This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of Georgia Bulldogs taking on the University of Central Florida Knights in the 53rd annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee.
Central Florida, 10-3, 7-1 C-USA, the Knights won their second straight Conference USA title with a victory over SMU. The Knights. Head coach George O’Leary is excited that for the next few years he will be able to have true freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey handling the offense. Godrey took over quarterback duties from Rob Calabrese mid-game in the second week against NC State and almost lead them to a huge comeback. Godfrey has a passed for 2,042 with 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while his 165.3 passer rating puts him 8th in the nation.
Godfrey is still young and there will be time for him to come into his own but for the time being the Knights punish opponetts with a ground game that racks up 192.5 ypg. Ronnie Weaver leads the team with 890 rushing yards, while Godfrey is second with 546 and the top three rushes have crossed the end zone 31 times for the the Knights.
Georgia, 6-6, 3-5 SEC, the Bulldogs are one of 11 teams competing in this seasons bowl games who posted sub .500 conference records. Head coach Mark Richt saw his first season that his team did not post at least 8 wins.
The Bulldogs are guided by redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray who has thrown for 2,851 yards and 24 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. Murray thrust into the lineup from opening weekend had to learn on the job without the schools best wide reciever A.J. Green, who was serving a four-game suspension. Green returned to lead the team in receiving, despite playing just eight games, having caught 49 passes for 771 yards and 9 touchdowns.
The offense which has been clicking of late was informed that the 5.4 ypc of running back Caleb King will be done without as he is to miss the game due to academic reasons. Washaun Ealey and Carlton Thomas will be called upon to shoulder the backfield duties.
The Georgia defense is led by a pair of playmaking linebackers in Justin Houston and Akeem Dent. Houston leads the team with 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss while Dent is a tackling machine that ranks second in the SEC with 122.
Georgia and UCF has met just one time prior back in 1999 with the Bulldogs winning.
PICK: University of Central Florida Knights
The 52nd annual Liberty Bowl will see East Carolina Pirates from Conference USA, in their second consecutive appearance, to face from the SEC the Arkansas Razorbacks in Memphis.
The Razorbacks have a long history of participating in bowl games, but unfortunately winning those matchups have been tough for this school. This will be the 37th bowl game for Arkansas, but the team is just 11-22-3 in the postseason, and has lost 12 of its last 14 bowl games, including a 38-7 setback to Missouri in the 2008 Cotton Bowl.
Bobby Petrino’s Razorbacks definitely possessed one of the most dangerous offensive units in the entire nation, as the team produced 37 ppg. The ground game is churning out 136 yards per without a true running back. Michael Smith led the way on the year with 396 yards, while Broderick Green added 392 yards and 11 touchdowns on 4.2 yards per carry. Ryan Mallett was the difference maker throwing for 3,422 yards with 29 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions. Greg Childs hauled in 45 receptions for 862 yards and 7 touchdowns and Jarius Wright collected 37 passes for 591 yards and 4 scores while Joe Adams also caught 7 touchdowns.
The Razorbacks were unable to keep up with the top teams in their conference was because the defense was simply not good enough. The defense allowed 25 ppg throughout the season and was unable to stop opponents on the ground or through the air. Arkansas was gashed for 150.1 rushing ypg, and even worse was their performance against the pass, as teams torched this unit for 251.8 ypg and also tossed 21 touchdowns against Arkansas. The defense however, was one of the top teams in the country in forcing turnovers, racking up 34 takeaways on the year. Pressuring the quarterback was also another solid area for this team, with 26 sacks. The Razorbacks also stepped up their effort when it mattered most defensively, as the team held opponents to just 36 percent on third downs and allowed just 17 touchdowns in 39 red zone chances for the opposition. Jerry Franklin led the way for Arkansas on the season with 84 tackles, while Adrian Davis and Jake Bequette both collected 5.5 sacks apiece.
