Tag:LIberty Bowl
Posted on: December 31, 2010 9:56 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Liberty Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

A late touchdown gave Central Florida its first bowl victory ever as the Golden Knights beat Georgia, 10-6.

Central Florida

Offense: Sometimes winning football is pretty. And sometimes it's what Central Florida did. UCF's freshman phenom quarterback Jeff Godfrey didn't exactly set the world on fire in today's game, going 16-29 for 117 yards (a paltry four yards per attempt) and throwing two interceptions -- including one on a truly lousy fade in the end zone in the second half. But when it came down to it, UCF put together a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, complete with several 3rd down conversions, and on that drive Godfrey was more like his 2010 self, as he led the C-USA in passing efficiency. The hero of the day was Latavius Murray , who scored the lone touchdown and rushed for over 100 yards on the day. Grade: C

Defense: Hard to argue with six points allowed. Georgia had been scoring at a clip of nearly 40 points per game after A.J. Green came back from suspension, and even in its losses after Green's return, Georgia scored nearly 30 points a game. Shutting the Dawgs down like this, then, was a Herculean task and never something one would expect from a Conference USA team. But here it is and here we are. Grade: A

Coaching: First bowl win and it comes on a fourth-quarter comeback against an SEC team? That's enough for an A in our book any day. Grade: A

Georgia

Offense: Aaron Murray (no relation to Latavius), Georgia's own freshman phenom quarterback, was just about as wretched as Godfrey; Murray was 21-38 for 198 yards and two of his own interceptions. More troubling was the fact that Murray was in gloves all day, and several of Murray's throws were well off-target and/or absolute ducks in the air. He got quite a bit of help from Green and Tavarres King at wideout, each of whom made some highlight-reel catches, but all in all the Georgia offense was as out of whack as Murray's throws all day long. Grade: D

Defense: Normally, allowing 241 yards, 3-10 3rd down conversions, and 10 points is more than enough to ensure victory. That's what Georgia did, and putting this loss on the defense's shoulders since the lone touchdown allowed came in the fourth quarter is pretty short-sighted. When taking the opponent into consideration -- no offense, Vanderbilt -- this was the best performance by the Bulldog defense all season long. Grade: A

Coaching: In the first quarter, Mark Richt's Bulldogs started a drive at their own 2-yard line. 95 -- 95! -- yards later, Georgia faced a 4th and inches at the UCF 3-yard line. A touchdown was nine feet away, and a first down was one foot away. Up went a field goal, and Georgia took a 3-0 lead. The Bulldogs would not treaten to score a touchdown again until the very last drive, when Aaron Murray was forced to heave a pass into the end zone as time expired. Why Mark Richt didn't go for the touchdown in the first quarter is, frankly, a mystery. That's a statement of absolutely no faith in the offense by Richt, and his players responded with their worst offensive showing of the season. Grade: F-

Final Grade

Hey, we'll take any game that ends with the ball in the air and a win in the balance. Aaron Murray's Hail Mary would fall harmlessly to the turf, but still, the two teams used all of the 60 minutes in this struggle. Moreover, UCF's win only further proved that despite what the BCS conferences maintain at every step, the difference between AQ teams and non-AQ teams erodes further every year. That's scant consolation for Georgia fans who just watched their team drop a 10-6 decision to some C-USA school with no bowl tradition, but tradition's always been an overrated factor in college football anyway. Grade: B

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: November 10, 2010 1:35 pm
 

Bowl Blog: Catching up with latest rumors

J. Darin Darst

Checking in around the nation on the latest bowl rumors.

Penn State eyeing Florida

As reported by Pennlive.com, it looks like Penn State is headed to either the Gator or Outback Bowl. They break it down this way:

After Penn State's comeback win Saturday over Northwestern, it's hard to figure out any way the Nittany Lions will fall below the Gator Bowl. The Outback Bowl remains a possibility. The Gator Bowl, new this year to the Big Ten lineup, is slated for 1:30 on New Year's Day. It holds the possibility of being Joe Paterno's last game although we certainly can't count on it. But as of the second week of December when all the bowl invitations will be made, that allure should enter into bowl reps' thinking.

Currently, I have Penn State projected to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville taking on Florida. The Gator Bowl gets pick No. 4 or 5 from the Big Ten.

Liberty Bowl, Conference USA, SEC mess

Conference USA has sent their champion to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in every season since the league began in 1996, but there's a very real possibility that could be coming to an end. According to UCFSports.com, the 2010 C-USA Champion could be scrambling to find a new bowl, or be relegated to one of the league's lesser bowls, should the SEC not qualify enough teams to fill both their Liberty and Birmingham Bowl slots.

The Liberty Bowl's new partnership with the Big East apparently also gives first right of refusal to the SEC and they don't want to play a team from C-USA if they can help it. AutoZone Liberty Bowl Executive Director Steve Ehrhart spoke about this possibility Tuesday morning during his weekly radio segment on "Sportstime Extra with Dave Woloshin and Brett Norsworthy", which airs on 560 WHBQ in Memphis.

