This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of Oregon Ducks taking on Auburn University Tigers in the 5th actual BCS National Championship Game to be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Auburn, 13-0, 8-0 SEC, Tigers have had a magical season in part to the play of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton as the team went undefeated on the year. Head coach Gene Chizik Tigers definitely had some scares along the way to reaching Glendale as Clemson took them into overtime and they had to rally to defeat the defending national champion Alabama while a lot of speculation surrounded Newton. The Tigers carried that over that momentum into the SEC Championship game where they routed South Carolina.
The Tigers put up some gaudy offensive numbers as they ranked 4th in the nation with 42 ppg, 5th in rushing at 287.2 ypg and 7th in total offense at 497.7 ypg. Newton was the reason for those numbers as the junior quarterback rushed for 1,409 yards and 20 touchdowns while throwing for 2,589 yards and 28 touchdowns with 6 interceptions.
Newton was definitely the showcase of the offense but did share the spotlight at times with running backs Michael Dyer, who rushed for 950 yards and 5 touchdowns and Onterio McCalebb, 763 yards and 9 touchdowns. When Newton looked to throw the ball he wide receivers more than capable of catching his passes like Darvin Adams who had 48 receptions for 909 yards and 7 touchdowns and Emory Blake’s 500 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Defensively the Tigers as whole is nothing all that spectacular but they do have an impact player in junior tackle Nick Fairley who has 21 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks on the season.
The Tigers have one national title to their credit but that came back in 1957.
Oregon, 12-0, 9-0 Pac-10, Ducks navigated through their season without much of a fight except for a game in mid November against California where they came out with a 15-13 win. The rest of the season second year head coach Chip Kelly watched as his team destroyed the competition, by winning the rest of their 11 games by double digits. The Ducks won it’s second straight Pac-10 title and became the first team in conference history to win nine league games.
Like Auburn, Oregon is too an offensive jugernaught as they led the nation in scoring with 49 ppg and total offense at 537.5 ypg while ranking 4th in rushing with 303.8 ypg.
It is Oregon’s team speed that presents the most problems for teams and it starts with Sunday bound badass LaMichael James. The sophomore running back is simply as good as it gets and finished as the nations leading rusher with 152.9 ypg and a total of 1,682 yards on the season with 21 touchdowns all the while sitting out the season opener. When James leaves the game his backup Kenjon Barner has kept the offensive going and has done so on limited carries. Barner has 80 carries and has gained 519 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Quarterback Darron Thomas has been impressive under center this season as both a passer where he has 2,518 yards and 28 touchdowns with 7 interceptions while rushing for 492 yards and 5 touchdowns. It’s easy to get lost on this offensive with such stars as James and Thomas, both from the state of Texas, but wide receiver Jeff Maehl is as dangerous and very reliable target downfield. Maehl has had a huge senior season, earning All-Pac-10 honors with 68 catches for 943 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The team has also excelled elsewhere with an offensive line that has only allowed 8 sacks on the season and has All-American returner Cliff Harris on special teams who has 4 punt returns for touchdowns on the season.
Defensively the Ducks are loaded with speed that has forced 35 forced turnovers and 31 sacks. The Ducks have a few impact players on this side of the ball and it begins in the middle with linebacker Casey Matthews team-high 73 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries and Spencer Paysinger, 68 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery. The secondary is as good as it gets with Talmadge Jackson 2 interceptions, John Boyett 5 interceptions, Cliff Harris 5 interceptions. Defensive end Kenny Rowe is also a force on the line with his 12.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks.
This is the first ever meeting between the two schools.
PICK: University of Oregon Ducks
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of Nevada Wolf Pack taking on Boston College Eagles in the 9th annual Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, formerly the Emerald Bowl at AT&T Parkin San Francisco, California.
Nevada, 12-1, 7-1 WAC, Wolf Pack would be perfect on the season if they hadn’t stumbled in mid season to Hawaii. Head coach Chris Ault has only held one head coaching position in his 26 years but they have come at three different times at Nevada and just signed on for two more years after capturing a share of the Western Athletic Conference title.
Nevada offense is spearheaded by the WAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year Colin Kaepernick, who for the third year in a row threw for at least 2,000 yards and ran for 1,000 yards, making him the first player in NCAA history to achieve the feat. The Wolf Pack offense operates out of the “Pistol Offense” which was designed by Ault, which has allowed Kaepernick to be the first quarterback in NCAA history to throw for at least 9,000 yards and gain another 4,000 on the ground.
Running back Vai Taua is equal threat in this offense as he is rushing for 127 ypg and in the wide receiver area 9 players have recorded a touchdown this year.
