Tag:Bowl previews
Posted on: December 16, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Maaco Bowl Key Match up



Posted by Bryan Fischer


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

Boise State secondary versus Arizona State's passing game

Some numbers can lie. Boise State's 25th-ranked pass defense is one of them. If you caught any of their loss to TCU, you'll know why: the Broncos are young and can be picked on with speedy receivers going down field. Guess what Arizona State has? Experienced wide receivers who know how to run routes and get behind defenses.

Gerell Robinson is averaging over 18 yards a catch and has topped the 100 yard mark five times this season for the Sun Devils. Aaron Pflugrad gets close to 15 per grab and though he slowed down after a great start to the year, is a veteran who can slip behind a corner and find holes in zone defenses. Jamal Miles is a multipurpose threat and has to be contained in the return game as well. A sore point in past years, the ASU offensive line was much improved this year and has given quarterback Brock Osweiler some time to throw. Outside of their game against Cal to end the year, this has been a pretty pass-heavy offense at the end of the year.

The Broncos secondary did well with time to prepare against Georgia earlier in the year but was torched by TCU (473 yards, five touchdowns) and San Diego State (350 yards, three touchdowns). Osweiler has thrown for over 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns on the year and is tall enough (he's 6-foot-8 if you haven't heard) to see open receivers down the field.

Boise State safety George Iloka was moved to cornerback at the end of the year and the secondary improved so it will be interesting to see how ASU attacks the new-look unit. Things are also interesting considering Sun Devils offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has moved on to the UCLA coaching staff. Very intriguing match up that should determine whether this game is close or a blow out.

You can read our complete Maaco Bowl preview here.

Posted on: December 16, 2011 12:34 pm
 

Keys to the game: Maaco Bowl

Posted by Bryan Fischer

BOISE STATE WILL WIN IF: This is a total mismatch, there's no doubt about it. The Broncos are better coached and a better team - a decent kicker away from playing for the national title. Instead, they wind up in Las Vegas in the swan song for FBS' winningest quarterback Kellen Moore. It's pretty simple for Boise State, win the game by doing what you've been doing for years. Hit big pass plays, run the ball effectively, get pressure using the front four, run a trick play or two. The Sun Devils are 106th in pass defense so it should make for a big game by Moore.

ARIZONA STATE WILL WIN IF: After a disappointing season and a fired coach on the sidelines, this game gives the Sun Devils a chance to end the season on a high note. The defense never did live up to expectations - due to injury and on-the-field play - but getting stops and forcing turnovers give their offense a chance to score some points. Brock Osweiler and company have done a solid job this year but have to remain balanced, even if they are behind in the game. More than anything, the team is going to have to put together a complete game like they did earlier in the year if they are to have a chance at pulling the upset in Vegas.

THE X-FACTOR: You never know how a team going into a bowl game with a departing coach, in this case Dennis Erickson, will play. They could be inspired and pull off the upset against all odds. They could roll over and play lifeless after being down a score or two. Given the way ASU ended the season, it would be a good bet that it's the latter but you never know. These are two talented football teams playing in an exhibition game to end the year, so it's hard to tell who will be motivated to win it. 


Posted on: December 15, 2011 3:53 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 9:17 pm
 

Poinsettia Bowl Key Match up



Posted by Bryan Fischer


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

Ryan Allen/Louisiana Tech pass defense vs. Casey Pachall

Go through the logs of head coaches pre- or post-game press conference and you're bound to find at least one emphasis on winning the field position battle. It's no surprise that would be a focus in this bowl match up, which features some pretty good offenses and defenses that don't mind some help.

Allen is a huge weapon for Louisiana Tech, winning the Ray Guy Award as the country's best punter thanks to 36 punts inside the 20 during the regular season. He can also kick for distance, averaging an impressive 46.31 yards per punt. Being able to pin the TCU offense back will be a huge help for a defense that is ranked 55th in the country and has had issues with spread attacks featuring speedy skill position players.

"When you have a punter like they do, he can change the ball game," Gary Patterson said. "When you get a 60 or 70-yard punt, all of the sudden, field position changes."

Pachall has filled Andy Dalton's shoes pretty well in his first year as a starter. He's seventh in the country in passing efficiency, throwing for 24 touchdowns against just six picks. The Horned Frogs offense is among the most balanced in the country and it certainly helps to able to turn around and hand the ball off to Matthew Tucker, Ed Wesley and Waymon James. But Pachall does have some young receivers that can get down the field if he's allowed time to throw.

"They’ve got three outstanding running backs, they’ve got a big, physical offensive line, they’ve got speed at the wide receiver position, they’ve got a quarterback who has not missed a beat, who has improved steadily throughout the course of the season," Bulldogs head coach Sonny Dykes said. "It’s a great offensive football team. They can pound you, they can ‘big play’ you."

If Louisiana Tech plays sound on defense and doesn't bite on the play-action passes, they should be able to slow Pachall and the TCU offense down some. Having Allen pin them back would be big in winning the field position battle and giving the Bulldogs offense a short field. Force some turnovers and this turns into a winnable game for LaTech despite being decided underdogs to a 10-win team in TCU.

"Our guys have got some grit about them," said Dykes. "We’re going to have to play extremely well to compete against TCU. They are a
team that knows how to win."

You can read our complete Poinsettia Bowl preview here.

Posted on: December 15, 2011 3:47 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 9:28 pm
 

Keys to the game: Poinsettia Bowl

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.


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 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

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Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:25 pm
 

New Orleans Bowl Key Matchup



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