Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:04 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:07 pm
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.
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Tags: Andy Dalton, Bernard Pierce, Bernard Pierce, Bowl Breakdown, Bowl Predictions, Bowl Previews, Bowl Projections, Brett Smith, Chip Patterson, Chris Coyer, Chris McNeil, Gilden New Mexico Bowl, Keys to the Game, Keys to the New Mexico Bowl, MAC, Matt Brown, Matt Brown, Mountain West Conference, MWC, New Mexico Bowl, New Mexico Bowl Preview, Ryan Matthews, Steve Addazio, Temple, Tim Tebow, Wyoming
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: January 8, 2011 12:35 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Basics: Nevada (12-1) vs. Boston College (7-5), Jan. 9, 9 ET
Why You Should Watch: What? Do you want kids to starve or something? We're trying to fight hunger here, people. With football. Didn't you know that when you're starving, by watching football and diverting your body's attention, you keep it from eating itself. It's real science, look it up, I swear. Okay, so maybe the science is a little off, but there's still some other reasons to watch this game. First, it features a Nevada team that beat Boise State earlier this year and won the WAC. The Wolfpack aren't a bad team, and quite frankly, they're a fun team to watch. Finally, there's the fact that after this game, there's only one game left on the schedule. Get in one more college football game while you can, before the long, dark summer creeps in.
Keys to Victory for Nevada: The key to victory for Nevada is very tall and skinny, and when he runs, he reminds me of an ostrich. His name is Colin Kaepernick, and he's one of the more exciting quarterbacks in college football that a lot of people have never really had a chance to see. Just like in every game Nevada plays, how The Ostrich goes, so goes the team. And he could be facing one of his biggest tests of the season.
Kaepernick and the Wolfpack have one of the best rushing attacks in college football. In fact, they're ranked third nationally with 305.9 yards per game. Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua lead the attack. Well, in this game, they'll be going against the top rush defense in the country, as Boston College has only allowed 80 yards a game on the ground. Finding a way to be successful on the ground will be pivotal for the Wolfpack, because even though Kaepernick has improved as a passer, I'm not sure you want him being forced to drop back and throw too many times. Particularly when he's most effective throwing off of play action.
Keys to Victory for Boston College: The Eagles offense has been unreliable all season, scoring a meager 18.9 points a game. So, obviously, if Boston College is going to win this game, it can't afford to get into a shootout. Which means that the defense is going to have to stifle the Nevada ground game to have any shot.
Which means that the linebacking trio of Luke Kueckly, Mark Herzlich and Kevin Pierre-Louis will have to once again step up and keep the Eagles in this game. Of course, you can't win if you don't score points, so Boston College's offense will have to do something when it has the ball. The good news for BC is that running back Montel Harris is expected to play in this game after missing the last few weeks of the regular season with an injury. He's only 126 yards shy of becoming Boston College's all-time leading rusher. If Boston College wants to win this game, they're going to need Harris to set that mark.
The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl is like: that potato chip you dropped on the ground without even noticing. You've spent the last few hours watching television with that bag of chips in your lap. Now the bag is empty, but you're still hungry. That's when you notice the chip sitting on the floor. It's got some lint on it, but still, you wonder. "Do I have another bag of chips in the cupboard?" No, and you don't plan on going shopping for more food right now either. So are you going to eat that chip? You're not sure how long it's been sitting there, and you haven't vacuumed in a while, so who knows what's gotten on to that thing since it's been down there. But you're hungry. What do you do? Are you going to eat it?
Posted on: January 7, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: January 7, 2011 7:22 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Basics: Texas A&M (9-3) vs. LSU (10-2), Jan 7., 8:00 ET
Why You Should Watch: If you're going to the game, you can enjoy the spectacle and experience that is Jerry Jones' masterpiece, Cowboys Stadium. Of course, if you're going, you don't need to be told why to watch, so you can probably click to another article now. EVERYBODY ELSE: Watch this game. Not only is it the only college football game of the day, but its bookends are Thursday's Miami University - Middle Tennessee State pillow fight and tomorrow's clash of the titans between Pittsburgh and Kentucky. Two 6-6 teams facing two teams replacing their coaches. Yeah, you'll want to watch A&M-LSU.
But past all that, LSU has been one of the most must-see teams of the season, with head coach Les Miles turning his endgames into odd exhibitions of anarchy and chaos that end up working out 60% of the time. Imagine this: one-possession game in either favor, ball at either 40-yard line, and 3:45 left on the clock. Are you turning this game off? Of course you're not.
