

WHAT TCU WON: The win gave Patterson his seventh bowl victory and as head coach of the Horned Frogs and 109th overall, tying him with Dutch Meyer as TCU's all-time winningest coach. It also gives the program their 11th win of the season and sends them off to the Big 12 with an eight game winning streak.

WHAT LOUISIANA TECH LOST: It was a great second year for head coach Sonny Dykes, turning things around after an early funk by running off seven straight wins en route to the WAC title. Any coach will say there's no such thing as a moral victory but the Bulldogs competed in every single game this season and showed they were close to a top 15 program in TCU. There's plenty to like about the effort they gave Wednesday night, even if they ultimately have to go into the offseason with an "L" in their last game.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Despite it being his first year as a full-time starter, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall set new school records for completions and yardage this season, passing Andy Dalton. Nothing will help the young team transition to Big 12 play like having an experienced signal-caller like Pachall.

FINAL GRADE: B-. There was a lot of sloppy play on both sides and plenty of missed opportunities. Given that it matched up two conference champions, one expected a close game but this was close because neither team could take advantage and deliver a knock out blow until TCU did late. It wasn't a terrible game but it wasn't a great one either. 


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Posted on: December 21, 2011 6:55 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 7:10 pm
 

Roundtable: Changes to the bowl schedule

Posted by Eye On College Football 


Occasionally the Eye on CFB team gathers, Voltron-style, to answer a pressing question from the world of college football. Today's question is:

What changes, if any, would you make to the current bowl schedule and/or bowl eligibility requirements?


Bryan Fischer: Any time you have a team like UCLA playing in a game at 6-7, I think it underscores that there needs to be a new rule that you not only be 6-6, but 7-5 at the very minimum. I get that the bowl games are a treat for the players but shouldn't we be rewarding winners and not the mediocre? The entire bowl system seems to have turned into the college football equivalent of a participation trophy. This, of course, ties-in with the line of reasoning that there are too many bowl games. At some point we'll get to the point where there's a good number of games for good teams but right now the excess causes mediocrity. For every crazy New Orleans Bowl finish we get, there's just as many Beef O'Brady Bowl duds it seems.

Tom Fornelli: I tend to agree with Bryan in that I'm not a big fan of 6-6 teams being rewarded for mediocrity, and I usually fall in line with the "there are too many bowl games" crowd, but then a funny thing happens every year. The games start, and they feature a couple of 6-6 teams, and I love them.

Yeah, there are some duds, but there are plenty of duds every Saturday during the regular season. So I think my personal criticisms from the current bowl system come from the fact that I'd like to see some type of playoff. A plus-one being the minimum of what I'd like to see.  So while I get extremely annoyed when I see that 6-6 Florida is playing 6-6 Ohio State in the Gator Bowl, I'm sorry, the TAXSLAYER.COM (bangs head, SIGN OF THE BEAST!!!) Gator Bowl, I'll probably still watch the game. I'm just a college football junkie, there's no way around it.

Jerry Hinnen: There's an easier fix for getting the UCLA-like riffraff out of the postseason than scuttling existing bowls: re-institute the discarded NCAA mandate that bowls must take teams with winning records ahead of teams with .500 (or sub-.500, in the Bruins' case) marks. "Too many bowls" is going to be a hard sell for the folks at places like Temple -- who unfairly sat at home after going 8-4 in Al Golden's final season last year -- or Western Kentucky, who should have gotten their first-ever FBS bowl bid after 2011's second-place Sun Belt finish and 7-5 record.

Cases like Temple's and WKU's are why, personally speaking, I'm fine-n'-dandy with the Participation Trophy Bowl circuit; not every game is going to be riveting theater (and matchups like UCLA-Illinois or Louisville-N.C. State promise to be quite the opposite), but it's not like anyone's required to watch. Should the seniors on that UL-Lafayette team we saw celebrating like they'd collectively won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes Saturday night have been denied that once-in-not-even-most-people's-lifetimes experience just because a few college football diehards don't want to risk being bored?

