Tag:Keys to the game
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
Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:07 pm
 

Keys to the Game: New Mexico Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

TEMPLE WILL WIN IF: The Owls can control the game with their defense and a steady ground game. Even in the high-scoring MAC, Temple's defense ranked in the Top 15 nationally in total defense and trail only LSU and Alabama giving up just 13.8 points per game. Complimenting that stout defense is a Top 10 rushing attack led by First Team All-MAC running back Bernard Pierce. First-year head coach Steve Addazio has had the benefit of relying on a steady ground game to keep scores low and take the pressure off a revolving door quarterback scenario. Redshirt sophomore Chris Coyer is expected to get the start under center after injuring his throwing in the regular season finale against Kent State. Coyer served mostly as a rushing threat/change-of-pace quarterback until taking over the starting duties in the last month of the season. If Pierce and backup Matt Brown can get going early, they should be able to rack up the yards against a Cowboys defense giving up roughly 230 yards per game on the ground.

WYOMING WILL WIN IF: The Cowboys can force turnovers and create the big play on offense. Knowing Temple's strengths on defense and in the rushing game, Wyoming will need to take some shots to create explosive plays and rattle the Owls. Thankfully, their best weapon for that task seems up to the challenge. Dual-threat freshman quarterback Brett Smith shattered Andy Dalton's MWC freshman records for total offense with 3,140 yards passing and rushing on the season, earning him conference Freshman of the Year honors. Steve Addazio has gone as far as to compare Smith to a certain former Florida quarterback you might have seen in the NFL headlines recently. Defensively, the Cowboys have to find a way to disrupt Temple's rhythm by creating turnovers. Wyoming led the Mountain West in fumbles recovered and turnover margin, and will need to win that battle in claim another New Mexico Bowl win.

X-FACTOR: Adjustment to the altitude. University Stadium in Albuquerque is roughly 5,000 feet above sea level, creating an atmosphere that many athletes over time have had difficulty adjusting to in regards to getting enough oxygen during competition. With only two bowl appearances since 1979 - and the last one played in nearby Washington, D.C.- it is safe to assume Temple is not used to dealing with extraneous climate factors on a regular basis. On the other hand, Wyoming stormed back from a 28-17 fourth quarter deficit to eventually beat the Ryan Matthews-led Fresno State Bulldogs in double overtime in this same bowl game two seasons ago. As Temple's touted defense works to contain Brett Smith late into the fourth quarter, they'll need every gasp of air they can get to pull out a victory in Addazio's first season at the helm.

For much more on Wyoming and Temple, cruise over to our New Mexico Bowl Pregame and get ready for Saturday's kickoff.

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 12, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 1:23 pm
 

Keys to the Game: New Orleans Bowl

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 12:31 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Army vs. Navy

Posted by Tom Fornelli

ARMY WILL WIN IF: When it comes to a game like this that's not only a great rivalry, but also features two teams who are so incredibly similar to each other, it's usually going to come down to one or two big plays and turnovers. So if Army wants to emerge victorious against Navy on Saturday, it'd be best served to take care of the ball and make sure it's the one making the big plays. Which will be easier said than done. Army's rush offense has been slightly better than Navy's this season, but its passing offense has not been equal. The Cadets average 8 pass attempts per game and are completing only 36% of those passes for 48 yards a game. If there was ever a game to improve those numbers it would be this one, as the Navy defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 74% of their passes this season. If Army can find its usual success on the ground but manage to sneak in a deep ball here and there, then it could be the difference in this one.

NAVY WILL WIN IF: I could essentially copy and paste what I wrote for Army and put it here for Navy. Still, where Navy has its biggest advantage over Army is in its passing offense. It's not great by any means, but it's better than Army's. Navy throws more often and has been more successful doing so. If that continues against an Army pass defense that gives up 8.1 yards per attempt and has allowed over twice as many touchdowns as it has interceptions, then Navy is likely going to win this game.

X-FACTORS: Max Jenkins and Trent Steelman. Both quarterbacks have seen some time on the field for Army all season, though Steelman has found more success throwing the ball. Still, as I said above, one of these two will have to find a way to move the ball through the air in this game. Whichever one is able to could be the single biggest factor in this matchup.
Posted on: December 2, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 4:33 pm
 

ACC Championship Game News & Notes

Posted by Chip Patterson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Greetings from Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers and tomorrow home of the 2011 ACC Championship Game. Both coaches met the media on Friday, and each time was given time for one last walk through before Saturday night's title game. The afternoon began with Commissioner John Swofford's announcement that Charlotte will continue to host the ACC Championship Game through the 2012 and 2013 season.