Keys to Victory for LSU: For all the disorder that has characterized the 2010 season, one immutable constant has been LSU's stingy defense. When the Tigers haven't been facing the T-1000 Cam Newton Cyborg, they've been shutting down opponents at prodigious rates; on the entire season, LSU is tenth in the nation in scoring defense and eighth in overall defense, while ranking in the top 20 in passing efficiency defense, rushing defense, sacks, and tackles for loss. This team does not have systemic deficiencies on defense.
That's good, because the Tigers will be tested on defense by a physically talented but inconsistent Aggie offense. Texas A&M has achieved more offensive balance with Ryan Tannehill at QB than when Jerrod Johnson was healthy, but while that's usually just a euphemism for "he's a worse quarterback," Tannehill is actually competent under center, and it's no surprise that A&M has gone on a six-game winning streak (including wins against four bowl teams) with him back there. If the LSU secondary can force mistakes and turnovers, the Tigers will be in good shape, but that's easier said than done; Tannehill hasn't thrown a pick in over 100 straight attempts. That streak may come to an end tonight, but it's not like 13-30 with 4 INTs is a plausible final line.
Keys to Victory for Texas A&M: For all the struggling the Aggies did against Nebraska 's defense in that 9-6 atrocity, they did manage 19 first downs in the affair, and odds are that if the Aggies replicate that effort in moving the chains, they'll score enough to stay in the game for four quarters. And, again, that's when the fun begins when Les Miles is on the other sideline.
The real challenge, then, is going to be getting the ground game going with Cyrus Gray against elite front-level defenders like Drake Nevis and Kelvin Sheppard -- two guys who have made running between the tackles a nightmare for opponents all season long. The Aggies aren't exactly a spread-and-shred type of team, so they'll have to get their yards by grinding and breaking tackles, or anything else in their repertoire to keep LSU from sitting back and taking away the passing game. Want to see how this game goes for Texas A&M? Just watch where the point of attack moves during the first quarter; if Nevis and company are in the backfield with any regularity, it's going to be a long day for the Aggies.
The Cotton Bowl is like: the senior prom. Prom isn't the apex of one's high school arc, and neither is the Cotton Bowl for the bowl season. But they're awfully close, calendar-wise, and this is one of the last chances to see something magical happen. Everyone's getting all dressed up, they're headed to one of the fanciest places in town, and they're going to have one crazy night while they can. Further, if you've ever seen the way a typical high school senior talks to girls, it's remarkably similar to how Les Miles coaches at the end of the game: it's desperate, astonishing, and far more successful than it has any right to be.
Posted on: January 2, 2011 12:12 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Basics: Ohio State (11-1) vs. Arkansas (10-2), Jan. 4, 8:30pm ET
Why You Should Watch: This game will feature one of the more interesting matchups in the BCS this season, and in the bowl games. On one side you have a program that is no stranger to the BCS, nor to facing an SEC opponent (Ohio State is 0-9 against the SEC in bowl games) while there in Ohio State. The other side has a team that's looking around like "Wow." Arkansas has had some success in the last decade, but the Sugar Bowl isn't a stage it's grown accustomed to. In fact, this is Arkansas' first appearance in a BCS game, and first trip to the Sugar Bowl since 1980.
It's also a clash of styles. Ohio State presents an offense that prefers to keep things close to its sweatervest, preferring to move the ball down the field slowly, and occasionally go for the big play. Arkansas is a team that can score from anywhere on the field at anytime, and is literally trying to score on every play. It'll be like a poker game where one guy is pushing all his chips in on every play, and the other is just sitting around waiting for pocket aces.
Keys to Victory for Ohio State: As I mentioned above, Ohio State and Jim Tressel have a very particular approach to football, and if they're going to win this game, it's a formula they'll likely need to stick to. Ohio State's defense is pretty strong, but the best way to keep the Arkansas offense from putting points on the board is to keep the Arkansas offense on the sideline. So while Terrelle Pryor has plenty of talent and nice weapons in Devier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, the Buckeyes best bet is to keep the ball on the ground and in the hands of Brandon Saine and Dan Herron.
On defense, the goal is simple, but not easy to execute: stop Ryan Mallett. Mallett has thrown for 3,627 yards and 30 touchdowns this season, so it will be a key for Ohio State's defense to get pressure on him and not allow him to sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary. Of course, while focusing on Mallett, the Buckeyes can't afford to sleep on Knile Davis. Davis has rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns, and is often overlooked due to the Arkansas passing attack.