Is the long-since-antiquated notion that bowl berths are for no one but mid-major champions and the top handful of major-conference programs worth brilliant Hilltoppers' running back Bobby Rainey ending his career without a bowl appearance? Not if you ask me--if the players want to play them, the the local organizers want to host them, it's not my place (or any fan's) to say they shouldn't. The number of bowls is fine; the way the teams are selected could just use a little pro-winning-record tweaking. Besides, give it another month and there won't be any college football at all. I'll take whatever I can get at this stage, Belk Bowl included.

(That said, it would be outstanding if the NCAA also prohibited the exorbitant ticket guarantees that have turned bowl trips into a financial sinkhole for so many smaller schools, but that's a separate issue from the scheduling/eligibility question.)

Chip Patterson: I too would like to see limping 6-6 BCS conference team taken out of the bowl equation, particularly when there are dangerous Non-BCS teams that have been left out of postseason play in recent years. One way could be to change the requirements to 7-5, but this season I thought of another wrinkle.

Instead of changing the bowl eligibility record/win total, add a stipulation that requires a team to finish .500 or better in league play. Many times, the 6-6 team that fails to show up for a bowl game has struggled down the stretch and enters the postseason with little-to-no momentum. If schools are going to benefit from conference tie-ins, make them perform in conference play to earn that right. A 6-6 team with a 3-5 conference record likely is not playing their best football at the end of the season, and might be a part of one of the dud bowl games we have seen recently.

I would also prefer to move the "gutter" bowl games back before the BCS and traditional New Years Day games. That stretch of bowls leading up to the National Championship Game is one of the places where we find unattractive matchups and lose college football excitement after the blitz of New Years Day. If those games were moved back before the New Year and the title game was pushed back to Jan 4-5, it would arguably be a better spot for college football to capitalize on the nation's interest. Not only does the average fan have to wait, but they have to be teased with games that would be better consumed in pieces during a Dec. 28 doubleheader.

Adam Jacobi: It's important to keep in mind that most of these lowest-tier bowls are media-owned entities, which were created and staged every year because from a media perspective, live televised FBS college football is more lucrative than anything else that could be aired in the middle of a December week. As such, if you want to get rid of these bowls, you had better come up with something that produces higher ratings for that network instead, otherwise, no amount of hand-wringing about the quality of the teams playing in bowls is going to result in any meaningful change. This is not a scandal or anything that should not be, mind you, because it does not negatively affect fairness of play or anything else of vital importance. It's merely the entity that stands to gain most from lowest-tier bowls being played, making sure that the lowest-tier bowls get played by owning and organizing them. That's just good business.

Moreover, if by some chance these lowest-tier bowls happen to disappear, as much as we're tired of seeing a 6-6 (3-5) BCS-conference team get into the postseason, let's not pretend that that team's going to be the first against the wall. It's going to be the also-rans of the MAC, WAC, C-USA, and every other non-AQ conference, because 90% of the time, those non-AQ schools draw lower ratings than their BCS-level counterparts. The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl between UCLA and Illinois is going to suck, but if we're being honest about what bowl organizers really want out of a team that they invite, UCLA and Illinois are going to keep getting bowl invitations over even 8-win teams like Tulsa, Toledo, or Louisiana Tech.

So if you're asking me what I would change about the bowl system, I wouldn't possibly know where or how to begin. The bowl system is a product of media desires and inequality in FBS football, so if you want the bowl system to be any different, you'd better figure out a way to fix either the media landscape or the college football landscape first, and well... good luck with that.

Tom Fornelli: What if we replace the mid-week December games with gladiator like competitions? In which players from each school battle each other to the death. The loser, obviously, dies and frees up a scholarship for the school. The winner gets extra credit in any class of his choosing!

WHO WOULDN'T WATCH?

Adam Jacobi: Well, that would certainly be heartbreaking for everyone involved.

I wouldn't mind it if the sponsors (or bowl organizers or the stadium) had a little bit of leeway in ground rules for these games. These are silly games anyway (unless I'm supposed to take something called the Beef O'Brady's Bowl completely seriously all of a sudden), so why shouldn't the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl be played with literally a giant potato for a football? Field goals in the Holiday Bowl worth 4 points if they're from more than 45 yards out? Fine by me! Special uniforms in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl designed to look like boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese? OF COURSE we should be doing that.