"The Dr Pepper ACC Football Championship Game has seen tremendous success in Charlotte, and we're pleased to announce they will serve as the host city for 2012 and 2013," Swofford said. "The City of Charlotte has done a terrific job over the past two years and we continue to be appreciative of the enthusiasm and support."

Both coaches echoed Swofford's sentiments, and Saturday night's sellout was mentioned frequently throughout the afternoon. The 2012 ACC Championship Game has been set for Saturday, Dec. 1, and the 2013 title game will be held Saturday, Dec. 7.

More news and notes from Friday:

CLEMSON

- Offensive lineman Phillip Price is listed as probable for Saturday, and head coach Dabo Swinney makes it sound like the senior left tackle will get a chance to earn his time on the field. Price started against South Carolina, but was pulled from the game after position coach Robbie Caldwell "didn't feel good about the way he was reacting."

"[Price] has come back this week and he's had a really good week, and he's gone full speed pass rush and inside and all that kind of stuff," Swinney explained on Friday. "I feel much better about him, but he's got to go and compete and play four quarters tomorrow night."

- Of course Dabo Swinney could not escape Friday's media availability without addressing his response to the alleged comments from Steve Spurrier. Having found out the comments were from a radio broadcaster, not Spurrier himself, Swinney changed his tone significantly.

"I heard today that [Spurrier's comments regarding Clemson] wasn't said, and that's great. It's awful convenient on Thursday. I know this, that if my media put something out that I said and if it was nationally perceived that I said it, I promise you I would correct it.

"I said that last night," Swinney concluded. "I don't know if [Spurrier] said it or not, but there hasn't been any rebuttal. But that's it on that. We'll talk about the ballgame."

- One of the key players in Saturday's game will be Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen. The redshirt junior is one of 19 Tigers to be playing in their second ACC Championship Game, and his presence in the passing game will be needed to keep the Virginia Tech defense spread out and honest.

"Dwayne is a matchup-problem for people. I mean, he's a guy that you've got to know where he is from a defensive standpoint. He's almost 6-foot-4, 255 pounds and can run and jump and handle the ball like a wideout."

VIRGINIA TECH

- Facing an opponent from earlier in the season is not new for Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech. In 2007 and 2008 the Hokies lost to Boston College in the regular season and then defeated the Eagles in the ACC Championship Game. Virginia Tech fans are hoping the trend will continue, but Beamer knows there are no guarantees of avenging the 23-3 home loss from earlier this season.

"I hope we're a better football team," Beamer said. "But again, you know, it's happened to us twice, but that's no sign its going to happen three times in a row. I think we've got to play well. I guarantee they've got the ability to be really good and have been really good at times and just got on the wrong side of that momentum deal."

- Virginia Tech looked much looser in their walk-thru than Clemson. Though that should not come as any surprise. Most of the Hokies' roster was right here in Bank of America Stadium last season preparing to take on Florida State. Clemson's approach and tone was much more serious, as Swinney and the staff are trying to refocus this young team after losing two in a row and three of their last four.

- PREGAME PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 28, Clemson 24

For more analysis on Saturday night's matchup, check out my Keys to the Game

The ACC Championship is for All of the Oranges. We want all of your "Likes" at the new Eye On College Football Facebook page.

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: November 30, 2011 2:45 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Virginia Tech vs Clemson

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Hokies can get pressure on Tajh Boyd and force turnovers. The Tigers are one last-second field goal away from a four-game losing streak, and turnovers have been the glaring difference in the team's play. Clemson has turned the ball over 12 times in that four game stretch. Only 2-10 Maryland has turned it over more down the stretch of the regular season. Logan Thomas has gotten stronger as the season comes to a close, serving as the perfect dual-threat compliment to ACC Player of the Year David Wilson. The offense should be able to find success against Clemson's defense, so winning the ACC Championship will come down to Bud Foster's unit containing the likes of Boyd, Andre Ellington, and Sammy Watkins. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Boyd has been hurrying throws because of "phantom pressure." If Virginia Tech can get real pressure on the sophomore quarterback, they might be able to force a game-changing turnover (or two).

CLEMSON WILL WIN IF: They can establish the rushing attack early. One of the reasons Boyd has been feeling this "phantom pressure" has been a drop-off in Clemson's rushing production. Andre Ellington has been banged up, and just started to look healthy again in the loss to South Carolina. Freshmen Mike Bellamy and D.J. Howard have looked good in spurts, but neither have been able to hit the home-run play they relied on earlier in the season. Forcing Virginia Tech's secondary to commit a player to the run will create single coverage opportunities for Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. But Clemson needs to get that running game going to avoid becoming one-dimensional down the stretch.

