This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of Missouri Tigers taking on the University of Iowa Hawkeyes in the 22nd annual Insight Bowl in Arizona at Sun Devil Stadium.
Missouri, 10-2, 6-2 Big 12, suffered back to back losses to keep them from going perfect on the season but did earn a share of the Big 12 North Division title for the third time in the last four seasons. Head coach Gary Pinkel’s Tigers posses a solid offense that averages 30 ppg and 401.1 total ypg. The Tigers have a balanced attack of rushing for 162.9 ypg and throwing for 238.2 ypg more with 26 touchdowns coming on the ground and 16 through the air.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert controls the Tigers and he has completed 62.2 percent of his pass attempts for 2,752 yards, with 15 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He has also rushed for 4 touchdowns. Gabbert’s often uses his tight end Michael Egnew as his number one option as he leads the team with 83 catches that have gone for 698 yards and 4 touchdowns. If Egnew is covered Gabbert will look in the direction of wide receiver T.J. Moe who has 77 receptions for 893 yards and 6 touchdowns.
In the backfield, the Tigers don’t have a single rusher that has topped 500 yards yet.
Iowa, 7-5, 4-4 Big Ten, meanwhile was ranked in the Top 10 this year, but now finds itself unranked heading into the bowl season. The Hawkeyes ended the regular season with three consecutive losses, all by four points or less, costing the program a chance at the Big Ten title.
Iowa’s strength on offense comes from its ability to protect the ball, committing a total of just 9turnovers and it all starts with quarterback Ricky Stanzi. The senior has thrown a total of just 4 interceptions while completing 64.8 percent of his passes for 2,804 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz will field a team without some of it’s best weapons like the schools all time leading wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who was suspended following a drug-related arrest. Meaning the attention will now have to be focused onto Marvin McNutt who had 51 catches and 798 receiving yards to go with 8 touchdowns.
The Hawkeyes issued another suspension to a key player in running back Adam Robinson, who led the team with 941 yards and 10 touchdowns. True freshman Marcus Coker made three starts and ran for 403 yards during the season but now the spotlight will solely be on him.
Missouri is 12-15 all-time in bowl games, including one previous appearance in the Insight Bowl back in 1998. Iowa own a 13-10-1 all-time record including a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl last season. Missouri holds a 7-5 edge over Iowa, but the teams haven’t met since 1910.
PICK: University of Iowa Hawkeyes
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features West Virginia University Mountaineers taking on North Carolina State University Wolfpack in the 21st annual Champs Sports Bowl features at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
West Virginia, 9-3, 5-2 Big East, earned a share of the Big East title this season, but lost out on the tie-breaker with UConn. West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart Mountaineers won its last four games of the regular season has its offense came alive down the stretch, scoring 35 or more points in three of its final four games and cracking 500 total yards in a finale win over Rutgers. Turnovers however, have been an issue for the Mountaineers, as they have committed 23, including 16 lost fumbles.
Running the offense for the Mountaineers is sophomore Geno Smith, as he was in his first season as a starter, completed 65.8 percent of his pass attempts with 23 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. Jock Sanders served as Smith’s safety outlet with a team-high 64 catches, while Tavon Austin provided a deep threat with 757 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. The Mountaineers also have a threat in the backfield with Noel Devine, though his season was slowed by ankle and foot issues. The speedy back totaled just 884 yards after entering the season as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate.
Defensively the Mountaineers have been outstanding for the most part this season and they rank second in both run with 85.1 ypg and scoring defense at 12 ppg. Bruce Irvin leads the team with 12 sacks while Julian Miller adds 8 to go with a 13 tackles for loss. In the secondary Keith Tandy has a team high 6 interceptions.
NC State, 8-4, 5-3 ACC, suffered a 38-31 loss to Maryland in its regular-season finale that cost the team the Atlantic Division title and a spot in the ACC Championship game. Head coach Tom O’Brien’s offense revolves around Russell Wilson, who is one of the most talented quarterbacks around with a strong arm and mobility. Wilson has thrown for 3,288 yards and 26 touchdowns while adding 394 more yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. Wilson does lack accuracy as he has only completing 58.1 percent of his pass attempts with 14 interceptions.
Owen Spencer is Wilson’s favorite target in the passing game, as he leads the roster with 57 catches and 868 receiving yards. Jarvin Williams is another option and he ranks second behind 46 receptions for 636 yards. The ground game is lead by Mustafa Greene as he has amassed only 584 yards on the season.
Defensively the Wolfpack averages nearly 8 tackles for a loss per game to limit opponents to 115 yards on the ground. Nate Irving has been outstanding for NC State as he has 20.5 tackles for loss on the season and leads the team with 6 sacks.
The Mountaineers own a 13-16 all-time record in bowl games and are coming off a loss to Florida State in the Gator Bowl last season. NC State owns a 12-11-1 record in bowl games with their last postseason appearance came in 2008 and was loss to Rutgers. The Mountaineers and Wolfpack have met previously nine times including twice in the postseason where the Mountaineers holds a 5-4 edge in the series.
PICK: West Virginia University Mountaineers
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the Air Force Falcons taking on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the in the 35th annual AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Air Force, 8-4 5-3 MWC, Troy Calhoun’s Falcons marked their fourth straight season that the service academy has posted eight wins or more. Air Force closed the year out strong with three straight victories, but couldn’t ascend the MWC Mountain, with losses to both TCU and Utah in October.
Air Force will attempt to move the chains by the way of their ground attack, which is so productive that it doesn’t matter that opponents know its coming, they still can’t stop it. Air Force finished second in the nation in rushing this year at a hefty 317.9 yards per game. The passing game plays a distant second fiddle at just 119.5 yards per game, but the team does come in averaging over 30 points per game.
Quarterback Tim Jefferson fuels the attack ranking second on the team in rushing with 769 yards, but has scored 15 of the team’s 40 rushing touchdowns. Tailback Asher Clark is the top rusher with 1,001 yards this season and 5 touchdowns. Fullback Nathan Walker adds to a deep backfield with his 453 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The top receiver on the team has just 17 catches on the year, but Jefferson hasn’t been bad with his arm when the time comes to throw the ball as he has completed 52.2 percent of his throws, for 1,342 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Georgia Tech, 6-6, 4-4 ACC, saw Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets win the ACC and earn a BCS bowl bid last year. However, repeating as champions was not in the cards as they dropped four of its last five games.
The Yellow Jackets can run the ball as well and do so just as much as Air Force does and actually is a tad more productive, ranking first in the country this season at 327.0 yards per game. It all revolves around quarterback Joshua Nesbitt but the senior missed the last three and a half games after breaking his right forearm to Virgina Tech and has yet to be cleared to play in this game. With 2,806 career rushing yards, Nesbitt’s potential absence could be a huge factor as they will have to go with sophomore Tevin Washington who has filled in but he hasn’t been as productive
The good news is that running back Anthony Allen is at full strength and averaging 5.6 yards per carry which has gone for a total of 1,225 yards and 6 touchdown. Tech like Air Force has done a majority of its scoring on the ground with 30 touchdowns compared to the 9 in the air.
This marks Georgia Tech’s first appearance in the Independence Bowl and are 22-16 all-time in postseason play after last seasons 24-14 loss to Iowa in the Orange Bowl. Air Force is making its third appearance in this bowl while being 9-10-1 all-time. They are coming off last years 47-20 win against Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl. This is the fourth time these two teams have met with Georgia Tech winning all three prior meetings.
PICK: Air Force Falcons
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the Navy Midshipmen taking on San Diego State University Aztecs in the in the 6th annual Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.
Navy, 9-3, 4-2 Independent, is on a current four game winning streak and is making its school-record eighth consecutive bowl appearance. A remarkable run when considering the Midshipmen only had played in back-to-back bowl games once in school history and that was in 1980-1981.
The Navy offense revolves around an option attack that has the team ranked fifth in the nation in rushing with an average of 288.9 ypg. The Midshipmen have scored 36 touchdowns via the run compared to just 12 through the air. Quarterback Ricky Dobbs is the driving force for the Navy offense who tops the roster with 860 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. He has passed for 1,380 yards and another 12 touchdowns. When Dobbs does go to the air he often is looking for Greg Jones, who has 577 yards and 4 touchdowns. Dobbs is not the only option with the ball as Alexander Teich is second on the team in rushing and has 825 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season.
Head coach Ken Niumatalolo has a defense that at times has lacked some real consistency but has still pulled together to limit teams to just an average of 22 ppg. Creating turnovers has been an area of strength for this defense, which has recorded 23 takeaways, including 16 fumble recoveries and has 18 sacks to its total.