As for Skip Holtz’s Pirates, they could not find their stride out of the gate in 2009, splitting their first six games down the middle however the Pirates really took off winning six of their last seven games. East Carolina’s bowl history is not as dated as Arkansas but do have a mark of 5-5 in postseason. However, the team has lost three of its last four and that includes a 25-19 setback to Kentucky in last season’s Liberty Bowl.
The Pirates relied on their rushing attack as the team rumbled for 149.6 ypg on 4.1 yards per attempt. 23 of the team’s 37 touchdowns came on the ground and those scores helped ECU average a respectable 27 ppg. Dominique Lindsay was the main source of production rumbling for 1,029 yards and 5 scores on 5.0 yards per carry. The passing attack has not been as successful as the ground game because Pat Pinkney was inconsistent throwing for 2,738 yards and 14 scores against 10 interceptions. Dwayne Harris was the top wideout with 79 receptions, 914 yards and 6 touchdowns. Darryl Freeney was also a solid option for Pinkney and finished the regular season with 42 catches for 624 yards and three scores.
Overall the play by the defensive unit for East Carolina was solid, as the team held the opposition to just 22 ppg. The Pirates did a solid job against the run, limiting teams to just 123.3 ypg however the secondary was torched for 262.3 ypg through the air, and surrendered 23 passing touchdowns. C.J. Wilson led the way with 5.5 sacks on the year, while Scott Robinson added five sacks. Nick Johnson led the team with 94 tackles on the season, while Van Eskridge racked up 93 stops and a team-best six interceptions.
This is the first ever meeting between the two schools on the football field.
PICK: University of Arkansas Razorbacks
The 11th annual Music City Bowl will feature the Kentucky Wildcats of the SEC taking on the Clemson Tigers of the ACC from Nashville, Tennessee.
Kentucky finished the regular season with a 7-5 record, and all five losses came against SEC opponents. The Wildcats opened the season with a 2-3 mark, but five of their last seven outings resulted in victory but lost the finale against Tennessee. Despite that disappointing ending, Rich Brooks did a tremendous job keeping the Wildcats on track despite numerous injuries. The team won at least seven games for the fourth consecutive season, the first time that has been done at Kentucky in nearly a century, since 1909-12. Also, the club set the school record for consecutive non-conference wins with 18, the nation’s second-longest active streak.
Kentucky figures to have quarterback Mike Hartline available for this game who has been sidelined since October 10th when he injured his knee against South Carolina. In the six games that he has played this season, Hartline has completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 802 yards and 6 touchdowns with 7 interceptions. Morgan Newton has played in Hartline’s absence, and he has connected on 55.4 percent of his attempts for 608 yards with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. But it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is because Randall Cobb is the man. Cobb is an all-around player that has 37 catches for 427 yards and 4 touchdowns and rushed for 537 yards and 10 touchdowns. Derrick Locke leads the team in rushing though with 843 yards and 6 touchdowns. Kentucky is generating 27 ppg and 336.1 total ypg.
Defensively the Wildcats are limiting opponents to 22 ppg on 362.9 total ypg. The Wildcats have allowed 16 rushing scores and 16 passing touchdowns and will be without top linebacker Sam Maxwell cause of shoulder surgery.
Dabo Swinney’s Tigers won the ACC’s Atlantic Division with a 6-2 record and are 8-5 overall. Three of the five losses have come by five or fewer points to a team ranked in the current top-10, proof that the club has been competitive all season.
Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker has guided the Tigers to eight wins this year as the starter, tied for the most among freshman signal callers nationally. He has set freshman records at the school for touchdown passes, passing yards and completions. His favorite target is Second Team All-ACC wideout Jacoby Ford, who has 53 catches, while First Team All-ACC tight end Michael Palmer has 41 grabs, a Clemson record for a tight end.