So yeah, as long as we're going to have ultimately trivial exhibitions end the seasons of so many teams, we might as well make said trivial exhibitions unique in ways that go beyond mere branding.

Tom Fornelli: These ideas have my full support.  Can you imagine how much better the Orange Bowl would be if they were using an orange instead of a football?

Chip Patterson: Did they change tires on car at half time of the Meineke Car Care Bowl? If not they should.  Same goes for the Belk Bowl. I think instead of a coin toss there should be a Dockers shopping spree to determine who gets the ball first.

Adam Jacobi: And if Hooters got involved, there would be... lots of wings available for attending fans to eat. And that is all.

To chime in on the bowl schedule debate, or offer your own changes; "Like" us on Facebook and let us know what you think.

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:05 pm
 

La. Tech players give bowl gifts to Make-A-Wish

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Don't have a rooting interest in Wednesday night's Poinsettia Bowl matchup between TCU and Louisiana Tech? With all due respect to the Horned Frogs, you might now.

Two Louisiana Tech players took the opportunity during Monday's Poinsettia Bowl community service event with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to donate their bowl gifts to kids involved with the foundation. Senior linebacker Adrien Cole and junior wide receiver Quinton Patton each gave away their $300 Best Buy gift card, with Cole also donating his Tourneau Poinsettia Bowl watch.

"They're just material things," Cole said. "They need it more than I do." (Watch Cole [pictured] speak with a Louisiana Tech All-Access reporter and the boy who received his watch in a CBSports.com ULive video here.)

"It was eye-opening," Patton said of the Make-A-Wish event in a CBSSports.com video interview. "You can't take anything for granted.

"I just did it, just out of the blue" he said of his decision to donate his bowl gift. "It's all smiles. He's happy, I'm happy, so it really doesn't matter ."

A bowl representative told TV station KSLA that he believed this was the first time a player had made such a donation at the Poinsettia Bowl.

For more on the Poinsettia Bowl, including picks, key matchups, and more, check out our comprehensive Poinsettia pregame page.
Posted on: December 17, 2011 9:43 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Ohio 24, Utah State 23

Posted by Adam Jacobi

OHIO WON. Tyler Tettleton led the Ohio Bobcats on a 9-play, 60-yard drive in under two minutes and capped it with a desperation scramble into the end zone with 13 seconds left to give Ohio its first ever bowl victory, 24-23, over Utah State. Tettleton connected with LaVon Brazill, Ohio's all-time leading receiver, eight times for 106 yards and one touchdown in the winning effort.

WHY OHIO WON: It's hard to point to much good on the defensive front when a team gives up almost 350 yards of rushing and still wins the game, but the fact is it's a testament to Ohio's defense inside its own 30 yard line that Utah State's offense only scored 21 points (the last two came on a safety -- after Ohio stuffed Robert Turbin at the one-yard-line on USU's opening possession). Moreover, even though Utah State completed 13 of its 20 passes as a team, the production in those plays was so anemic -- under 5.0 yards per attempt -- that Utah State basically couldn't take advantage of Ohio's one-dimensional defensive scheming. Still, this was a one-point victory spread over 60 minutes, and to point to one factor as the defining factor would be to overstate its importance and understate the rest.

WHEN OHIO WON: Utah State had been in nine one-possession games this season, and Ohio seven of its own, so the fact that this one came down to the last minute was actually truer to form than if this had been an uncompetitive game for either team. As such, nobody can be surprised that Ohio's winning score came with 13 seconds left, or that Matt Weller's PAT on the TD gave Ohio its first lead of the entire game. That's just the way these two teams roll. Ohio had one last desperation attempt to score from its own 25, but the ensuing series of ineffectual laterals and general stand-aroundery (new word alert) from the Bobcats made it clear that a career in rugby was in nobody's future there. 

WHAT OHIO WON: For Ohio, the win has no shortage of historical meaning. It's the Bobcats' first bowl victory ever. It's their first 10-win season since a 10-1 campaign in 1968. It's Frank Solich's first bowl victory since winning the Alamo Bowl with Nebraska over Northwestern in 2000. And above all that, it's a great way to go into the offseason for the junior-to-be QB Tettleton and the rest of his teammates.