As for the Aztecs, 8-4, 5-3 MWC, they are one of the most improved teams in the nation and they were rewarded with their first bowl invite since 1998 and it will be in front of it’s student body and community, which could go miles in recruiting the Southern California market. Head Coach Brady Hoke possess a high-powered offensive attack that is producing 35 ppg and 448.8 total ypg. The strength of the unit comes from the passing game handled by quarterback Ryan Lindley, who has thrown for 3,554 yards and 26 touchdowns but has 14 interceptions and only completes 56.5 percent of his throws.
Lindley has two outstanding receivers at his disposal in Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson. Brown leads the team with 1,187 yards and 9 touchdowns with Sampson close at 1,175 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The Aztecs also have a serious threat in the backfield, as Ronnie Hillman is the Mountain West Conference’s Freshman of the Year. Hillman, who had five games of 150 yards or more, set a league record with 1,304 yards on the ground and 14 touchdowns.
On defense, San Diego State have created 28 sacks on the season and ranks 5th in the nation in tackles for loss with 7.5 pg.has helped offset the mere 15 turnovers forced by the defense.
Linebacker Miles Burris has been a real stud on the defense and a force to reckon with as he has 74 tackles, 19 of them for losses and 9.5 sacks on the year.
This is Navy’s 17th bowl appearance and it owns a 7-8-1 record where as San Diego State is 4-4 all-time and looking for their first bowl victory since 1969. Navy and San Diego State have met twice before on the field with the Aztecs getting both victories.
PICK: San Diego State University Aztecs
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of Utah Utes taking on Boise State University Broncos in the 19th annual Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Boise State, 11-1, 7-1 WAC, ran through the regular season with 11 consecutive wins and was among the top five in both the AP poll and the BCS rankings as it possessed both one of the most aggressive offenses in the country, and a defense that few opponents could penetrate. But it all came crashing down for the Broncos on November 26th in Reno when missed field goals near the end of regulation and in overtime left the team with a 34-31 loss to nationally-ranked Nevada. The most anticipated game on the Western Athletic Conference schedule and it came down to kicker Kyle Brotzman and two make-able field goals that went astray. Not only did the miscues bring threats of harm and far-reaching resentment for Brotzman, it also gave the BCS the out they were looking for as BSU head coach Chris Petersen made it clear that there were a number of plays that could have decided the outcome in favor of his squad.
Boise State’s offense might not run exclusively, but being ranked 24th in the nation and second in the WAC with 200.1 ypg means that the Broncos can certainly do damage in that mode and the Utes will have to prepare for such an attack. The newest in a line of tough-nosed running backs for BSU, Doug Martin ran for 1,113 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging six yards per attempt. In Addition, Jeremy Avery also reprised his role as one of the most elusive runners around as he turned in 440 yards and added 11 touchdowns runs as well.
But make no mistake, this Boise State offense rests in the capable hands of junior signal-caller Kellen Moore who was not only named the WAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year, he was also invited to New York to take part in the Heisman Trophy festivities (he finished fourth in the voting). Moore was second in the nation in passing efficiency with a 185.04 rating as he threw for 3,506 yards and 33 touchdowns with just five interceptions. As a starter, Moore is now 37-2 in three seasons and for his efforts he’s been named the WAC’s Freshman of the Year in 2008, and was the WAC Offensive Player of the Year last season.
But with so much attention being given to Moore and an offense that ranks second in the nation in scoring with 46 ppg, it is easy to forget that Boise State also has one of the stingiest defenses in all of college football, limiting foes to just 13 points and 259.3 total yards per game, both of which rank the team fourth in the nation. Ryan Winterswyk earned most of the attention heading into and during the season as he logged seven tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, but because he was on the scouting report for every opponent, that opened the door for teammates like Tyrone Crawford who tallied a team-high 13 TFLs and accounted for 6.5 sacks, and Shea McClellin who made the most of his 26 overall stops by recording a team-best 8.5 sacks. Wrap it all up and Boise State was first in the nation with 3.75 sacks per game and second in TFLs with 8.3 per outing.
As for the Utes, 10-2, 7-1 MWC, they too were one of the hottest teams in the nation early on in the campaign with eight straight wins out of the box however, showed more than just a few cracks in the armor on November 6th when the team hosted TCU and was run out of the building in a 47-7 final. The devastating setback certainly raised more than a few eyebrows as people began to wonder what the true identity of this top-10 team really was.
A week later a trip to South Bend made it even more clear that Utah had been the beneficiary of some weak competition on the early part of the schedule as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish beat the Utes soundly in a 28-3 final. Seven days later the Utes were again on trial, this time at San Diego State, and again the program nearly rolled over and died before slipping by with a 38-34 victory. Add a narrow 17-16 win over a resurgent BYU group and Utah is making its eighth straight bowl appearance.
During much of the 2010 season the Utah offense was unrivaled, scoring at will against defenseless opponents who couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. However, in crunch time the Utes experienced a power outage as they scored a combined 27 points in three games against TCU, Notre Dame and BYU during the final month of the regular season. Quarterback Jordan Wynn had some rough outings for the group, yet he still finished the campaign by completing better than 62 percent of his pass attempts for 233.4 ypg and 17 touchdowns, against 10 interceptions on 299 attempts.
Jereme Brooks and DeVonte Christopher were the big outlets for Wynn as they combined to make 89 catches for 1,288 yards and 10 touchdowns, but it was really the efforts of Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata coming out of the backfield that dictated what the passing attack was able to accomplish. Wide finished with 11 touchdowns and close to five yards per carry as he split time with Asiata who returned with 673 yards and 8 touchdowns of his own.
At 6-4 the Broncos don’t have that much of a bowl pedigree, but when you consider that record dates back to just 1999 one has to be impressed with the program’s consistency in making it to the postseason in the first place. Last season the team was pitted against another non-BCS squad in TCU and captured a hard-fought 17-10 battle in the Fiesta Bowl. The Utes, have a record of 12-4 in bowl games dating back to a 26-0 beating of New Mexico in the 1939 Sun Bowl, have won nine consecutive postseason dates and that’s the longest active streak in the nation and tied for the second-longest of all-time. Last year, the team defeated California in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego by a score of 37-27 under head coach Kyle Whittingham. Boise State has won four of the previous six encounters.
PICK: Boise State University Broncos
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles taking on the University of Louisville Cardinals in the 3rd annual St. Petersburg Bowl but first under the sponsorship of Beef ‘O’ Brady’s at Tropicana Field.
Southern Miss, 8-4, 5-3 C-USA, is making a postseason appearance for the ninth straight season with a team that racked up eight wins this year but their year began and ended the same way, with a loss. After falling to South Carolina in their opener, the Golden Eagles responded with four straight wins. However, the regular season closed out with a 56-50 loss to Tulsa.
The Golden Eagles are no strangers to playing in bowls, having made a postseason showing in 12 of the last 13 years but head coach Larry Fedora has an offense that is very potent on the ground and through the air this year. Taking care of the passing attack is Austin Davis, who completed over 60 percent of his throws this season and averaged 241.5 ypg. He threw for 18 touchdowns while tossing only 6 interceptions. Johdrick Morris was Davis favorite target with his team best 46 receptions for 663 yards and it came from the tight end spot.
There is not one main option that Southern Miss relies on in the ground game that produced 203.4 ypg. The running game showcased a few talented backs like Kendrick Hardy, who ran for 855 yards and 7 touchdowns while Desmond Johnson, had 509 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Louisville, 6-6, 3-4 Big East, head coach Charlie Strong did not have an overly impressive inaugural season, but still claimed Co-Coach of the Year honors in the Big East along with Connecticut’s Randy Edsall. The Cardinals have the potential on the roster to possess a balanced attack, but that was not the case, who fell way short of expectations in 2010. A major reason for the team’s short-comings was due to injuries to a couple of key players in Bilal Powell and Adam Froman. Powell only missed one game on the year, but spent most of the season dealing with nagging injures. However, that did not stop the running back from rumbling for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns on 6.3 yards per attempt.
Froman’s injury was much more severe, and kept the quarterback from competing in four games, while limiting him in other key matchups. In eight games Froman completed over 60 percent of his throws and tossed 11 touchdowns against 4 interceptions. However, in Froman’s absence Justin Burke, performed admirably throwing 8 touchdowns and completed 56.7 percent of his passes
The former conference rivals are meeting for the first time in the postseason with Southern Miss leading the all-time series 18-9-1. Southern Miss is 9-11 all-time in bowl games and is coming off last years 42-32 loss to Middle Tennessee in the New Orleans Bowl. This will be Louisville’s first postseason appearance since the 2007 Orange Bowl and is 6-7-1 all time in bowl games.