Still all of those players are complimentary to ALL-SGE-NCAA Football Team member C.J. Spiller, who very well may be the best all-around offensive player in the nation. Spiller, the 2009 ACC Player of the Year, enters bowl season with 7,416 all-purpose yards in his career, third best in NCAA history. He needs 349 yards to become the all-time NCAA leader. He has 50 touchdowns in his career, second only to the 56 accumulated by Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. A threat as a runner, receiver and kick returner.
While Clemson is scoring 31 ppg and gaining 366.5 total ypg, the club is limiting opponents to 21 ppg and 317.2 total ypg. The Tigers are led by Brandon Maye, who has posted 103 total tackles, seven of which have been tackles for loss. Ricky Sapp has 15 tackles for loss to his credit, including five sacks, and Clemson has posted an impressive total of 21 interceptions, helping to overshadow the 19 touchdown passes that the club has allowed. The play against the run has been strong, as foes are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.
The Wildcats hold an 8-4 series lead over the Tigers, which includes a 28-20 victory in the most recent meeting back in 2006.
PICK: Clemson University Tigers
The University of Central Florida Knights from Conference USA and Rutgers University Scarlet Knights from the Big East face off at Tropicana Field in the second annual St. Petersburg Bowl in Florida.
The Central Florida doesn’t have far to travel for this game and perhaps that will help them pick up their first bowl win in their third appearance. UCF lost to Nevada in the 2005 Hawaii Bowl and Mississippi State in the 2007 Liberty Bowl, but are back in the postseason thanks to an 8-4 finish under the guidance of George O’Leary.
For Rutgers, it is making its school-record fifth straight bowl game appearance under head coach Greg Schiano who hadn’t been to a bowl game since 1978. Rutgers is 3-2 all-time in bowl games and it has won each of its last three appearances. The Scarlet Knights went 8-4, giving the team at least eight wins for the fourth straight season.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between UCF and Rutgers on the gridiron.
Brett Hodges has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 2,263 yard and 15 TDs while spreading it all around. A.J. Guyton has 42 catches, 559 yards, Rocky Ross 37 receptions, 412 yards and Kamar Aiken 545 yards, 7 touchdowns are the main threats in the passing game. At running back sophomore Brynn Harvey has rushed for 1,077 yards in 11 games and has 14 rushing touchdowns.
The strength of this team though comes on defense, where the unit ranks in the top five in both sacks and rushing yards allowed. UCF has racked up 37 sacks on the campaign, with 11 different players having contributed to that number. However, defensive ends Jarvis Geathers and Bruce Miller are the two biggest reasons for the success in bringing down opposing quarterbacks. Miller leads the way with 12 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss, while Geathers checks in with 11 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Against the run, the Knights are allowing just 82.5 ypg and only 2.6 yards per carry to opposing clubs. The unit has given up just 10 rushing touchdowns and forced 15 fumbles. The success against the run has helped UCF limit foes to only 20 ppg for the season.
Rutgers has true freshman Tom Savage at quarterback and at time has looked the part, completing just 52.3 percent of his pass attempts. He has thrown for 12 touchdowns against 6 INTs while the offensive line has allowed 39 sacks on the season. Tim Brown is their best receiver averaging 20.6 yards per catch and 1,051 yards and 8 touchdowns on the season. Sophomore Joe Martinek paces the ground attack with 923 yards and 9 touchdowns, and true freshman Mohamed Sanu will also get some looks out of the wildcat formations after rushing for 305 yards. The versatile Sanu is also a wide receiver that ranks second on the team with 47 catches and 542 yards.
Rutgers possesses one of the better defenses around and are holding opponents to 17 ppg and 312.2 total ypg while creating 32 turnovers and recorded 34 sacks. Defensive end Jonathan Freeny has helped to create big plays with his pressure off the edge. He currently leads Rutgers with 8.5 sacks and 10 QB hurries and he will need to shine if Rutgers is to stop UCF’s improved offense. Devin McCourty highlights the secondary and he is a shutdown corner that has racked up a team-high 78 tackles.
PICK: University of Central Florida Knights