WHAT UTAH STATE LOST: It must be hard for Utah State not to feel some pangs of painful déjà vu after the series of last-minute September losses it endured to Auburn, Colorado State, and BYU. But the Aggies return their top two quarterbacks (Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy) and most of their offense, head coach Gary Andersen just signed an extension and got a Utah State tattoo to commemorate the season, and now the team has this loss as a motivating factor going into next year. Think there won't be a recommitment to being the best-conditioned team in the 4th quarter after this year? These are the types of losses that push teams to higher levels of dedication in practice, and that's the type of work that pays off during the season.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Here is a full accounting of the 4th and 6 play that put Ohio on the 6-inch line with 40 seconds left: Tyler Tettleton throws to LaVon Brazill, who stretches out and lands the ball near the goal line, at which point he drops the ball and then recovers it on the goal line. The officials signal a touchdown. Head referee Penn Wagers then announces that Brazill recovered his own fumble and was down short of the goal line, but that the play is under further review. The play is reviewed for a couple minutes. Wagers announces that the ruling is confirmed. The officials reconvene. Wagers announces that Brazill fumbled the ball, then recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. The officials reconvene. Wagers announces that Brazill was down short of the goal line, and that the ball should be placed on the 6-inch line, and so it was.

The thing of it is, the correct ruling was obvious after just one viewing of the replay. Brazill lost the ball when he stretched and hit the ground with it, but his knee and hip were both down well before that. Additionall, the ball didn't cross the goal line until after he recovered his own fumble. How there could be such a breakdown in communication to lead to that series of misstatements is astonishing; this should have been a 30-second review. At the very least, though, the final ruling on the field was the correct one, and that's what's most important. 

FINAL GRADE: A. We wanted a close game, and this, like so many of each team's previous games this season, went down to the wire. Not a bad bowl game for the first day of the FBS postseason. May all bowls be as enjoyable as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:07 pm
 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Adam Jacobi

A look at the key matchup that could decide the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State vs. Noah Keller, LB, Ohio

If there's one thing to be gleaned from the seasons of Utah State and Ohio, who have combined for 16 games decided by seven points or less this season (half of which, incredibly, were decided in the final minute or overtime), it's that today's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will probably be close, and a full 60-minute affair. If that's to be the case, then this game could easily come down to the heart and soul of the Aggie offense against the heart and soul of the Bobcat defense.

For Utah State, the Aggies' rushing attack (ranked sixth in the nation in yards per game) is led by senior tailback Robert Turbin, who has 1416 rushing yards and 23 total touchdowns to his name. Utah State will likely put the ball in Turbin's hands about 25 times in this game, and the only reason it might not be more is because Michael Smith and Kerwynn Williams are also talented ballcarriers -- to say nothing of quarterback Adam Kennedy, who has emerged as a dual threat in the Aggie offense here in the last half of the season. Still, Turbin is the start of the show, and when the Aggies need to keep a drive alive in the 4th quarter, Turbin's going to be the man with the ball.

Thus, Noah Keller, a second-team All-MAC linebacker and the three-time captain of the Ohio defense, is going to have his hands full in this game. Keller wasn't even supposed to be on this team's squad, but early in his senior season in 2010 -- a season that saw him on the Nagurski Watch list and a handful of preseason All-America teams -- Keller tore a ligament in his foot, ending his year in Week 3. He took a medical redshirt year, having played as a true freshman, and has come back to lead the Bobcats in tackling for the third time in his career. And while lingering foot and shoulder maladies have hampered his production this year, there's no doubt that he's ready for one last shot at giving Ohio a bowl victory, and going through Turbin to make it happen. It's not often that the best two players on each team are directly matched up with each other like this, so fans and viewers of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl are, well, in for a real treat.