Keys to Victory for Arkansas: Now, we know that Arkansas has a high powered offense. One that is 4th in the nation in passing yards with 349.2 a game, but its average of 37.3 points per game is actually below Ohio State's output of 39.4 points a game. So we know that Mallett, Greg Childs and the rest of the Razorback offense is going to make some plays.
The key will be whether or not Arkansas' defense can stop the Buckeyes. The Hogs have lost two games this season. One was a shootout against Auburn that saw its defense give up 65 points to Auburn. The other was a game in which the Hogs only managed 20 points against Alabama. Ohio State will be the toughest defense Arkansas has faced since that game, and the Arkansas defense will have to do its part to keep the Hogs in the game. To do this the Hogs will have to make Pryor one-dimensional. Either take away the pass and force him to beat you with his legs, or take away the running lanes and force him to beat you with his arm.
The Sugar Bowl is like: Well, it's like a big bowl of sugar. It tastes really good, gets you incredibly excited, but in the end, you're just going to crash and it won't really mean anything in the bigger picture. Of course, that won't stop you from doing it all over again.
Posted on: December 31, 2010 11:36 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Why to watch: Why, Northwestern is playing in the Cotton Bowl for the first time in the program's history! Sure, by that we're referring to the venue and not the bowl game itself (that's in Cowboys Stadium) but this is Northwestern's first game in Dallas, period. Isn't that enough? Doesn't history mean anything to you? Of course, it would be nice if Dan Persa -- the man who almost single-handedly put Northwestern in the postseason to begin with -- were healthy and able to play, but a fully Persa'd Northwestern team wouldn't have slid all the way to the TicketCity Bowl. As for Texas Tech , the nation can witness Tommy Tuberville and his neutered, lobotomized version of Mike Leach 's Air Raid offense. That won't be fun, per se, but not every play's a comedy.
Keys to victory for Northwestern: The Wildcats lost a lot when Dan Persa ruptured his Achilles' tendon, but heart appears to be the chief missing ingredient. Even though Persa never played a snap of defense (to the best of our knowledge anyway but you really can't rule this out), when he was out, Northwestern began giving up points in bunches. Illinois roughed the Cats up to the tune of 48 points at Wrigley Field, then Wisconsin rolled up 70 points in three quarters -- the fourth was nothing but random Wisconsin students from the crowd taking snaps on first down, then the Badgers punting on second down out of pity. If Northwestern wants even a fighting chance, it'll need to get its mojo back first. That means Evan Watkins will need to put together a good game under center, and tailback Mike Trumpy will probably have to get 100 yards or close to it just to keep the Northwestern defense off the field. Also, not giving up like 50 points would be ideal.
Keys to victory for Texas Tech: Obviously, step one is getting Taylor Potts off and running (or throwing, anyway); Potts is something of a relic of a bygone era considering his upbringing in the Leach offense, but he still threw nearly 500 times for 31 scores this year. Most of those scores went to Lyle Leong , who is downright lethal in the red zone: 13 of his 17 touchdown catches came in the red zone, with three more coming within 26 yards. MORE OF THAT PLEASE, obviously, but if Northwestern sells out to limit Leong's availability like Oklahoma , Oklahoma State , and Texas all did (all Tech losses), Potts is going to have to figure out how to spread the wealth successfully between the 20s and in the red zone. He did that against Baylor, so it's not as if this is an impossible task.
The TicketCity Bowl is like: Church. You may not enjoy it, but that's not the point and it never was to begin with. This is the first game of the New Year, kicking off at noon on the East Coast and in the morning everywhere else in the States, so odds are that most people watching the game are going to be wishing they were still in bed. Ah, but this is the institution you worship, this combat on this sacred acre of grass, and if anything's going to drag you out of bed with a brain still spitting up champagne and gasping for air, this is it. Get up, get in your seat, and get back to the real world as you watch the first snap of 2011.
Posted on: December 31, 2010 9:27 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Basics: Alabama (9-3) vs. Michigan State (11-1), Jan. 1, 1pm ET
Why You Should Watch: If you're a fan of defensive football, then this game may be your dream matchup. Now, on the surface, not many people seem to be giving Michigan State a chance in this game, and it's understandable. After all, Alabama is the defending national champ and has a bit of a chip on its shoulder following what it feels is a disappointing season. Nobody seems to be paying much attention to the fact that Michigan State has only one loss, and has been a very solid team all season. This one could turn out to be one of those New Year's Day shockers.