X-FACTOR: Sammy Watkins. The ACC Rookie of the Year has been obviously limited by his shoulder injury, suffered in the Tigers' 31-28 win against Wake Forest Nov. 12. Watkins missed the NC State loss, and was held to just 39 yards on four catches against South Carolina. When Watkins was healthy his presence on the field was game-changing, but the freshman phenom was invisible for stretches of Saturday's loss to the Gamecocks. Tigers fans are hoping Watkins will be back in September/October form on Saturday, when he was averaging over seven catches and 100 yards per game.

The ACC Championship is for All of the Oranges. We want all of your "Likes" at the new Eye On College Football Facebook page.

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: November 29, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Keys to the game: UCLA at Oregon

Posted by Bryan Fischer

UCLA WILL WIN IF: The Bruins need a lot to happen if they're going to pull off the improbable and win the first ever Pac-12 Championship game and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Again, they need a lot to happen if last week's loss to USC was any indication. The defense needs stops of course, allowing big plays to Oregon will not only kill them on the scoreboard but severely hamper their ability to come back with an offense that is built to run and can't really throw. The Pistol can give defenses problems if not prepared and it's possible the Ducks don't take the Bruins too seriously given that it's a home game against a .500 team. Toss in some special teams play and there's a slim chance UCLA wins.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: Just do what they tend to do to conference teams - run around them. UCLA is not exactly the marquee opponent Oregon fans (or Larry Scott for that matter) were hoping for once they beat Stanford to essentially win the Pac-12 and host the first ever championship game. Chip Kelly won't mind making a statement, especially one that features (if completely healthy) LaMichael James as he tries to make it to New York once again. The Bruins figure to run the ball so the defense will have to be prepared and should use the preparation for one of the Big Ten teams they'll face in the Rose Bowl.

X-FACTOR: Special teams. If UCLA can make a few plays in the return game (they might have plenty of chances) they could make things closer than many expect. Field position will be crucial for the offense as they likely look to control the clock and keep the ball out of the Ducks hands. Turn the ball over or allow a big return or two and this could get out of hand quickly. The Bruins have their backs against the wall so don't be surprised if they try a few trick plays as well.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 12:50 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Baylor vs. Texas

Posted by Tom Fornelli

BAYLOR WILL WIN IF: The most important factor in this game will be the availability of quarterback Robert Griffin. Griffin did not play in the second half of Baylor's win over Texas Tech after taking a blow to the head and suffering a concussion in the second quarter. Ben Florence came in and did a very admirable job to lead the Bears to victory, but there's a giant difference between the Texas Tech defense and the Texas defense Florence would be facing this weekend. This isn't a knock on Florence, but the fact of the matter is that when you lose a player as dynamic and as special as Griffin, your chances to win a game do not increase. Still, whoever plays quarterback for Baylor in this game, the key will be finding a way to move the ball through the air against the best pass defense in the Big 12. Baylor has a balanced offense and is the only team in the country that averages over 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing per game. Odds are it won't reach both of those totals against Texas, but the good news is that with the struggles Texas has had on offense, Baylor's offense won't need to be at 100% to win this game.

TEXAS WILL WIN IF: Texas is not going to stop the Baylor offense for 60 minutes. The unit is just too explosive and will find ways to put points on the board, so the key for Texas in this game will be the Longhorns offense. Texas isn't built to compete with Baylor in a shootout, but this offense has struggled to put points on the board for most of the season. The good news for Texas is that its best games on offense came against Kansas and Texas Tech this season, who just happen to be the two worst run defenses in the Big 12. Well, the third-worst run defense in the Big 12 belongs to Baylor, as the Bears are allowing nearly 200 yards rushing per game and 5.26 yards per carry. It's also allowed 24 rushing touchdowns this season, more than any other defense in the Big 12 aside from Tech and Kansas. So the Longhorns will definitely want to try and move the ball on the ground in this contest.

X-FACTOR: Case McCoy. McCoy took over the starting job against Texas A&M last week, and although the Longhorns won that game, McCoy didn't exactly light up the A&M secondary, completing 16 of 27 passes for only 110 yards and no touchdowns. The big difference for McCoy this week is that he'll go from facing a defense that has 43 sacks on the season to one that has only 17. Which means McCoy should have a lot more time in the pocket to find open receivers, and if McCoy can finally get the Texas passing game going in this contest, then the Longhorns are a lot more likely to pull off a win. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com