PICK: Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Ohio University Bobcats taking on Troy University Trojans in the 10th annual R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl in the Superdome down in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Troy, 7-5, 6-2 Sun Belt, is making its third straight bowl appearance and the fifth in the last seven years. The Trojans started their season in quest of their fifth straight Sun Belt Conference title, it did achieve, the goal wasn’t as easy as it had been in years past. With a little help from Middle Tennessee, which defeated FIU in the regular-season finale, the Trojans finished tied with the Golden Panthers atop of the league standings.
Head coach Larry Blakeney saw his team get out to a good and healthy start of 4-2 and then suddenly witnessed his squad go into a three game tail spin. Red-shirt freshman quarterback Corey Robinson stepped up and help get things back on course. Robinson threw for 3,339 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing over 62 percent of his throws. Helping Robinson’s maturation process was players like playmaker Jerrel Jernigan who will finish his college career as the schools and conference all-time leader in receptions, yards and all-purpose yards. This year the veteran wide-out led the team with 77 receptions and 774 yards while bringing in 5 touchdowns.
With all the attention diverted to the passing game the rushing attack for Troy quietly puts up solid numbers. The team comes averages 151.3 ypg and is being paced by duo of Shawn Southward, 548 yards, 7 touchdowns, and DuJuan Harris, 498 yards, 5 touchdowns.
Ohio, 8-4, 6-2 MAC, opened the year with a poor September, losing three of its first four games, but once the calendar shifted to October the Bobcats went into its regular season finale with a seven game winning streak and a chance to claim its third Mid-American Conference East Division title in five seasons. However that ended for head coach Frank Solich’s team when it lost to a mediocre Kent State 28-6.
The Bobcats though have an offense that are dedicated to pounding the rock because they have two monsters of tackles to go behind in First Team All-MAC Joe Flading and A.J. Strum. The Bobcats average 169.2 ypg on the ground behind Vince Davidson, who is leading the team with 513 yards and 6 touchdowns. To go along with Davidson is a dual rushing attack from the quarterback position. Phil Bates, who is mainly brought into the game to run the football, has rumbled for 508 yards, while starting quarterback Boo Jackson has rushed for 325 yards and a team best 7 touchdowns.
Jackson however is not much of a threat to throw the ball as he is on completing slightly over 60 percent of his throws and 16 interceptions. As for Bates, his passing numbers are a clear indication why he is brought into games, because the young quarterback completes only 40.9 percent of his throws.
Ohio makes its fifth postseason appearance and is back in a bowl game after last year’s 21-17 loss to Marshall in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl. The Bobcats are 0-4 in bowl games. Troy is making their third straight bowl appearance and fifth in seven seasons. They lost 44-41 in double overtime to Central Michigan in the GMAC Bowl last season. Troy is 1-1 in the New Orleans Bowl, beating Rice 41-17 in 2006 and falling 30-27 in overtime to Southern Mississippi in 2008 and are 1-4 overall in bowl games. This will be the first ever matchup between the two programs on the the gridiron.
PICK: Ohio University Bobcats
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Northern Illinois University Huskies taking on Fresno State Bulldogs in the 14th annual uDrove Humanitarian Bowl at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho.
Northern Illinois, 10-3, 8-0 MAC, of the Mid American Conference is making its third consecutive bowl appearance for the first time in school history and is 2-3 all-time in bowl games. Though the Huskies lost a heart breaker in the MAC title game, they still have a chance to go for a school-record 11 wins.
Northern Illinois is now a program that is in transition as earlier this month their head coach Jerry Kill accepted an offer to become the next head coach at Minnesota. So for the time being assistant coach Tom Matukewicz will handle play calling duties before they are given over full time to Dave Doeren, who will become head coach after his Wisconsin Badgers finish up their season in the Rose Bowl.
The Huskies went undefeated in the MAC and in fact won 9 straight games to close out the regular season, with the streak beginning with a 34-23 win at Minnesota. However, even being the top scoring offense in the league at 37 ppg couldn’t help the team when it came to the MAC Championship game against Miami-Ohio. A week after putting up an incredible 71-3 win over Eastern Michigan, the Huskies found themselves with a disappointing 26-21 defeat at the hands of a RedHawks team that converted a late 4th-and-20 play to stay alive.
The Huskies offense is lead by junior quarterback Chandler Harnish, who guides a balanced offense that ranks 13th in nation averaging 37 points. The junior broke a 46-year-old school record by amassing 2,991 total yards on the season. Chad Spann, the MAC player of the year, leads a running game with 264.8 ypg and ranked 7th in country as he gained 1,293 yards for his second straight 1,000-yard season. Willie Clark was often Harnish’s favorite target when he went downfield as he led the team with 38 catches for 514 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Fresno State, 8-4, 5-3 WAC, guided by head coach Pat Hill, is playing in this particular bowl game for the third time in the last seven years and already has wins over Virginia (37-34 OT) and Georgia Tech (40-28) in 2004 and 2007. Coach Hill had trouble guiding the team to wins over the second-tier programs in the WAC this year but almost pulled off an upset of nationally ranked Nevada before losing 35-34 at home. The Bulldogs are currently riding a two game win streak thanks in part to running back Robbie Rouse, who is averaging 109.7 rushing ypg and ranks 13th in the nation on an offense that averages 30 points.
The rest of the Bulldogs offense is managed by Ryan Colburn who has converted almost 62 percent of his pass attempts for more than 2,500 yards and 21 touchdowns against 9 interceptions. Colburn’s often looks downfield to Jamel Hamler who earned all-conference honors as he turned his 47 catches into 725 yards and 5 touchdowns.
A Fresno State squad under coach Hill is known for it’s defense and that hasn’t changed as the team was 6th in the nation in sacks with an average of 3 per game. Senior defensive end Chris Carter is a huge force to reckon with as he had 11 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles on the season to earn the Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year award.
The schools split their previous four meetings, with the Bulldogs winning 55-7 in the most recent game in 1991. NIU is making its third consecutive bowl appearance but its first appearance in the Humanitarian Bowl and is 2-3 all-time in bowl games. Fresno State is making its fourth straight bowl game and is in the Humanitarian for the first time since 2007 but is 2-0 in the event. The Bulldogs are 12-11 in postseason play after last seasons 35-28 double overtime loss to Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl.
PICK: Fresno State Bulldogs
The 2010-2011 bowl season kicks off today and that means the return of the Primetime College Football segments. Usually the Primetime College Football posts are slated for any national televised football game that starts at or after the 6 p.m. CST spot where I finished 76-31 on the season. However, Bowl Games are the true essence of Primetime College Football, with that being said no matter what the start time is, a PCF post will be provided and to kick it off is the fifth annual New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque playing host to Brigham Young University Cougars and the University of Texas at El Paso Miners.
This game takes place on ESPN in Albuquerque, New Mexico and features two former WAC rivals that are playing for the first time since 1998 however come kick off the 2010 bowl season as a couple of .500 programs.
BYU, 6-6, 5-3 MWC, is a program that has been one of the elite in the Mountain West Conference for several years, but fell on hard times in 2010 as this is their first season since 2005 that the Cougars are not going to post a 10-win season. Following a 23-17 win against Washington in the opener, the Cougars dropped four in a row and head coach Bronco Mendenhall refused to give up and thus began the great reclamation project.
The Cougars are operating with a freshman quarterback in Jake Heaps for much of the season after junior Riley Nelson was lost for the season. Heaps finished the season strong having four straight passing efforts of at least 225 yards and tossing 9 touchdowns with just a single interception. Making the second half of the season a bit easier on Heaps was J.J. Di Luigi, who not only led the team in rushing with 819 yards and 7 touchdowns on the ground, he also reeled in a team-high 42 receptions for another 422 yards and a touchdown.
While the offense was slowly building momentum for the Cougars in the second half of the season, so was a defense that allowed a combined 61 points in the final five games. Prior to that run, opponents of BYU had tallied no less than 17 points in any one contest so it was both facets of the team that began to turn the corner when it meant the most. The pass defense for the Cougars was one of the best in the MWC this season, ranking third in the league and 21st nationally with just 187.8 ypg allowed and because of that opponents struggled to generate more than 21.4 ppg on the season overall.
The Cougars defense has also stepped up of late, surrendering 10 points over the previous four games after allowing 27.0 in the first eight. Their pass defense ranked 21st nationally with just 187.8 ypg allowed.
As for UTEP, 6-6, 3-5 C-USA, they built themselves up with early success by posting five wins in the first six games, unfortunately from the middle of the season on the wins became more and more scarce for head coach Mike Price. In fact UTEP has won just once in the last six outings, a 28-14 triumph over SMU during Conference USA play. The Miners who represent Conference USA are the first non-MWC or WAC team to make an appearance in the New Mexico Bowl.
