Posted on: December 15, 2011 3:47 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 9:28 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
TCU WILL WIN IF: How's a trip to San Diego before Christmas for a Mountain West swan song sound? The Horned Frogs dominated conference play for the final time, including a memorable upset of Boise State, and will head to one of just four bowls matching up conference champions. Motivation would normally be a factor for some teams coming from two straight BCS bowls but not for one coached by Gary Patterson - as intense and well-prepared a coach as you will find.
"I think the key is, the team that wins bowl games is the team that wants it the most," Patterson said. "What I’ve found is that you usually find out in the first five minutes of the ballgame how that’s all going to go down, with the intensity level and how they do it. I think this is going to be one of the games people talk about, one of the better ball games in the bowl season."
A win in the bowl game would also give TCU 11 wins for the seventh time in a decade. Though they've taken a few lumps, this team is built on defense and linebacker Tank Carder is looking to cap off a great career by slowing down Louisiana Tech's high-powered offense with help from the secondary. The offense is pretty good too, rounding into form as the season progressed. The Horned Frogs have scored at least 27 straight in every game this year and if quarterback Casey Pachall and the offense - sans coordinator Justin Fuente - keep turnovers to a minimum, they should be riding off to the Big 12 with a bowl game win.
"This ball game is a challenge for us," added Patterson. "Not only is it a challenge at the end of the season but it’s a challenge to go into next season, to teach our kids what it’s about to play at a high level. There are no two ways about it."
LOUISIANA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Bulldogs certainly can score some points, averaging almost 450 yards of offense and 35 points per game ever since Colby Cameron took over at quarterback and started throwing the ball around. The offense gets most of the attention but the defense isn't too shabby either with 20 interceptions on the year - good for third in the nation.
"This will be a bit of a measuring stick for our program and where we are headed," head coach Sonny Dykes said. "This has been a great team to coach, we’ve had a fun ride."
A sound game plan that mixes up a few runs as Cameron finds top wide receiver Quinton Patton should be able to move the chains and find the end zone. If the defense can make some plays and slow down the TCU offense, special teams will come into play and the team has a great weapon in Ryan Allen, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter and can help flip the field position battle in favor of LaTech.
"Our guy Ryan Allen had plenty of punts," said Dykes. "We won ball games because of him, especially when we were trying to find an identity offensively early. We were making a quarterback switch and trying to find which direction we were going. Our defense was playing pretty consistent football and our punter was giving us a chance to win. He is a weapon."
"This is the biggest bowl game for us, probably in school history, so we have to see this as an opportunity."
THE X-FACTOR: As always, turnovers. Pachall has been pretty good in not throwing interceptions or fumbling the ball but he has to keep that up in this game. Give Louisiana Tech extra chances to score and things might get interesting. Spread offenses - Baylor, SMU - have hurt TCU already this year and the WAC champions know how to beat teams if the game is close.
Tags: Baylor, BCS, Big 12, Boise State, Bowl previews, Bryan Fischer, Casey Pachall, Colby Cameron, Gary Patterson, Justin Fuente, Key Matchups, Keys to the Game, Louisiana Tech, Mountain West, MWC, Non-BCS, Poinsettia Bowl, Quinton Patton, Ray Guy Award, Ryan Allen, SMU, Sonny Dykes, Tank Carder, TCU, WAC
Posted on: December 15, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 2:22 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Military Bowl
Toledo defense vs. Air Force option attack
I couldn't single out a single player on Toledo's defense for this matchup because when it comes to stopping an option offense like Air Force employs, it's not on one single player. It's a team effort. Everyone must stick to their assignment and execute consistently to be successful.
Something that isn't easy to do when you don't see a lot of option attacks. If it was then Air Force wouldn't have finished second in the nation in rushing yards this season with 320.3 yards per game (shockingly, the top four rushing attacks in the country are Army, Air Force, Georgia Tech and Navy). Unfortunately for Toledo, it's not accustomed to facing such an attack, and to do so will be quite an adjustment.
The best rushing attack Toledo faced this season was Temple, and in that game the Rockets held the Owls to only 145 yards on the ground, a full 111.5 yards below what Temple averaged on the season. More good news for Toledo is that it's 28th in the nation in overall run defense and 48th in the country on defense in yards per carry. So the Rockets can and have stopped the run this year.