For a look at the keys to the game for both schools, click here, and check out the rest of CBSSports.com's coverage at the Famous Idaho Potato 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 17, 2011 3:19 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

OHIO WILL WIN IF: Donte Harden gets the most touches of anybody on either team. Utah State RB Robert Turbin is a workhorse, but Ohio has its own dynamo in Harden, who leads the team in rushing and also excels in receiving and kick returns. Harden has only found the end zone four times all season, but his ability to move with the ball in the open field and showcase his speed has led to plenty of big plays all season long. Harden's the playmaker in this offense, so the more Ohio gives him the ball, the better a chance he has of at the very least flipping the field and giving the Bobcats an opportunity to put points on the board. 

Meanwhile, Utah State's going to be feeding the ball to Robert Turbin early and often, and why not? He's just outside the Top 10 in rushing nationally, and he's the featured back in one of the nation's most prolific running games. So while Ohio can't directly affect the frequency with which Ohio gives Turbin the ball without injuring him -- and let's hope it doesn't come to that, obviously -- it can exert its best effort to limit Turbin's effectiveness and USU's time of possession. That'll be key, because if that Aggie ground game starts grinding early, the Bobcat defense is in for a long day.

UTAH STATE WILL WIN IF: Adam Kennedy continues to excel at quarterback. Kennedy wasn't really part of Utah State's plans at quarterback this year; freshman Chuckie Keeton was firmly entrenched as the Aggies' starting QB for this year and the future, but a frightening neck injury sustained against Hawaii took him out of the game and, effectively, the season (he is fine now, by the way). Kennedy took over and USU hasn't lost since -- more on that in a bit. The junior quarterback has passed for 10 touchdowns and four picks in his five games of action, and he's rushing for almost 0.5 more yards per carry than Keeton on the year.

That combination of rushing ability and passing efficiency (Kennedy's 180.8 rating would be third in the nation if he qualified) is downright Russell Wilson-ian -- right down to the fact that he's not the primary option on offense -- and like with Wisconsin, it can and does punish defenses that stack the box. Kennedy's sample size is still pretty small, though, and if he finally has a game where he struggles on offense for whatever reason, the Aggie offense could turn one-dimensional in a hurry, and that's any defensive coordinator's dream.

X-FACTOR: The endgame. Utah State was one of the most fascinating teams in college football this year, with its first three losses coming in heartbreaking fashion: Auburn scored two touchdowns in the game's final three minutes thanks to an onside kick recovery and stunned the Aggies 38-35, Colorado State scored a touchdown and two-point conversion with under 30 seconds left to force overtime, then stuffed Utah State on the Aggies' own two-point conversion in OT to win 35-34, and BYU drove 96 yards in under three minutes to score a TD with 11 seconds left and beat USU, 27-24. All of that... in September.

The Aggies ripped off a 5-0 November under Kennedy to get to this point, however, and in a remarkable reversal of their September misfortunes, they usually did so with their own last-minute heroics. Utah State needed overtime to put away Idaho, 49-42, and used a fumble recovery with 5:40 left on its own 11-yard-line to seal a victory against Nevada, 21-17. Those were the two least exciting games of USU's November. The aforementioned trip to Hawaii to start the month's slate, where Kennedy first took over at QB for Keeton, saw the Aggies score with 14 seconds left to complete a 21-0 spree and beat the Warriors, 35-31. The Aggies also scored the game-winning touchdown in the last minute of their 34-33 comeback victory against San Jose State, and USU capped its season with a 13-play, 83-yard drive culminating in a game-winning touchdown pass from Kennedy to Matt Austin with 35 seconds left, beating New Mexico State 24-21.

So Utah State is clearly no stranger to the whims and vagaries of last-minute fate, and while Ohio played in seven one-possession games of its own this season (including a 23-20 loss to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship where the Bobcats led 20-0 at the half, 20-7 going into the fourth quarter, and 20-13 with three minutes left), USU's the team that has won its last five such games. If there's one team to trust in the final minutes of this game, it's probably going to be Utah State -- and that statement would have sounded either cruelly sarcastic or downright insane after September. Such is college football.