The Miners have been handled by quarterback Trevor Vittatoe for years now and has thrown for more than 12,000 yards in his career and 94 touchdowns. Vittatoe has hit a wall of late as he is only averaging 155.6 yards and has thrown 8 interceptions in his last six games. Unfortunately for Vittatoe, the rushing attack barely made a dent against the competition on most weekends, averaging just 149.5 ypg to place seventh in Conference USA and 69th in the country, Wideout Chris Adams had strong numbers down the field for the Miners with his 44 receptions for 917 yards and 11 touchdowns.
On defense for coach Price he has a playmaker in defensive back Travaun Nixon who leads the team with 3 interceptions and has 69 total tackles.
BYU leads the all-time series with UTEP 28-7-1 and has taken 25 of the previous 27 meetings. The Cougars have won three of their previous four bowl games, including 44-20 over Oregon State in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl last December. Meanwhile, UTEP is back in the postseason for the first time since the 2005 GMAC Bowl when the group suffered a 45-13 loss to Toledo. The Miners will be looking for its first bowl victory since defeating Mississippi 14-7 in the Sun Bowl in 1967.
PICK: University of Texas at El Paso Miners
This game goes down on the ABC network and it features University of Nebraska Cornhuskers taking on the University of Oklahoma Sooners at Jerry’s World.
Nebraska, which begins play in the Big Ten Conference next season, is making its sixth appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game, and has two titles to its credit (1997 and 1999). The Cornhuskers are coached by Bo Pelini, who has led the team to 10 wins for the second straight season, the first time that has happened since 2000-01.
The Huskers, champs of the Big 12 North, took care of Colorado last week at home in a 45-17 final. The Huskers have won five of their last six games, the lone setback coming in a 9-6 struggle with Texas A&M on November 20th.
Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is the first Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in the school’s history, as he has thrown for 1,435 yards and nine TDs, while rushing for 974 yards and 12 scores. That latter figure ranks him sixth in the conference in rushing. When the ball is not in the rookie phenom’s hands, it is typically found with running back Roy Helu Jr, who has rushed for 1,120 yards and 10 TDs, or with Rex Burkhead, who has 822 yards and seven scores. Brandon Kinnie and Niles Paul sit atop the NU receiving chart with a combined 79 catches, 971 yards and six TDs. Kyler Reed has six TD catches himself, and he averages a team-best 19 yards per reception.
The NU offense rolled up 265 rushing yards in last week’s 28-point win over Colorado, riding Burkhead’s 101-yard, one-TD effort. Martinez sat out with an ankle injury, and his status for this contest is questionable. Paul was also held out with a foot injury and he is listed as questionable for this contest as well. Cody Green filled in for Martinez and while he threw for just 80 yards, two of his 10 completions went for scores.
As a team, Nebraska ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring defense 16 ppg and have one of the Big 12 best defensive players in Prince Amukamara.
As for Oklahoma, it is making its eighth appearance in the Big 12 title tilt, and the Sooners are seeking their seventh crown. This game is a rematch of the 2006 Big 12 Championship Game won by OU, 21-7, in Kansas City.
The Sooners, who are under the direction of head coach Bob Stoops, are 10-2 on the season, and won the Big 12 South Division with last week’s 47-41 triumph over rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Oklahoma has won three in a row since suffering through a span of three games in which it lost twice. The Sooners have won three of the last four Big 12 titles, and this year marks their 31st season with at least 10 wins, which leads the nation.
The Oklahoma offense was honored earlier this week with three All-Big 12 First Team selections, among them running back DeMarco Murray and wideout Ryan Broyles. Murray has rushed for 1,053 yards and 14 TDs, while Broyles has an eye-popping 115 receptions for 1,391 yards and 13 scores. Quarterback Landry Jones earned honorable mention accolades after throwing for nearly 4,000 yards (328.9 ypg), 34 TDs and 10 INTs. With an abundance of firepower on offense, it’s no wonder the Sooners average 37 points and 480.1 total ypg.
In last week’s battle with Oklahoma State, the Sooners got 468 yards and four TDs from Jones, who wound up going 37-of-62 with three INTs. He was sacked twice by a Cowboy defense that allowed OU to convert 16-of-27 third-down chances and score on all seven of its trips to the red zone. Several drives stalled for the Sooners though, as they settled for four field goals from Jimmy Stevens.
Oklahoma is giving up 22 points and 369.8 total yards per contest this season.
This game represents the final meeting between these two teams as conference rivals but Oklahoma owns a 44-38-3 series advantage, which includes a 3-0-1 mark in neutral-site affairs.
PICK: University of Oklahoma Sooners
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features University of Connecticut Huskies taking on the University of South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium.
The Connecticut Huskies have a chance to earn a spot in a BCS Bowl game this weekend, as they take on the South Florida Bulls in Big East action at Raymond James Stadium.
The Huskies appeared destined for a sub par campaign following a 3-4 start that included consecutive losses to begin Big East play. After losing 26-0 to Louisville however, UConn rallied and ripped through the toughest part of its schedule. A current four-game win streak, which includes a 38-17 triumph of Cincinnati last weekend, now has Randy Edsall’s squad in position to take the Big East title. At 4-2 within the conference, UConn is tied with both Pittsburgh and West Virginia for first place. Since the Huskies defeated both Pitt and WVU, all they need to do is win this weekend to earn the league’s automatic bid into the Bowl Championship Series.
Jordan Todman ran for 175 yards and three TDs on 31 carries to lead UConn past Cincinnati last weekend. It was another big effort from Todman, who has carried the team at times with 1,481 yards and 14 TDs on the ground. He has helped the team overcome the loss of starting quarterback Cody Endres, who was dismissed in late October. Zach Frazer stepped in as the new starter and he has done a nice job managing the offense, passing for 1,090 yards with just three INTs in 193 attempts. Last weekend, Frazer passed for 121 yards with a TD and INT in the win over Cincinnati.
The Huskies gave up 399 total yards to Cincinnati last weekend, but compensated by forcing five turnovers, including four INTs. This has been the case all season long, as UConn has recorded 26 takeaways to help overcome the 355.5 total ypg the defense is allowing.
Standing in the Huskies way is a USF club that has played well of late, winning four of five outings, and that includes a 23-20 overtime triumph of rival Miami-Florida this past weekend.
Bobby Eveld’s one-yard TD run with two minutes left in regulation forced overtime and Demetris Murray’s one-yard score in the extra session gave USF a 23-20 win over Miami last weekend. Murray scored twice on the ground and finished with 42 yards on 13 carries, while Moise Plancher led the way with 101 yards on 24 totes. Plancher and Murray have combined for 1,153 yards on the ground this season, helping USF to average 150.5 rushing ypg. As for Eveld, he entered the game after halftime due to an injury to starter B.J. Daniels. He completed 8-of-15 pass attempts for 120 yards in addition to his crucial score on the ground. Daniels, who has 13 total TDs on the year, is listed as questionable with a quadricep injury, so Eveld could be in line for the start this weekend.
Defensively, the Bulls have been steady this season and are holding opponents to 19 ppg and 327.6 total ypg.
The head-to-head series, USF holds a 4-3 edge over UConn.
PICK: University of Connecticut Huskies
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Florida State University Seminoles taking on Virginia Tech Hokies in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Frank Beamer’s Hokies opened the year with two straight losses. The first was a hard-fought setback to top-five foe Boise State, but the second was an unforgivable loss to Division II James Madison. Beamer was able to rally the team and ran the table with 10 straight wins and a flawless 8-0 ACC slate to earn a spot in the conference title game. It is the 10th time in the last 12 seasons that Tech has recorded 10 or more victories and this represents the Hokies fourth trip to the ACC Championship Game.
There is no secret to Virginia Tech’s offensive gameplan week-in and week-out, as they like to impose their will on an opponent with their ground assault. The team has certainly done well in that area this season, averaging 211.4 yards per game rushing on 5.1 yards per carry. While the backfield has a number of quality backs in Darren Evans, 748 yards, 10 TDs, David Wilson, 573 yards, 5 TDs, and Ryan Williams, 428 yards, 9 TDs, it is the play of quarterback Tyrod Taylor which has stood out the most.
Taylor earned All-ACC First-Team honors this season for his outstanding play as a rusher, 613 yards, 4 TDs, but more so for his play as a passer, where he has completed 60.2 percent of his throws for 2,258 yards, with 20 TDs and just 4 INTs. Wideout Jarrett Boykin has been the top recipient of Taylor’s improved play under center, hauling in 45 balls, for 728 yards and 5 TDs.
