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Tag:MAC
Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:31 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2011 5:32 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Temple 37, Wyoming 15



Posted by Chip Patterson


TEMPLE WON. The Owls jumped out a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and never looked back, relying on their constricting defense and bruising rushing attack to wear down Wyoming for a 37-15 victory in the New Mexico Bowl.

HOW TEMPLE WON: Temple established the tone on the very first drive of the game. Running back Bernard Pierce carried the ball eight times on a 13 play touchdown drive that totaled 90 yards and lasted nearly half of the opening quarter. Pierce continued to be the focal point of the Owls offense, rushing 25 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Temple's defense also lived up to their national ranking, holding Wyoming to 267 yards of total offense (most of that late in the game) and picking off MWC Freshman of the Year Brett Smith three times.

WHEN TEMPLE WON: With time winding down in the second quarter, Smith led Wyoming on an impressive touchdown drive to cut Temple's lead to 21-7 with just 37 seconds left before halftime. The Cowboys were set to receive the opening kickoff in the third quarter, and momentum appeared to be swinging back in their direction. But the Owls delivered a swift and punishing answer as wide receiver Rod Streater slipped behind the secondary for a 61 yard catch-and-run touchdown. Wyoming entered halftime deflated, and the Cowboys never regained control of the game.

WHAT TEMPLE WON: After three crushing four-point losses, Temple delivered one last time on the big stage to cap a strong first season for head coach Steve Addazio. The Owls 9-win season matches their best finish since joining the MAC, a credit to Addazio's staff for keeping this talented bunch on track after Al Golden's departure. It was also the second bowl win in program history, the first since 1979.

WHAT WYOMING LOST: Dave Christensen did agree in principle to a contract extension before the game, so Saturday's loss wasn't ALL bad for the Cowboys. It was a rough performance for Brett Smith, who will likely try to use this game as motivation as he returns to lead Wyoming next season.

BOWL GRADE: C-minus. It was football, and we were happy to be watching.  But the sleepy second half and Brett Smith's inability to create the big play eliminated much of the intrigue in this matchup.  Props to the Owls for the W, but this one won't make anyone's Top 10 list at the end of the postseason. 

THAT WAS CRAZY: The ESPN cameras caught a Wyoming fan wearing very little but a barrel. Thanks to help from Adam Kramer, of Kegs 'N Eggs, we discovered the backstory behind this passionate Cowboys fan.




How many experts picked the Owls to take care of business on Saturday? Check out the entire slate of selections at the Expert's Bowl Picks.

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 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 15, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 2:22 pm
 

Military Bowl Key Matchup



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 15, 2011 1:52 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 1:56 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Military Bowl

Postedy by Tom Fornelli

TOLEDO WILL WIN IF: This game is going to be a very interesting matchup. In order for Toledo to come out on top they'll have to continue to do a lot of the things that they did all season, and that means put up a lot of points. Something that the Rockets should be able to do, even without Tim Beckman around. The Air Force defense isn't terrible, but it did give up nearly 28 points a game this season. Which means that Terrance Owens, Austin Dantin and Eric Page should find plenty of opportunity to make plays for the Rockets. Where the problems for Toledo may come is on the defensive side of the ball. The Rockets defense gave up 31 points a game this season and while the run defense was acceptable, it hasn't faced a rushing attack like Air Force. When you haven't faced an option offense it's hard to stop one because you're not quite sure what you're seeing right away. The good news for Toledo is they've had the extra time to prepare for it, but how well the Toledo defense executes on the field will play a big role in this contest.

AIR FORCE WILL WIN IF: The key for Air Force in this game is simple: keep Toledo out of the end zone. While Air Force's defense hasn't been terrible this season, it's also had some pretty bad games. There was a three week stretch against teams like San Diego State, Notre Dame and Boise State in which the Falcons gave up 45.67 points per game. Now, Toledo's offense is different than any of those three teams because it provides more of a running threat at quarterback, but it does have a lot of similar characteristics. So slowing Toledo down will not be easy, but it will be a must if Air Force wants to win. The Falcons should find success on offense running the ball, but not enough to where they can afford to get into a shootout.

X-FACTOR: Eric Page. Simply put, Eric Page is the most exciting player in this game. He's Toledo's biggest threat on offense and he finished the season with 112 catches for 1,123 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Air Force pass defense hasn't given up a lot of yards this season, but it does allow opposing quarterbacks to complete 61% of their passes, which means Page should find openings on short to intermediate routes and be a favorite target of both Dantin and Owens.

You can read our complete Military Bowl preview here. 
Posted on: December 15, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 12:46 pm
 

Little Caesars Bowl Key Matchup

Posted by Jerry Hinnen



A look at the key matchup that could decide the Little Caesars Bowl

Purdue CB Ricardo Allen vs. Western Michigan WR Jordan White.

Purdue has a problem. Their best defender by a mile and a half is defensive tackle Kawann Short, whose 17.5 tackles-for-loss led all Big Ten defensive tackles -- yes, ahead of All-Americans Jerel Worthy and Devon Still -- and made him the only Boilermaker on either side of the ball named to either the Coaches' or media's All-Big Ten first team. His 6.5 sacks weren't bad at all, either. But Western Michigan's quick, controlled passing game doesn't really care about trying to run up the middle (the Broncos were 8th in the FBS in passing but 87th in rushing), neutralizing much of Short's impact there, and getting to quarterback Alex Carder before he delivers the ball would be a challenge for any defensive tackle. No matter how good Short is, this doesn't look like the best matchup for him.