Posted on: December 16, 2011 6:11 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 6:15 pm
 

Hawaii Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Chip Patterson


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

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Miss vs. Brett Roy, DT, Nevada

Austin Davis entered the Southern Miss football program as a walk-on, but when his career as a Golden Eagle finishes on Christmas Eve in the Hawaii Bowl he will have more career passing records than Brett Favre. During his four years in Hattiesburg, Davis has matured from a talented "scrawny" kid (Larry Fedora's words), into a smart and efficient gunslinger with the ability to scramble from the pocket to create a play. Davis threw for 250+ yards in nine different games this season, and finished with 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while adding four touchdowns and 332 yards on the ground.

But on the other side of Davis will be an equally decorated star: senior defensive tackle Brett Roy. Roy led the WAC in sacks and tackles for loss in 2011, and has made his way to numerous end-of-season award lists - arguably the most impressive being SI's All-American First Team. Roy's dominating presence in the trenches helps anchor a Wolf Pack defense that finished second in the WAC in scoring and total defense.

Both of these teams have Top 15 offenses, and if recent history tells us anything you will need to put up points to win this game. Since 2002, the winning team in the Hawaii Bowl has averaged 48.4 points per game. Both teams have surpassed that mark on several occasions this season, and the number one goal of both defensive units will be to avoid that kind of shootout. Roy is arguably the most talented defensive player on either team, and the senior will be looking to finish an impressive career with a bowl victory.

Check out all the latest updates on Southern Miss and Nevada right up until kickoff at the Hawaii Bowl Pregame

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 5:08 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2011 6:29 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Hawaii Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

SOUTHERN MISS WILL WIN IF: The Golden Eagles back up their talk about this game meaning something. When Larry Fedora accepted the North Carolina head coaching job, his players were disappointed but understanding. Some players have even said they are happy for their head coach, and the opportunity he'll get moving forward. But even in accepting the job, Fedora wants to coach the Conference USA champions in the Hawaii Bowl for a chance to make program history. In over 100 years of Southern Miss football, no team has ever won 12 games in a season. A win over the Wolf Pack on Christmas Eve would give the 11-2 Golden Eagles a historic finish to the Fedora era in Hattiesburg. But how much of the upbeat "let's make history" motivation is running through the entire roster?

Star quarterback Austin Davis should have plenty of motivation, but the underclassmen are staring down a long flight to an early bowl to play for a coach on his way out the door. Both offenses are ranked in the Top 15 nationally in scoring, and coming out flat would be a fast way to let the game get out of hand. Since 2002, the winning team in the Hawaii Bowl has averaged 48.4 points per game. We know both teams are capable of putting up those kinds of numbers, so Southern Miss will need to play fast and energetic for all 60 minutes to claim that historic 12th win.

NEVADA WILL WIN IF: The Wolf Pack can limit turnovers and establish the running game. Before their arguably effortless blowout victory against Idaho to close the season, Nevada's offense struggled in back-to-back four-point losses to Louisiana Tech and Utah State. In both games Nevada failed to turn successful drives into touchdowns, settling for field goals that in total could have changed the outcome of the game. Also prevalent in both losses, as well as throughout the season, were costly turnovers that kept the Wolf Pack from the end zone. With WAC Freshman of the Year Cody Fajardo returning from his sprained ankle and senior Lampford Mark looking to continue his streak of five-straight 100+ yard games on the ground, there should be plenty of offensive potential as long as Nevada does not shoot themselves in the foot.

X-FACTOR: Cody Fajardo's injured ankle. Fajardo sprained his ankle in Nevada's 21-17 loss at Utah State on Nov. 26, but all signs point to the the WAC's Freshman of the Year returning to start against Southern Miss in the bowl game. Fajardo was just the quarterback head coach Chris Ault needed to replace Colin Kapernick, now with the San Francisco 49ers. The freshman phenom finished the season with six passing touchdowns and 11 rushing touchdowns - the latter being good enough for seventh nationally among quarterbacks. With Mark's aforementioned explosion in the second half of the season, the Wolf Pack rushing attack can be as potent as it was a year ago with Kapernick at the helm. But if Fajardo is tentative or otherwise not 100 percent on his legs, it could play a huge roll in Southern Miss being able to make plays in the backfield.

Check out all the latest updates on Southern Miss and Nevada right up until kickoff at the Hawaii 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
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com