The Tech defense has had its problems with the run this year, 156.9 ypg, 13 rushing TDs allowed. However if an opponent is forced to pass the ball, the Hokies have recorded 32 sacks and 20 interceptions.
Despite being under new leadership in Jimbo Fisher, the Seminoles began the season with high hopes, thanks to a veteran signal caller and a strong defense. Well, the Seminoles didn’t need to rely solely on the play under center, but instead got back to running the football and the result has been a nine-win season to this point, including a 6-2 mark in-conference. The team enters this contest with three straight wins, including an impressive victory over Florida last weekend (31-7). The Seminoles needed some help elsewhere down the stretch but got it, landing them in the championship game, where they will vie for their 13th league title in 19 years as a member of the conference.
Florida State has put itself in a position to earn a BCS Bowl bid thanks to a balanced offensive attack that is generating 390.8 yards of offense. The rushing attack has been productive averaging 177.4 yards per game on 5.0 yards per carry. It is not one workhorse back doing the majority of the damage, but rather a collective effort from tailbacks like Chris Thompson, 686 yards, 6.8 ypc, 5 TDs, Ty Jones, 496 yards, 6.4 ypc, 2 TDs, and Jermaine Thomas, 484 yards, 5.7 ypc, 6 TDs.
The ground game has taken some of the pressure off of Christian Ponder under center as he’s been completing 62.2 percent of his throw for 2,038 yards and 20 TDs. The receiving corps is talented and can make plays when FSU does get vertical like wideout Bert Reed 547 yards, 2 TDs and Willie Haulstead 500 yards, 6 TDs.
The Florida State defense has made strides toward being one of the conference’s most feared units again, as the team is allowing just 17 ppg this year, while yielding 341.3 yards of total offense.
Florida State holds a 22-11-1 advantage in the all-time series and has won 13 of the last 14 meetings, overall.
PICK: Virginia Tech Hokies
This game goes down on the Versus network and it features University of Washington Huskies taking on Washington State University Cougars in Martin Stadium.
The Washington Huskies need a victory in this weekend’s regular season finale to become bowl eligible, and standing in their way is state and Pac-10 Conference rival, Washington State.
Washington was 3-6 at one point this season after suffering three straight losses by 30 or more points. Fortunately, the Huskies have found a way to turn things around, as back-to-back wins have enabled the club to move to 5-6 overall. Last weekend, coach Steve Sarkisian’s club scored a touchdown on the final play of regulation to defeat California by a 16-13 final. A win in Saturday’s Apple Cup would enable UW to qualify for its first bowl since 2002.
Chris Polk was the hero for Washington in the win over Cal last weekend, as it was his one-yard touchdown plunge as time expired that lifted the Huskies to victory. Polk ran for 86 yards on 18 carries, while senior quarterback Jake Locker completed 17-of-27 passes for 237 yards with one touchdown and one interception. D’Andre Goodwin paced the UW receivers with 126 yards and one score, while Jermaine Kearse tallied six catches for 77 yards. The Huskies turned the ball over three times and were just 4-of-14 on third-down conversion attempts, but they managed 349 total yards and put together the game-winning drive under considerable pressure.
Polk has rushed for 954 yards and six touchdowns to pace the club, while Kearse has hauled in 56 passes for 823 yards and 10 scores. Washington is generating just 20 ppg and 345.6 total ypg but are yielding 31 ppg and 400.5 total ypg as 31 of the 42 touchdowns that they have surrendered have been on the rush.
As for Washington State, it has endured another disappointing season, posting just a 2-9 overall mark and a 1-7 record versus Pac-10 competition. Paul Wulff’s team has nothing to play for but pride this weekend, but that should be more than enough motivation in a long-standing rivalry. The Cougars found a way to snap an eight-game skid last time out, as they defeated Oregon State, 31-14, on November 13th. With nearly three weeks to prepare for this game, it will be interesting to see if WSU appears rested or rusty.
Washington State’s victory over Oregon State last time out halted a 16-game conference losing skid for the Cougars. Quarterback Jeff Tuel only threw for 157 yards in that clash, but he completed 67 percent of his passes and finished with one touchdown and zero interceptions. Tuel was also the team’s leading rusher, pounding out 79 yards on 18 attempts. WSU finished the game with 378 total yards and was 10-of-17 on third-down conversion attempts.
Tuel has completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 2,482 yards and 15 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Jared Karstetter leads the squad with 54 catches and six touchdowns, while Marquess Wilson has 968 receiving yards to his credit thanks to an average of 19 yards per catch. James Montgomery leads a rather pedestrian backfield with 400 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Overall this season, WSU is averaging a modest 18 ppg and 323.1 total ypg while opponents are generating 35 ppg against Washington State, which is allowing 457.5 total ypg.
Washington owns a 65-31-6 series advantage over Washington State in the all- time series.
PICK: University of Washington Huskies
This game goes down on the ABC network and it features University of Nebraska Cornhuskers taking on Texas A&M University Aggies in College Station.
Nebraska currently sits atop the Big 12 North Division, and can earn its second straight trip to the conference championship game with a win over the Aggies, who are currently tied with Oklahoma for second place in the Big 12 South. A&M holds the tie-breaker with the Sooners after beating them, 33-19, at home two weeks ago.
The Cornhuskers, who are coached by Bo Pelini and who have won four straight games since suffering their lone defeat of the season will host Colorado next Friday in the regular-season finale, while the Aggies, who are led by Mike Sherman and have also won four in a row since suffering a two-game losing streak will visit bitter rival Texas on Thanksgiving night.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Cornhuskers remained relevant in the BCS National Championship picture with last Saturday’s 20-3 win over Kansas. Freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez returned to action and completed 14-of-26 passes for 167 yards while also adding 71 rushing yards on 11 carries. Running back Roy Helu Jr. rumbled his way to 85 yards and a touchdown, as Nebraska churned out 230 yards on the ground. Wide reciever Niles Paul led all receivers in the game with seven grabs for 79 yards, while Brandon Kinnie finished with six catches for 67 yards.
Martinez has enjoyed a stellar freshman campaign, throwing for 1,328 yards, 9 touchdowns and only 4 INTs, while ranking sixth in the conference in rushing with 957 yards and 12 touchdowns. Helu, Jr, is the league’s fourth-leading rusher with 991 and 10 scores. Overall, the Huskers sit second in the Big 12 in scoring offense at 35 ppg while leading the league and ranking seventh nationally on the ground 282.3 ypg.
The Cornhuskers now boast the nation’s sixth-ranked defense 292.9 ypg, and they lead the country in pass efficiency defense 91.55 while ranking second in pass defense 140.2 ypg. Jared Crick has 6.5 of the team’s 26 sacks, and teammate Lavonte David has an an impressive 106 total tackles.
The Aggies claimed a 42-30 triumph at Baylor last Saturday to improve to 7-3 on the year, which is an improvement over the six wins the team notched last season. Running back Cyrus Gray ran for 137 yards and a career-high four touchdowns against the Bears, is averaging 67.3 ypg and has scored 10 touchdowns. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill improved to 3-0 since taking over as the starter, as he threw for 280 yards and a score against Baylor. Uzoma Nwachukwu caught eight passes for 73 yards to give home 30 catches on the year for 354 yards and two scores.
Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope currently pace the A&M receiving corps with a combined 122 receptions, 1,634 yards and 15 touchdowns, 11 of which belong to Fuller, who is one of the 10 semifinalists for the 2010 Biletnikoff Award and who owns the school record for consecutive games with a catch at 30.
The Aggies currently rank fourth in the Big 12 in scoring offense at 34 ppg while sitting third in passing offense 308.1 ypg. A&M is the league’s top team in terms of third-down conversions, moving the chains 45.7 percent of the time.
Texas A&M’s defense Michael Hodges and Garrick Williams rank one-two on the Aggies tackles list for the season with 84 and 81 with Williams having 4.5 sacks.
The all-time series between these two teams favors Nebraska, 10-3, which includes a 5-2 advantage since the formation of the Big 12.
PICK: Texas A&M University Aggies
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features University of Oklahoma Sooners taking on Baylor University Bears in Waco.
Oklahoma opened the season with six consecutive victories to put the team in position to challenge for a nation title, but losses in two of the next three outings dashed those hopes. Fortunately, the Sooners were able to get back to their winning ways last weekend with a 45-7 romp over Texas Tech. Head coach Bob Stoops team is now 8-2 overall, including 4-2 in Big 12 action, but just one victory this season has come in a true road game.