That being said, stopping Temple's rushing attack is a lot different than Air Force's. Toledo's defensive line will have to focus more on maintaining their gaps rather than penetration into the backfield to force the ball outside. Once there it will be up to the Toledo linebackers to keep to their assignments.
Don't follow the ball, follow your assignment.
It's impossible to stop Air Force's offense on every play, and they will break through for some big gains, but if Toledo can stick to their assignments it could keep Air Force from being able to sustain long drives without turning to its passing game. And if you force Air Force to pass more than it wants to then you're at the advantage.
If Toledo isn't able to adapt to facing such an offense, then Air Force is going to control the ball and keep Toledo's offense on the sideline. Which would easily tilt this game in the Falcons' favor.
You can read our complete Military Bowl preview here.
Posted on: December 15, 2011 1:52 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 1:56 pm
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 14, 2011 3:20 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 10:59 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Pat Hill left behind some sizable shoes to fill at Fresno State, but the Bulldogs have the man they believe will fill them all the same ... or, where conference titles are concerned, do even better.
Multiple reports (including those from the Fresno Bee) have the Bulldogs introducing former Texas A&M and Air Force defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter as the program's new head coach at 1 p.m. Pacific Wednesday. DeRuyter will continue to serve as the Aggies' interim head coach through their Meineke Car Care Bowl appearance vs. Northwestern.
DeRuyter comes to Fresno with a deserved reputation as one of the college game's best up-and-coming defensive minds. After engineering impressive defensive turnarounds for Ohio and then Troy Calhoun's Falcons, in 2010 DeRuyter took over an A&M defense that had ranked dead last in the Big 12 and 90th nationally in yards per-play allowed in 2009. His first season in College Station those rankings improved to third and an incredible 17th, respectively. Though the 2011 Aggies weren't quite as successful on the scoreboard (going from 34th to 76th in scoring D), they still ranked 25th nationally and second in the conference in yards per-play allowed*.
DeRuyter has yet to coach in the Golden State at any level but is a Long Beach native. He replaces Hill, who went 112-80 at Fresno and took the Bulldogs to 11 bowl games, but never won an outright WAC title.
The Bulldogs' new coach will once again have his work cut out for him, as FSU finished 101st in total defense last year. But if DeRuyter can work his magic there and continue to recruit the strong-armed quarterbacks and explosive playmakers that marked Hill's tenure, there's no reason to think his new team can't contend in the shaken-up Mountain West sooner rather than later.
*Because of the up-tempo, high-scoring nature of most Big 12 games, total scoring and total defense numbers tend to be inflated for conference teams across the board. We like yards per-play a bit better in that situation.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:25 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
A look at the key matchup that could decide the New Orleans Bowl
Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State vs. Lance Kelley, LB, Louisiana-Lafayette
This should be the biggest matchup in this game, as Hillman is one of the nation's leading rushers, finishing third in the country with 1,656 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Hillman also picked up another 221 yards on 20 receptions during the season, as he is the key component of the San Diego State offense which finished 28th in the country in rushing yards. Then there's the Louisiana-Lafayette defense which allowed 3.8 yards per carry and 144.5 yards rushing per game this season. More importantly, the Cajuns allowed 25 touchdowns on the ground this season.
So you can expect the Aztecs to try and take advantage of that, which means the matchup between Hillman and linebacker Lance Kelley will be huge in this game. Obviously, Kelley has ten teammates on defense who will have to help out, but he was the team's leading tackler in 2011 with 107 tackles. Nearly 30 more than his closest teammate.
How successful Kelley is in stopping Hillman, or at the very least keeping him in check, will go a long way in determining which way this game goes. If Hillman has a typical day of 138 yards and a touchdown or two, then San Diego State is going to win. If Kelley can slow him down and force San Diego State's offense into being more one-dimensional, then the Cajuns' chances only improve.
You can check out our extensive New Orleans Bowl Pregame preview here.