Keys to Victory for Alabama: I think the biggest key for Alabama in this game is that it wants to play in it. It's not crazy to think that the Tide might show some disinterest in this one. After all, this is a team that feels it's supposed to be getting ready to defend its title in ten days, or at least in a BCS bowl game. Not playing in Orlando in the "second-tier" Capital One Bowl.
Of course, on the flip side of that, this could be an angry team. One hell-bent on destroying the Spartans. If Alabama cares then I see no reason why it shouldn't pick up the victory. The Tide are more talented than Michigan State at just about every position. Plus, one of Alabama's weakness is it's pass protection and Michigan State hasn't had much of a pass rush all season. Still, that doesn't mean Alabama should fall into the trap of trying to throw all day. Yes, Julio Jones is a monster, but the secondary is probably the one aspect of this game in which Michigan State has an advantage on the Tide.
Instead we should get a healthy dose of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and seeing those two matchup against MSU's Greg Jones is something that every college football fan should enjoy.
Keys to Victory for Michigan State: The Spartans have used a balanced offense to find success all season, and that shouldn't change in this game if they want to pull off the upset. Yes, Alabama is tough against the run, but the Spartans have a few options at running back with Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper and have the ability to wear the Tide down.
Also, just because the Spartans will be without B.J. Cunningham -- the teams leading receiver -- that doesn't mean they don't have options in the passing game. Plus the Tide will be without Mark Barron, which will only help matters. Kirk Cousins has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football this season, and he'll still have plenty of weapons at his disposal in Mark Dell, Keith Nichol, Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum.
The X-factor could be the speedster Keshawn Martin. He's very dangerous in space, so look for the Spartans to try and find him some.
The Capital One Bowl is like: the movie 300. The Spartans will be playing the role of the Spartans, and Alabama is the giant Persian army marching in looking to crush everything and everyone in its path. All that's missing are the air-brushed abs and gratuitous nudity. Will these Spartans emerge victorious, or end up in a pile of bodies?
Posted on: December 31, 2010 8:46 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Basics: Florida (7-5) vs. Penn State (7-5), Jan.1, 1pm ET
Why You Should Watch: Well, first of all, you should watch this game because it'll be starting around the same time you're finally waking up out of your New Year's Eve haze. Nothing like some football to help you shake the cobwebs out of your brain. Oh, and it's also the final time you will have a chance to see Urban Meyer nearly suffer a heart attack on a Florida sideline. Not to mention, depending on who you want to believe, it could also be the final time that Joe Paterno ever graces a sideline.
Keys to Victory for Florida: You could question how Florida will approach this game given everything that's gone on in Gainesville over the last month, but I don't think motivation is going to be a problem. There's no way these Gators want to send Urban Meyer out with a loss. To do this, well, the Gators will have do so something they haven't done all season.
Find some consistency on offense. Whether it's John Brantley through the air, or Trey Burton on the ground, whoever is at quarterback for Florida is going to have to make some plays against this Penn State defense. That means the Gators offensive line, which has been pretty disappointing this year, is going to need to step up the protection. When Brantley is back there he tends to make dumb decisions when facing pressure and has a hard time reading coverage.
The best way to help Brantley would be to get the ground game going with Mike Gillislee, Emmanuel Moody, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. Penn State has had some problems with the run this season, and the Gators should watch the game film of the Penn State game against Illinois and copy Illinois' game plan. Maybe Ron Zook can finally win a bowl game for Florida after all these years.
Keys to Victory for Penn State: Florida is faster and more athletic than Penn State. The best way for Penn State to counter this will be to attack, attack and attack some more on defense. Blitz John Brantley like there is no tomorrow and force him to make decisions he's not ready to make. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the Nittany Lions need to tighten things up against the run.
When Penn State has the ball it should look to exploit the Gators a bit in the secondary. Yes, Evan Royster should still get plenty of carries to soften up the Florida defense, but the Gators don't have Janoris Jenkins in this game and he's not an easy player to replace. Now, the problem here is that as good as Matt McGloin has been, he's not very effective on deep routes. Which means that Penn State should look to attack Florida on shorter routes like slants and hitches.
Finally, it will be important for Royster and the offensive line to have move the ball against the Florida run defense. Royster had a couple of lackluster games against tough run defenses like Alabama and Ohio State this season, and for Penn State to have a legit chance in this game, he's going to have to produce.
The Outback Bowl is like: one of those Rolling Stones farewell concerts. You know that even though they claim it's the last time you'll ever see them performing, they're going to come back eventually. Yes, Urban Meyer may be leaving Florida to spend time with the family and tend to his health, but do you really believe a man that immersed in football is never coming back? I don't.