The early part of the interview centered around the possible SEC representative in the bowl, which includes Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Georgia or Kentucky. Assuming the SEC team would play the champion of C-USA, the show's hosts then asked Ehrhart to comment about UCF, who with a 5-0 league record is considered the current favorite to win the conference and that's when Ehrhart acknowledged a C-USA team may not go to Memphis after all.

"Not necessarily," Ehrhart said when asked about C-USA's participation in the bowl. "We may still go with a Big East team against the SEC, provided the SEC has enough teams. That's no disrespect to Conference USA. It just may work out the combinations work that way.


That's ridiculous that the conference champion might be forced to go play elsewhere. This really all comes down to whether or not the SEC gets two teams in the BCS or not. Also at play are teams like Ole Miss and Tennessee. Both are struggling to get bowl-eligible, but if they do, than there won't be a problem. Currently I project only one SEC team in the BCS, so Georgia or Kentucky would play the C-USA champion in the Liberty Bowl.

SMU or UTEP in Armed Forces Bowl

Looks like the Armed Forces Bowl is down to either one of those two from C-USA to play either a Mountain West school or Army in the Dec. 30 bowl. According to the El Paso Times, it looks like if SMU doesn't go to the Hawaii Bowl, the Armed Forces Bowl comes into play. It has been moved for this season only from Fort Worth to SMU's Robertson Stadium.

Air Force almost locked to Independence Bowl

It's not a done deal, but getting close, according to the Denver Post:

It doesn't take a lot of speculation to suggest that coach Troy Calhoun should contact his travel agent about making plans for the Air Force Falcons to travel to Shreveport, La., to play in the Dec. 27 Independence Bowl. Jim Hagan, chairman of the Independence Bowl selection committee, said Monday that the Falcons are more than sentimental favorites to get the call and return to the bowl for the first time since 1984. "I think you can say that if Air Force still is on the board when we pick, it's our top choice," Hagan said. "We're going to be at their game Saturday. We're looking at them real strong."

Maaco Bowl might look to Big 12

The Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas is supposed to feature a team from the Mountain West and Pac-10, but the Pac-10 might not have enough eligible teams. If not, look for the bowl to take somebody from the Big 12. According to the Las Vegas Journal, Iowa State and Texas Tech are the Big 12's most likely at-large candidates, though Texas could find itself looking for a bowl.

Greenwood to perform at Sun Bowl

Grammy Award winning artist Lee Greenwood will headline the Hyundai Halftime Show at the 77th Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 at Sun Bowl Stadium. Greenwood, who is a two-time Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year, won a Grammy in 1984 and has charted seven No. 1 hits on the Billboard’s country chart.

Posted on: November 4, 2010 8:17 pm
 

Teams, bowls hoping eligibility starts at 5-7

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Yesterday at the College Football Blog, we noted that multiple SEC teams were struggling to become bowl eligible with only a handful of weeks left in the season, and that this was going to be bad business for the league, the teams and maybe most of all, the newly SEC-less bowls involved. One of those teams with an uphill road to 6-6 was Ole Miss , and one of the bowls potentially affected was the Liberty Bowl .

So if you're the Rebels or the Memphis-based Liberty brass, what to do? Hopefully win three games and make the speculation moot. But failing that, as Kyle Veazey of the Clarion-Ledger writes, hope the entirety of FBS falls short in prodcuing bowl-eligible teams and the NCAA opens the door for 5-7 teams to taste the postseason for the first time:
The NCAA's approval in April of 35 bowls and the possibility of a dearth of teams to fill the 70 slots at the end of this season are making some observers wonder if the NCAA will relax its six-win requirement for bowl eligibility.

It's early still to see if that number is in jeopardy, but the margin is razor-thin. Thirty-three teams entered this week's games with six wins. Seventy-one teams qualified for 68 bowl spots last year, according to reports
Trying to project the bowl picture for all of FBS is beyond the scope of this post (that's what this is for), but remove bowl-ineligible USC from the picture, reduce the number of SEC teams available from 2009's 10 to 2010's probable nine, keep everything else the same, and you're already at 69 eligible candidates ... and those same 70 slots.

So if it comes to it, would the Liberty Bowl be above taking a 5-7 Rebels team from just down the road in Oxford?

Regardless of record, the Rebels would be an attractive team for the nearby Liberty Bowl, spokesman Harold Graeter said.
That's a no. (It's worth questioning whether this would be fair to a potential Conference USA champion whose reward for a championship season would be an SEC squad that couldn't even reach .500, but when there's rear ends to be put in seats, that's well beside the point.)

This is the kind of story that's not making a lot of waves right now, since there's still plenty of time for the FBS to hit the magic number of 70 6-6-or-better teams. (Particularly if the NCAA allows teams like Virginia to count a second victory over FCS competition.) But it will be worth keeping a close eye on the final few weeks of the season as the final tally either wheezes across the line or falls short, and as bowls left with unappealing scraps jockey for whatever halfway-interesting match-up they can find.