The Sooners are loaded on the offensive side of the football, and the result has been 35 ppg and 471.1 total ypg. Landry Jones, the team’s quarterback, has completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 3,154 yards and 27 touchdowns against only six interceptions, numbers that certainly put him in contention for Big 12 Player of the Year. Ryan Broyles is sure to get some votes as well, as he has caught 94 passes for 1,196 yards and 11 touchdowns. No other player on the roster has even reached 400 receiving yards through 10 outings, proof of Broyles importance. As for the ground attack, Demarco Murray is expected to play through a rib injury last weekend, and he has 911 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns to his credit.
Opponents are posting 20 ppg and 369.8 total ypg against Oklahoma and Jeremy Beal is a player to watch, as he has posted 16 tackles for loss, including 7.5 sacks.
As for Baylor, it has suffered back-to-back losses to fall out of the national poll. The Bears, who are now 7-4 overall, dropped a 42-30 decision to Texas A&M in front of the home crowd last weekend, their first home loss of the season. Head coach Art Briles group is 4-3 in conference, and this Saturday’s game marks the regular season finale for the Bears.
Baylor put forth another solid offensive showing last weekend against Texas A&M, racking up 503 total yards without committing a turnover. Jay Finley continues to pile up huge stats, as the tailback rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries. Star quarterback Robert Griffin completed 28-of-38 passes for 212 yards, and Baylor made good on 12- of-21 third down conversion attempts.
Unfortunately, the quality play of the Baylor offense was overshadowed by the struggles of the team’s defense. The Bears allowed 427 total yards and five touchdowns, including four rushing scores.
Overall this season, Baylor is generating 33 ppg while allowing 27 ppg to foes. The Bears are racking up 489.2 total ypg, but they are also permitting 424.1 ypg to foes, and the shaky defense has contributed to the 7-4 record.
Griffin is sensational, as he has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,071 yards and 20 touchdowns against six interceptions. Kendall Wright leads the receivers with 63 catches for 798 yards and six touchdowns, while Finley has rushed for 1,073 yards and 11 scores.
Oklahoma has never lost to Baylor, winning all 19 previous meetings.
PICK: University of Oklahoma Sooners
This game goes down on the ESPNU network and it features University of Connecticut Huskies taking on Syracuse University Orange in the Carrier Dome.
The Huskies have put together back-to-back wins after losing two straight outings and dropping below .500. On November 11th, the team stole a 30-28 victory from the Pittsburgh Panthers at home, drawing the squad that much closer to make the cut and becoming bowl eligible again.
Zach Frazer converted 9-of-20 passes for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week against the Pittsburgh Panthers at home, but it was really the play of running back Jordan Todman that drew the most attention as he generated a game-high 222 yards on 37 carries for the hosts in the close call. It also helped that Dave Teggart was there to bail out the offense when it stalled, knocking through all three of his field goal attempts on the night. Except for the Louisville game when he tallied just 80 yards on 19 carries, Todman has rushed for at least 100 yards in every game he has played in 2010 and with his big day last week he now ranks first in the conference and second in the entire nation with 147 ypg. For Frazer at quarterback, the outlook has not been as great, considering he has the passing attack generating a mere 156.7 ypg this season and that has the Huskies ranked eighth in the league and 107th nationally.
Speaking of bowl eligible, that’s where the Orange find themselves after taking down once-mighty Rutgers, on the road no less, last weekend in a 13-10 final. The victory was the third in the last four games for Syracuse. By no means was it pretty, but the Orange did what they needed to do in order to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2004 by slipping past the Rutgers Scarlet Knights over the weekend by a field goal.
Quarterback Ryan Nassib got the ball rolling for the visitors as he hit Antwon Bailey with a four-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter and from there the defense took over. Ross Krautman added field goals of 48 and 24 yards in the third and four quarters, respectively, to tie the game and eventually win it for the Orange. Nassib, who has at least one touchdown pass in every game this season for the Orange, is finally getting a chance to show what he can do after sitting on the bench and watching Greg Paulus take most of the snaps last year. By no means is Nassib a star signal-caller, but at least he’s not making the kind of mistakes that can cost a team too greatly. The scoring offense for the squad is currently ranked 84th in the country with 23 ppg.
Head coach Doug Marrone’s defense is averaging better than two and a half sacks per game, ranking them third in the conference and 19th in the nation. That sort of pressure has allowed the team to limit foes to only 297.1 ypg overall, second-best in the conference and 9th in the nation entering play this week. Give a good part of the credit to the pass defense which has held opponents to just 168.3 ypg this season for 11th nationally.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, both teams have claimed three wins in the previous six encounters.
PICK: University of Connecticut Huskies
This game goes down on the NBC network and it features Army Black Knights taking on the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Yankee Stadium.
This season has already been a success for Army, as it is bowl eligible for the first time since 1996. Much of the praise for the turnaround of the program goes to head coach Rich Ellerson, who has done wonders in just two seasons at West Point. Last weekend, the club defeated Kent State on the road by a 45-28 final.
Army’s opponents are well aware that the Black Knights rely heavily on the ground attack, but that hasn’t stopped Ellerson’s team from racking up 31 ppg thus far. The club averages 272.8 rushing ypg at a clip of 4.7 yards per carry, and of the 38 touchdowns scored by Army’s offense to date, 33 have been of the rushing variety. Jared Hassin leads the attack with 858 yards, and he has nine rushing scorers to his credit. Trent Steelman, the team’s quarterback, has 11 rushing scores and 596 yards to his credit. As a passer, Steelman has completed 56.6 percent of his throws for 798 yards and five touchdowns with only one interception.
Against Kent State last week, Army finished with 62 rushing attempts against just 10 passes. To Steelman’s credit, however, he completed nine of those throws for 149 yards, a major factor in the win. Hassin rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown, while Steelman and Brian Cobb has two rushing scores apiece.
Opponents are posting 24 ppg and 329 total ypg against Army, which has been a mediocre defensive team for much of this season.
As for the Fighting Irish, they carried the weight of back-to-back losses and a wealth of scrutiny into last Saturday’s clash with nationally-ranked Utah. Few gave Notre Dame a chance to win that game, so its 28-3 romp over the Utes certainly opened some eyes. The Irish are now 5-5 overall and need just one more victory to become bowl eligible, something first-year head coach Brian Kelly has identified as a goal.
Head coach Brain Kelly’s offense has been hit as hard, if not hard, by injury than any unit in the nation this season. Quarterback Dayne Crist and tight end Kyle Rudolph have been lost for the season, while tailback Armando Allen and wideout Theo Riddick are both out indefinitely. So not only did Tommy Rees, a freshman quarterback, have the pressure of making his first collegiate start against Utah, the Notre Dame signal caller had limited weapons at his disposal. Rees played with a tremendous amount of poise, and while Utah was determined to limit big plays, the rookie finished 13-of-20 for 129 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Notre Dame finished with a mere 256 total yards in the clash, but the most important number, aside from the final score, was zero, the number of turnovers committed by the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame is generating 26 ppg and 387.4 total ypg, decent numbers for a team that has been ravaged by injury as mentioned. One player that is healthy and continues to dominate defensive backs in Michael Floyd, one of the nation’s truly elite receivers. Floyd has recorded 59 catches for 767 yards and nine touchdowns. Rees, in limited action, has seven touchdown passes against four interceptions and has completed 62.7 percent of his throws.
Foes are scoring 22 ppg against Notre Dame, which is allowing 380.3 total ypg. Notre Dame has 26 sacks and 18 takeaways to its credit, and Manti Te’o continues to lead the defense with 109 total tackles. Harrison Smith has three interceptions thus far.
Notre Dame owns a 37-8-4 series advantage over Army, which includes 13 straight wins over the Black Knights.
PICK: University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of Arkansas Razorbacks taking on Mississippi State University Bulldogs in Starkville.
Last weekend, Arkansas took a break from SEC play to battle Texas-El Paso, and the result of that mismatch was a 58-21 victory. The Razorbacks now own a four-game win streak that has enabled them to move to 8-2 overall and 4-2 in SEC action.
Head coach Bobby Petrino has one of the most explosive offensive football teams in the nation. They are currently averaging 37 ppg and 491.9 total ypg, and it all starts with star quarterback Ryan Mallett. Through 10 games, he has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 2,967 yards and 24 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Leading receiver Greg Childs is out for the season with an injury, but D.J. Williams, Joe Adams and Jarius Wright are all talented targets. As for the ground attack, Knile Davis leads the way with 844 yards and 10 scores.
Mallett was masterful against UTEP last weekend, completing 19-of-26 passes for 215 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Williams scored twice, and Davis racked up 182 rushing yards and one touchdown on only 11 carries.