Which means the most pivotal defender for the Boilers will be corner Ricardo Allen, Purdue's best one-on-one pass defender and a second-team coaches' all-conference selection. Allen will almost certainly draw the assignment of covering receiver Jordan White, who we're confident will provide Allen with quite the challenge; White's only an All-American who led the nation in both receptions and yards and finished second in receiving touchdowns. And if Allen can't slow down White, the rest of the Boiler secondary is in real trouble; fellow Bronco seniors Robert Arnheim and Chleb Ravenell are tricky veterans who combined for 118 catches and 1,431 yards themselves.

But here's the good news: if Allen can slow down White, the entire WMU operation might slow to a crawl. Not counting a rout of FCS Nicholls State in which he barely played, White was only held below 100 yards receiving twice all season--once again Eastern Michigan, and once against Northern Illinois. In those games WMU scored a total of 32 points (nearly 4 points below their single-game average), posted their two lowest yardage totals of the season, and went 0-2. And if that Carder-to-White connection is disrupted, players like Short mean that the Boilers have far more capacity elsewhere for big plays vs. the Broncos than the Eagles or Huskies.

The task ahead for Allen is a tall one. But the rewards for his success should be substantial.

You can check out our extensive Little Caesars Bowl Pregame preview here
Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:32 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 12:45 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Little Caesars Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

PURDUE WILL WIN IF: They're focused and motivated, which isn't always the easiest task for Big Ten teams squaring off against MAC opposition in the postseason. And let's be honest--a Tuesday afternoon game in Detroit on Dec. 27 doesn't exactly scream MUST-WIN EPIC MATCHUP TO DECIDE FATE OF THE PROGRAM AND ENTIRE WEST LAFAYETTE WAY OF LIFE. It more kind of whispers "hey, guys, a win would be nice." The good news for Danny Hope: after three years of being shut out of a bowl game (including the first two years on Hope's watch), the Boilers should be excited to make any kind of postseason appearance, and they should have enough overall depth and talent to get past a 7-5 MAC team if they are sufficiently motivated. But we'd have said the same thing before their failed trip to Rice in Week 2 of this season, and Western Michigan is much, much better than Rice.

WESTERN MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF: Alex Carder and Jordan White do their thing. Of all the things either the Boilers or the Broncos do, the only one either side does especially well is Western Michigan throwing the ball; they're eighth in the nation at 329 yards per-game behind Carder's pro-grade arm, and White has received All-American notices after leading the FBS in yards and receptions. Purdue, meanwhile, isn't terrible at defending the pass but -- like we said -- isn't great at it, either, ranking 54th in opposing passer rating. Still, WMU hasn't always lived up to that air-it-out billing--Carder failed to top 233 yards in any game of a three-game midseason slump, during which time the Broncos went 1-2 and fell to Eastern Michigan. But as long as the usual Carder/White tag-team shows up, Purude may be hard-pressed to keep pace.

THE X-FACTOR: The Broncos aren't much to look at on defense, statistically speaking -- they finished 100th in total defense -- but they seemed to keep something in reserve for their "punching up" contests, holding Illinois to 23 points and less than 6 yards a play and UConn to 6.2 yards a play in a 38-31 road win. Both YPP marks were above WMU's average (despite them playing in the MAC) and has been a repeating theme under Bill Cubit. On paper the Boilers should certainly be able to make some offensive hay, but the Bronco resistance may be tougher than the numbers make it look.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 5:32 pm
 

New Mexico Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Chip Patterson


A look at the key matchup that could decide the New Mexico Bowl

Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming vs. Temple's defense

Temple's two strongest advantages heading into the New Mexico Bowl are their productive rushing attack and one of the nation's stingiest defensive units. The Owls rank third in the country in scoring defense, with their 13.8 points allowed per game trails only Alabama and LSU. But Wyoming has one weapon to counter Temple's touted D, and he is still just getting warmed up to the college game.

True freshman quarterback Brett Smith graduated early from high school in order to join the Cowboys football program in January, and the offense has not been the same since the 6-foot-3 dual-threat from Salem, Ore. won the starting job. Smith threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns while adding 44 yards and a score on the ground in the Cowboys season-opening win and has been shredding school and conference records ever since. He finished the regular season with 28 total touchdowns (18 passing, 10 rushing) and only eight interceptions, throwing for 2,495 yards and finishing second on the team in rushing with 645 yards. His 3,140 yards of total offense broke Andy Dalton's single-season MWC freshman record, and earned him Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors.

Smith is dynamic and explosive enough to keep the Owls guessing, and Wyoming will need him to deliver big plays and first downs to keep Temple's rushing attack off the field. The Owls' defensive numbers are impressive, especially considering some of the high-scoring teams in the MAC this season. But Temple did benefit from missing Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan in the regular-season schedule. NIU's Chandler Harnish and EMU's Alex Gillett were arguably the best rushing quarterbacks in the conference, with Harnish collecting conference MVP honors at the end of the season.

So before we can crown Temple's defense as the best in the conference, they need to contain a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Before Brett Smith can be considered the future of Cowboys football, he'd like to deliver a bowl win. It's the matchup that will likely determine the winner of the first bowl game in the 2011-2012 schedule.

For more New Mexico Bowl coverage, check out the Keys to the Game and the latest news at New Mexico 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