Posted on: November 3, 2010 4:16 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2010 4:21 pm
 

SEC in danger of failing to fulfill bowl tie-ins

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Though it's been described in some quarters as a "down year" for the SEC , the polls would beg to differ; the league still hogs a third of the BCS top six and more than a quarter of the BCS top 20. A year after Alabama and Florida staged a de facto play-in game for the right to play for the BCS national championship, most bowl projections --- including CBSSports.com's -- currently see this year's meeting between a potentially undefeated Auburn and a potentially one-loss Alabama to be just as critical. Charges that the league's lack of depth was being masked by the Tide's and Gators' dominance have been answered this season as up-and-comers like Auburn, South Carolina , Arkansas , and Mississippi State have more than filled the vacuum left by the decline of Florida and Georgia .

In short, at the top of the standings, it's as good to be the SEC as ever. Too bad the story is a different one in the league's other half, where several teams will have to scratch and claw their way to bowl eligiblity. While fewer bowl teams would be something of a black mark for the league's record, it would be even worse news for the bowls on the back end of the SEC's 9-game bowl tie-in pecking order.

With the league all but guaranteed a second spot in the BCS (likely to go to either the Auburn-Alabama loser or LSU in the event the Bayou Bengals knock off Alabama at home this weekend), the SEC will need 10 bowl-eligible teams to fulfill all of those tie-ins. If they fall short, the struggling Birmingham Bowl -- having already lost its papajohns.com title sponsor and sitting on the ninth and final choice from the SEC pool -- could be forced to invite a Sun Belt also-ran that would almost certainly lead to diminished attendance and TV ratings. The bowls with the SEC's No. 7 and No. 8 choices, the Liberty Bowl and Music City Bowl , are more stable but would no doubt take some form of hit from being forced to choose a lower-rung Big East team or non-AQ at-large squad.

So there's more at stake in the race for bowl eligiblity for the SEC's bottom half than just gift bags and extra practices. CBS projects nine of the conference's teams to make it across the line to the postseason, but this assumes a few results break the SEC's way. Taking a look at the league's eligibility picture ...

Team-by-Team

Auburn, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Arkansas : Each of these teams has already earned postseason eligibility.

Florida : The Gators need only more one win, and if the exceedingly unlikely event they don't get it this week against Vanderbilt , they will Nov. 20 against FCS Appalachian State .

Kentucky : This is where things start getting at least a little dicey. The Wildcats have used the four-mediocre-nonconference-wins plus-two-SEC-victories blueprint to eligibility before and, with only four wins to date, could need it again. Charleston Southern will get them to five, but if the 'Cats botch their Nov. 13 home date with Vandy, they'll have to end their 25-game losing streak to Tennessee (the NCAA's longest between two teams) in Knoxville to make the postseason.

Georgia : With Idaho State on tap this week but a trip to Auburn the following Saturday, the 4-5 Bulldogs are likely to be at 5-6 and in need a win at home over Georgia Tech in the season's final week to go bowling. The 5-3 Yellow Jackets have taken a step back this season but won their last trip to Athens.

Ole Miss: This is where the shots at eligibilty get legitimately long. The 3-5 Rebels will need three wins out of a slate that includes a home dates against Louisiana-Lafayette and Mississippi State and trips to Tennessee and LSU. The Ragin' Cajuns are a gimme, but the Rebels will likely be underdogs in the other three and will need a pair of upsets to make up for their season-opening stunner against FCS Jacksonville State .

Tennessee: At 2-6, the Vols must win out to grab a bowl berth. But they have the schedule to make it happen, at least: vs. Memphis , Ole Miss, and Kentucky at home with only Vandy on the road. But at 0-5 in the SEC and dealing with a quarterback controversy, it's hard to see the Vols running the table even against that soft slate.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores also sit at 2-6, but with Florida up this week, they will very likely be the first SEC team officially eliminated from postseason consideration.

Best-Case Scenario

Kentucky beats Vandy, Georgia beats either Auburn or Tech, Tennessee wins out, and Ole Miss shocks both LSU and Mississippi State to send every SEC team but Vandy into the postseason (four of them at 6-6).

Worst-Case Scenario

Kentucky loses to Vandy and Tennessee. Tennessee loses to Ole Miss. Ole Miss loses to LSU and Mississippi State. Georgia loses to Auburn and Georgia Tech. And only seven SEC teams go bowling.

A Prediction

We'll stick with the CBS line for now: the Dawgs and 'Cats do enough to keep the Music City and Liberty happy, but neither the Rebels nor Vols make it and the Birmingham Bowl scrambles. But should Kentucky lose to Vanderbilt or Georgia to their in-state rivals from Atlanta, there's going to be some very unhappy bowl executives in either Memphis or Nashville.

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