Opponents are scoring 21 ppg against Arkansas, which is yielding 329.7 total ypg. The Razorbacks are rather mediocre against the run, permitting 4.1 yards per carry and 152.7 ypg. Jerry Franklin leads Arkansas with 70 total tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Mississippi State entered last weekend’s showdown with Alabama sporting a six-game win streak, the longest for the program since 1999. Unfortunately the Bulldogs fell in Tuscaloosa by a 30-10 final.
Head coach Dan Mullen offense struggled against Alabama, a statement that isn’t surprising considering the 30-10 final score. Chris Relf connected on 8-of-16 passes for 70 and was intercepted once before being relieved by Tyler Russell, who went 4-for-7 for 80 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs. They finished with 299 total yards and permitted five sacks, overshadowing a 9- of-18 effort on third down conversion attempts.
Overall this season, MSU is averaging 26 ppg and 374.8 total ypg, and Mullen has used both Relf and Russell in several games. Neither quarterback has been overly impressive throwing the football, but Relf has run for three scores. Chad Bumphis paces the receivers with 38 catches for 545 yards and five touchdowns, while Vick Ballard leads the ground attack with 699 yards and 12 scores.
MSU has been a solid defensive team for the most part, limiting opponents to 18 ppg and 348.3 total ypg. The Bulldogs are particularly tough against the run, holding foes to 121.2 ypg at a clip of 3.6 yards per carry.
Arkansas owns a 13-6-1 series lead over Mississippi State.
PICK: University of Arkansas Razorbacks
This game goes down on the ABC network and it features Oklahoma State University Cowboys taking on the University of Texas Longhorns at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Head coach Mike Gundy’s Cowboys have played at an extremely high level this season, winning eight of their nine games thus far. OSU has won two straight games since its only loss, including a critical 55-28 victory over Baylor last week to give the team some breathing room atop the divisional standings. At 4-1 in league play, the Cowboys control their own Big 12 fate, with games at Kansas and at home against rival Oklahoma following this contest.
There is no shortage of offensive talent for Oklahoma State this year. It is a pick-your-poison unit with great balance. The running game is netting nearly 200 yards per game (195.7) and is fueled by the rushing exploits of All- American candidate Kendall Hunter, who has rushed for 1,240 yards thus far (6.1 ypc) with 14 TDs.
The scary thing is that the ground game plays second-fiddle to the passing attack and very few teams pass the ball better than the Cowboys. OSU is averaging 353.6 yards per game through the air, thanks to quarterback Brandon Weeden and his efficient play. Weeden has completed 67.2 percent of his passes, for 2,982 yards and 26 TDs. It certainly helps to have the nation’s top wideout running routes in the form of Justin Blackmon. The 6-1 sophomore has been incredible this season, hauling in 75 balls, for 1,285 yards and 15 TDs.
The OSU defense has lagged behind the offense and is allowing 28 ppg and giving up huge chunks of yardage 413.3 ypg.
The post Colt McCoy era has been tough to swallow this season, especially in-conference where the Longhorns sport a 2-4 record and reside in the Big 12 North basement. Head coach Mack Brown has lost three straight games coming into this contest, including last weekend’s 39-14 setback at Kansas State. The Longhorns are averaging just 23 ppg, while earning 140.6 yards per game on the ground and 226.8 through the air.
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert has taken his lumps this season as McCoy’s replacement. Garrett has completed almost 60 percent of his passes, but he has only thrown for 1,788 yards, with six TDs and nine INTs. Wideout James Kirkendoll leads the team in receptions and receiving yards but neither number is going to strike fear in the opposition.
The rushing attack has also struggled this season, with Cody Johnson representing the team’s top rusher at a mere 282 yards.
Texas has had much more success on the defensive side of the football this season, limiting foes to 21 ppg and only 267 yards of total offense. The pass defense has been particularly stingy at just 147.9 yards per game.
Texas has dominated this series, winning 22 of the 24 all-time meetings and hasn’t lost to OSU since 1997.
PICK: Oklahoma State University Cowboys
This game goes down on the Versus network and it features University of Oregon Ducks taking on California Golden Bears at Memorial Stadium.
Head coach Chip Kelly owns the nation’s most productive offense and a pretty strong defense as well, which is a perfect 9-0 on the season. The first time that has happened in the 115 seasons the school has been competing in football. The Ducks have soared past the opposition with relative ease this year, with an 11-point win at Arizona State back in September being their smallest margin of victory.
Despite failing to score in the first quarter for the first time this season, Oregon blasted visiting Washington last weekend, 53-16. It was the seventh straight win for the Ducks over the Huskies, and no game during that stretch was closer than 20 points.
Oregon’s high-powered offense, which averages a national-best 54 points and 567.2 total yards per game, utilizes a punishing rushing attack of 305.4 ypg to do the bulk of its damage. Sophomore running back LaMichael James is one of a handful of players still in the Heisman Trophy race, as he has rushed for 1,331 yards and 17 TDs. His 6.8 ypc average leads the team, but he isn’t alone in terms of that kind of production as a total of eight different players average in excess of five yards per carry.
When the Ducks decide to put the ball in the air, it is the job of quarterback Darron Thomas to find the open man, and he has done so roughly 62 percent of the time this year for an average of 230 ypg. He has thrown 22 touchdowns passes against only six INTs, and Jeff Maehl is the team’s leading receiver with 54 grabs for 746 yards and 10 scores.
The Oregon defense is just yielding 17 points and 329.0 total yards per contest. The effort against the run has been good, with foes turning in just 126.6 ypg, and pressure on the quarterback has come in waves as the Ducks have logged 26 sacks. Kenny Rowe has six himself. Oregon has logged 28 takeaways this season, and Cliff Harris has five INTs and Casey Matthews and John Boyett have three apiece.
As for California, it opened the season at 2-2, but has won three of its last five to climb a game above .500 (5-4), and even its Pac-10 mark (3-3) in the process. The most recent outing took place last weekend at Washington State, and the Golden Bears claimed a 20-13 win.
Cal is a perfect 4-0 at home this season, beating up on the likes of UC Davis, Colorado, UCLA and Arizona State by a combined score of 189-34. Going back a bit further, the Golden Bears have won 37 of their last 43 home games.
Jeff Tedford is just three wins away from becoming Cal’s all-time winningest coach, and the Bears are hoping to secure their ninth straight winning season to set a new school record.
Cal junior running back Shane Vereen has been an offensive force this season, rushing for 886 yards and scoring 15 total touchdowns, 12 rushing, three receiving. Vereen’s 90 points have him tied for 10th on the school’s single-season scoring list at the moment, and he is third in the Pac-10 and tied for seventh nationally with 10 ppg.
In last week’s seven-point win at Washington State, junior quarterback Brock Mansion started in place of the injured Kevin Riley and completed 12-of-24 passes for 174 yards. He did not throw a touchdowns pass and was picked off twice. Fortunately for the Bears, Vereen was able to find some running room, toting the ball 25 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Wideout Marvin Jones had just four catches in the game, but turned them into 101 yards to raise his team-leading totals in each category to 42 receptions and 675 receiving yards for the year. He needs just two more grabs to establish his new single-season career high.
The California defense leads the Pac-10 and is among the national leaders in total defense of 299.6 ypg, pass defense 179.7 ypg and sacks 3 pg.
California owns a 39-31-2 advantage in the all-time series with Oregon. Oregon has lost the last three times it has visited Berkeley, last winning there in 2001.
PICK: University of Oregon Ducks
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of South Carolina Gamecocks taking on the University of Florida Gators in Gainesville.
Head coach Steve Spurrier returns to the town where he became a legend and became a champion both as a player and a coach during his time in Gainesville, but has yet to achieve that level of success during his tenure at South Carolina. This season the Gamecocks are 6-3 overall, and they are coming off a 41-20 loss to Arkansas at home last weekend.
South Carolina is a productive offensive team with standout players at the skill positions. Marcus Lattimore leads the backfield with 752 yards and 11 touchdowns, and the freshman is willing to put his head down and take on linebackers to pick up an extra yard or two. Alshon Jeffery is one of the top receivers in the nation. Through nine games, he has recorded 59 catches for 1,034 yards and seven touchdowns. The man in charge of getting the ball to Jeffery is Stephen Garcia, who has played well for the most part. He has completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 2,065 yards and 14 touchdowns with nine interceptions. South Carolina is generating 29 ppg while posting 395.3 total ypg.
Opponents are scoring 21 ppg against South Carolina, which is giving up 369.2 total ypg. The Gamecocks are tough against the run, permitting a mere 3.1 yards per carry and 104.6 yards per game. South Carolina has posted a stellar total of 32 sacks, including a team-high 6.5 by Devin Taylor.