Posted on: December 12, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 1:23 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
SAN DIEGO STATE WILL WIN IF: The Aztecs are appearing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1966-67 seasons, and they'd like to make it two consecutive bowl victories as well. To do this the Aztecs should look to exploit a Louisiana-Lafayette defense that isn't exactly top-notch. The Cajuns allowed nearly 30 points a game this season, and allowed 25 rushing touchdowns. Which means that Ronnie Hillman should find some space to run for San Diego State. Not that Ryan Lindley won't have chances of his own, as the Cajuns allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete over 63% of their passes for an average of 7 yards a pop on defense. As for San Diego State's defense, the biggest test will be slowing Blaine Gautier. The majority of the damage the Cajuns do on offense is threw the air, so getting pressure on Gautier to disrupt his rhythmn will make life a lot easier.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE WILL WIN IF: The biggest challenge for the Cajuns in this one will be the fact that they're strength (passing offense) is going against a strength of San Diego State (passing defense). Blaine Gautier finished the season with 2,488 yards and 20 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions, but the San Diego State defense is in the top 50 nationally and second in the Mountain West in defensive pass efficiency. While the Aztecs gave up 15 touchdowns through the air this season, they also picked off 14 passes. The Aztecs also led the MWC with 28 sacks this season. Which means the Cajuns would be helped quite a bit if freshman running back Alonzo Harris can find some success on the ground and not let the Aztecs defense key on the passing game.
X-FACTOR: Ronnie Hillman. Though he's only a sophomore, Hillman managed to finish the 2011 regular season third nationally with 1,656 rushing touchdowns, and he was also sixth in touchdowns with 19. He is the key component of the San Diego State offense, and unless a Cajuns defense that's allowing 144.5 yards per game on the ground can figure out a way to stop him, then this game may not be all that close.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 3:41 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 6:05 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The Big East will go a long way towards remaining a solvent football league this week when, as reported by CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy, they announce the additions of Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, UCF and SMU.
But what do we know about the other four teams joining up? What do they bring to the table? What issues might they have to deal with? We've broken it down team-by-team:
PROS: The Cougars are riding a Case Keenum-led high, having won 22 games in their star QB's last two healthy seasons, including the program's first bowl win since 1980 in 2009. But Houston has plenty going for it off the field, too; their location smack dab in the middle of one of the country's largest television markets (this is going to be a repeating theme) and most fertile recruiting grounds should pay the Big East dividends both in their TV negotiations and on the recruiting trail. If the Cougars themselves can capitalize on their new BCS status on the trails in Houston and nearby Louisiana, they could be a power for years to come.
CONS: What happens when Keenum and head coach Kevin Sumlin --as seems increasingly likely -- both depart for greener pastures? This is still a program that, as mentioned, has just one bowl win in the past 31 years and was in truly sorry shape when Art Briles (with Sumlin in tow) arrived in 2003. The wrong hire in the wake of Sumlin's exit could return the Cougars to their doormat days in a hurry. And as nice as the Houston market is, the Cougars still need to make more inroads into it; fulfilling a promise to expand or replace 32,000-seat Robertson Stadium would be a plus.
PROS: As with the Cougars, Dallas-based SMU has the advantage of being located in one of the nation's biggest metro markets, a major plus for the television bean counters. But the Mustangs also have an administration that hasn't been shy about throwing its financial support behind its formerly woebegone program, and that's not a "Pony Express" joke; the school opened Gerald J. Ford Stadium just 11 years ago and four seasons back ponied up the cash (that pun's intended) to lure June Jones from Hawaii. Result: three straight bowl bids after a 25-year drought, some of the best recruiting classes in Conference USA, and noticeably increased fan interest and attendance.
CONS: If the Mustangs can hang onto Jones, or replace him with another smart (and duly expensive) hire, they have more than enough potential to be a respectable member of the Big East for some time to come. (The league's higher-ups have to appreciate that the Mustangs defeated Big East deserters TCU this past season.) But the Dallas market and surrounding recruiting grounds are so ultra-competitive, turning SMU's resources and location into a legitimate BCS contender may take quite a few years and even more support from the SMU fanbase, which was called out by an SMU player this season for its lack of enthusiasm.
PROS: If there's any school that's put its money where its mouth is when it comes to supporting athletics, it's UCF, which opened the $55 million, 45,00-seat on-campus Bright House Networks Stadium four years ago amongst multiple other major facilities upgrades. Though a 5-7 2011 season has been a major disappointment for George O'Leary's program, this is still a team that's won two C-USA titles and earned three bowl bids in the past five years. As the second-largest school in the country in terms of enrollment and the only major college football program in the sizable Orlando market, a move to the Big East and a few years of consistent winning could give the Knights the push on the recruiting trail needed to become a legit BCS contender.