After a 4-0 start to the season, head coach Urban Meyer has suffered through an unthinkable three-game losing streak. Narrow losses to LSU and Mississippi State during that slide seemed to crush any hope that the Gators had of making another trip to the conference title game. However, a thrilling overtime win over Georgia two weeks ago and a romp over Vanderbilt last weekend has the Gators on the cusp of sweeping their SEC East slate for the third consecutive season and 11th time since divisional play began in 1992.
The Gators have scored 32 offensive touchdowns this season, 23 of which have been rushing scores. Tre Burton has run for 10 touchdowns despite the fact that he has only 278 rushing yards to his credit. Clearly, the Gators feature a running back-by-committee approach, with Jeff Demps leading the charge. John Brantley is the starting quarterback for coach Meyer, and he has had the unenviable job of replacing Tim Tebow. Brantley has completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 1,616 yards and eight touchdowns against six interceptions. While the team lacks an elite receiver, there are some talented pass-catchers in the fold.
Opponents are posting just 19 ppg and 292.6 total ypg against Florida, and defense is clearly the strength of the team. The Gators are yielding a mere 121.2 rushing ypg at a clip of 3.5 yards per carry, and a mere seven rushing scores have been allowed. Ahmad Black has recorded a team-high 77 tackles for the Gators, and he has intercepted three passes while forcing three fumbles.
Florida owns a commanding 23-4-3 series advantage over South Carolina.
PICK: University of Florida Gators
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features Mississippi State University Bulldogs taking on the University of Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Head coach Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs are on a roll right now. MSU dropped back-to-back games against nationally-ranked Auburn and LSU, but have won six games straight since, including a 24-17 victory over Kentucky two weeks ago. It is the team’s longest win streak since 1999. The Bulldogs were idle this past week and enter this contest with a 7-2 record overall, including 3-2 in the SEC.
The Bulldogs strength on the offensive side of the football has come on the ground, with MSU ranking among the SEC’s best rushing attacks at 218.7 yards per game, on 5.0 yards per carry. Out of the 30 touchdowns scored by the offense, 19 have come on the ground.
Tailback Vick Ballard has been a scoring machine this season. He is averaging a hefty 6.7 yards per carry this year, with 12 touchdowns. Quarterback Chris Relf is in the mix in the backfield as well, at 4.1 ypc and three touchdowns. Relf has been an asset as a runner, but has had some inconsistencies as a passer, completing just 53.4 percent of his attempts, for 926 yards and seven touchdowns. Chad Bumphis has clearly been the top target in a limited aerial assault, leading the team with 35 receptions, for 502 yards and four touchdowns.
Mississippi State has played strong defense for the most part this season, limiting foes to just 17 ppg. The pass rush has generated 19 sacks, while the defense has recorded 19 turnovers.
Chris White is playing at an All-American type level. The senior linebacker leads the team in tackles (86), TFLs (13) and sacks (5), adding one INT and one fumble recovery as well.
The Crimson Tide have now split their last four games and the chance at playing for a second national title is no longer on the table. The team is still a dangerous offensive team that uses the run at 177.4 ypg to set up the 250.4 ypg in the passing game.
The defending national champions still had an outside shot at defending their crown, but last weekend ended that notion, with a 24-21 road loss at LSU. Now at 7-2 overall and 4-2 in league play, head coach Nick Saban’s squad is two games back in the SEC West, with the start of a three-game homestand to close out the regular season.
With a backfield headlined by Heisman winner Mark Ingram, 6 ypc and nine touchdowns, and Trent Richardson, 6.9 ypc, five touchdowns, its easy to see why the team can usually move the chains on the ground. Running the football well opens things up down the field for quarterback Greg McElroy. On the season, the senior has completed 69.3 percent of his passes, for 2,004 yards and 13 touchdowns. Julio Jones has played at a high level on the outside, hauling in 55 balls, for 758 yards and four touchdowns.
The Crimson Tide lost some serious talent from last year’s defensive unit and although the team is allowing just 13 ppg in 2010, the unit hasn’t made as many game-changing plays. For one thing, the team has failed to generate much of a pass rush, with only 11 sacks this season. Alabama does have 15 interceptions on the year though, led by sophomore defensive back Robert Lester. Marcell Dareus 24 tackles, 8 TFLs, 2.5 sacks leads the way up front.
This is the 95th meeting in this longstanding series, with Alabama holding a 72-18-3 advantage all-time.
PICK: Mississippi State University Bulldogs
This game goes down on the ESPNU network and it features University of Texas at El Paso Miners taking on the University of Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium.
Head coach Mike Price has his Miners bowl eligible after last weekends 28-14 victory over SMU. That victory halted a three-game skid for the Miners, who opened the season with wins in five of their first six games.
Quarterback Trevor Vittatoe leads a UTEP team that is averaging 26.5 ppg and 373.4 total ypg. Vittatoe has completed 55.2 percent of his passes for 2,260 yards and 19 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. Kris Adams is a dangerous wideout for the team, as he has recorded 743 yards and 10 touchdowns on just 37 catches. As for the ground attack, Joe Banyard has rushed for 418 yards and five touchdowns.
Opponents are posting 21 ppg against UTEP, which is surrendering 373.0 total ypg. The Miners have been mediocre against both the run and the pass, and with only 13 takeaways and 11 sacks there has been a glaring lack of big plays made. Trevaun Nixon is tops with three interceptions, but the team clearly lacks a defensive standout.
Head coach Bobby Petrino leads his Razorbacks into this matchup seeking it’s fourth consecutive wins. They are 7-2 overall and 4-2 in SEC action after they crushed South Carolina last weekend on the road by a 41-20 final.
Arkansas, which is averaging 35 ppg and 482.4 total ypg. The Razorback offense is led by Ryan Mallett, an elite signal caller who has completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,752 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Mallett’s top target, Greg Childs, was recently lost for the season with a knee injury, but with D.J. Williams, Joe Adams and other talented receivers in the mix, Arkansas should be able to overcome that loss. Knile Davis has played well at the tailback position, as he has rushed for 662 yards and nine scores.
The Razorbacks are allowing 156.7 rushing ypg and 170.2 passing ypg.
Arkansas won its only previous meeting with UTEP back in 1989.
PICK: University of Arkansas Razorbacks
This game goes down on the FOX Sports network and it features Texas A&M University Aggies taking on Baylor University Bears in Waco.
Head coach Mike Sherman has Texas A&M on a roll, as the team has won its last three outings to improve to 6-3 overall and 3-2 versus Big 12 competition. All three victories during the current run have come by double figures, and last weekend’s 33-19 over Oklahoma was particularly impressive.
There is no doubt that Texas A&M is a potent offensive team, as the club is generating 34 ppg and 474.2 total ypg. The Aggies rely heavily on the pass to move the ball, as they are racking up 311.2 ypg through the air. Jerrod Johnson is an experienced signal caller who has completed 56.6 percent of his throws for 1,974 yards and 14 touchdowns against nine interceptions, but Ryan Tannehill has gotten the nod recently as the team’s starter under center.
Against Oklahoma last week, Tannehill completed 19-of-32 passes for 225 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Cyrus Gray, who has replaced the injured Christine Michael as the team’s starting tailback, ran for 122 yards and a score against the Sooners, while Ryan Swope finished with eight receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively through nine games, Texas A&M is yielding only 21 ppg and 346.9 total ypg. The Aggies are giving up only 92.3 rushing yards per game at a clip of 2.8 yards per carry.
Head coach Art Briles had his Baylor Bears carring a three-game win streak into Stillwater last weekend for a showdown with Oklahoma State, but things quickly got away from the Bears. They were beaten soundly by a 55-28 final, but the team’s 7-3 overall record remains impressive. Also, their 4-2 conference mark keeps the Bears alive in the wide open Big 12 South.
Baylor has the offensive talent to challenge the staunch Texas A&M defense. After all, the Bears are racking up 33 ppg and 487.8 total ypg, and the team has had great success both running and throwing. Standout quarterback Robert Griffin will get some consideration for Big 12 Player of the Year if his team can finish strong. Griffin has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 2,859 yards and 20 touchdowns with only six interceptions. As a runner, the versatile signal caller has posted 416 yards and seven scores. Jay Finley leads Baylor with 904 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, while Kendall Wright paces the receivers with 59 grabs for 780 yards and six scores.
Opponents are generating 26 ppg and 423.8 total ypg against a Baylor defense that certainly has some room for improvement.
Texas A&M owns a 66-31-9 series advantage over Baylor.
PICK: Baylor University Bears