CONS: Of course, that's all assuming the NCAA Committee on Infractions doesn't give the program the USC treatment in the wake of the recent allegations against exiled athletic director Keith Tribble. Though the Orlando market is an obvious TV positive, the Knight's central Florida location is both a blessing and a curse; while there's plenty of athletes available around which O'Leary (or his successor) can build a successful program, there's also few (if any) areas of the country where the competition for those athletes is more cutthroat. A few NCAA-hamstrung poor seasons could deal the program a blow that could take it years to recover from.
SAN DIEGO STATE
PROS: Long regarded as the "sleeping giant" of the Mountain West, the Aztecs finally went some way towards waking up with a 9-4 2010 season and just their second bowl berth in 19 years--a campaign that resulted in an attendance surge that ranked amongst the nation's best. Despite the loss of head coach Brady Hoke and multiple NFL talents, an 8-4 year and New Orleans Bowl berth wasn't a bad follow-up. Thanks to their access to California's bountiful recruiting grounds and the TV-friendly San Diego market, another good year or two for Rocky Long should lay the foundation for success for years to come.
CONS: As much potential as SDSU has on paper, this is still a program with just four bowl appearances and one win since 1969; just because it looks like it should be easy to win here doesn't mean it is. More than any of the other addditions save Boise, SDSU will add a sizable chunk to opponent's travel bills. And Long, already 61 years old, may not be the long-term answer at head coach; if he's not, will the Aztec brass be shrewd enough (or spend enough) to find another Hoke?
Posted on: December 5, 2011 3:29 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
With the BCS bowl selections coming out on Sunday, despite the fact that Boise State finished the regular season ranked seventh in the BCS, Chris Petersen's Broncos are headed to the Las Vegas Bowl to face Arizona State. Meanwhile, two teams who finished below Boise State in the rankings, Michigan and Virginia Tech, will meet in the Sugar Bowl.
Well, as you can imagine, though Peterson is looking forward to his team's game against Arizona State and appreciates that his team gets to play an opponent from a BCS conference this season, he's not exactly a huge fan of the BCS system. He didn't hide his feelings about the subject while talking to reporters on Monday, either.
"I got to tell you, I'm even tired of the BCS, even [the] name," said Petersen.
"I think everybody is just very tired of the BCS, that's the bottom line. Everybody's frustrated, nobody really knows what to do anymore. It doesn't make sense. I don't think any one is happy, anywhere. They say it's the one and two best teams, there's even controversy on that. The whole thing needs to be changed there's no question about it."
Petersen then went on to talk about some ways to change the current system, including the implementation of a "plus-one" system and changing the way rankings are done.
"I think the best model is something like the basketball guys do," he said. "Where you get a committee who is ranking these teams all throughout the year, and every week you see where they are. Maybe it's halfway through the season you start ranking them and things just fall out. Like we said, ranking them early makes no sense. Then you pare the bowls down, there's too many bowls, and then you play a "plus-one." You get the top four teams, and it's still subjective, but at least it's closer. Right now nothing makes any sense."
While I'm not sure about the committee -- who is on it and where do their loyalties lie? -- I completely agree with Petersen on the aspect of preseason rankings. I've always felt those were some of the stupidest things we do in the world of college football. How in the world we're supposed to rank teams we haven't even seen play yet is just baffling, and they have a huge impact on how the rankings look the rest of the season.
I mean, what would the voters of the coaches poll have thought of Oklahoma State if the Cowboys hadn't began the season ranked 8th while Alabama was 2nd? You've already declared Alabama better than Oklahoma State without seeing a single play, and that perception sticks all season.
As for the "plus-one," I've generally been in support of that idea as well, though that's not entirely fair either. Particularly in a season like the one we've just had. LSU has already proven that it is the best team in the country, and deserves its berth in the title game. Why should it now have to beat Stanford or somebody else to get there?
Though at the same time you could ask why LSU needs to beat Alabama twice to prove the same thing.
You can hear the audio of Petersen's entire interview here.