Boston College, 7-5, 4-4 ACC, Eagles started off the season 2-0 then spun out of control losing the next five straight. Head coach Frank Spaziani collected his team and they turned things around by winning the five straight to become bowl eligible and get a contract extension for two more years.
The Eagles offense averages just 18 ppg and entering this game with a little confusion at quarterback as the last two games saw four different passes. Chances are it will be Chase Rettig under center since he has completed 53.4 percent of his throws for 1,100 yards and 6 touchdowns. The reason though the quarterback position is still up for grabs entering the bowl game is that they turn the ball over far to much and as a group have 17 interceptions on the season.
Fortunately the Eagles have more stability at the running back position where Montel Harris leads the team with his 113 ypg that has gone for 1,243 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Defensively the Eagles have an impact player in sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly who led the nation in tackles per game with 14. He became a finalist for both the Butkus Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.
This will be the first meeting between these programs.
PICK: University of Nevada Wolf Pack
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of Pittsburgh Panthers taking on University of Kentucky Wildcats in the 5th annual BBVA Compass Bowl, formerly the Papajohns.com Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
Pittsburgh, 7-5, 5-2 Big East, Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt announced his resignation shortly after the season ended after a 42-31 record over six seasons. That left his Alma matter in search of a new head coach in which they thought they had their man in Miami of Ohio Michael Haywood but after he was arrested on felony assault charges he was fired leaving the Panthers without a coach. Wannstedt, who originally planned to coach the Panthers in this Compass Bowl, changed his mind on Monday. As a result Pitt Athletic Director Steve Pederson has named defensive coordinator Phil Bennett the team’s interim coach.
Pitt is a rather mediocre offensive football team as it is averaging 26 ppg and 367.8 total ypg. Dion Lewis didn’t have as great a season as most expected but his 956 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns are impressive nonetheless. He gets plenty of help from Ray Graham, who brings 832 yards and 8 touchdowns into the game. While Lewis averages 4.9 yards per carry, Graham owns a far more impressive mark of 6.4 ypc.
As for Pittsburgh’s passing attack, Tino Sunseri has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,476 yards with 15 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. His top target is clearly Jon Baldwin, who has hauled in 52 receptions for 810 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The man to watch on defense for Pittsburgh is Jabaal Sheard who has 14.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks while adding 4 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Kentucky, 6-6, 2-6 SEC, Wildcats will be led in this showdown by first year head coach Joker Phillips as the highlight for Phillips first season was a victory over South Carolina which marked the biggest comeback in school history, as UK rallied from a 28-10 halftime deficit for a 31-28 win.
Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline has been suspended thus ending the senior’s career as he was arrested and was charged with second degree disorderly conduct, alcohol intoxication in a public place and failure to notify the department of transportation of a change of address. As a result, sophomore Morgan Newton is expected to be under center. Newton has attempted just seven passes all season, as he watched Hartline complete 66.2 percent of his attempts for 3,178 yards with 23 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
Randall Cobb, one of the nation’s most versatile players, threw three touchdown passes for the Wildcats while rushing for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns. Cobb, who also returned a punt for a touchdown, has done most of his damage from the receiver position, as he has hauled in 79 receptions for 955 yards and 7 touchdowns. Chris Matthews is another receiver to watch, as he has 57 catches into 897 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Kentucky is generating 33.0 ppg and 437.2 total ypg, numbers that will be difficult to reach considering Hartline’s suspension and the strength of the Pittsburgh defense. Derrick Locke has rushed for 816 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing four games, and the tailback figures to get plenty of work against the Panthers.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Pittsburgh and Kentucky.
PICK: University of Pittsburgh Panthers
This game goes down on the FOX network and it features Louisiana State University Tigers taking on Texas A&M University Aggies in the 75th annual AT&T Cotton Bowl at Jerry’s World in Arlington, Texas.
LSU, 10-2, 6-2 SEC, Tigers season ended on a sour note as it lost to Arkansas but did earn this bowl birth appearance which is the schools 11th straight, a streak that dates back to the 2000 Peach Bowl. Head coach Les Miles team is generating 28 ppg but are far from being an explosive offensive as they rely heavily on run heavy drives. Miles team is averaging 177.2 rushing ypg and have scored 27 of it’s 34 touchdowns on the ground.
On the Tigers season Stevan Ridley was the main man in the backfield as he rushed for 1,043 yards and 14 touchdowns. Ridley was ruled academically ineligible for this game but has since been reinstated and cleared to play. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson is the teams second leading rusher and has done so for 383 yards and 6 touchdowns. However as a passer he’s only completing 56.8 percent of his throws for 1,253 yards and 4 touchdowns with 9 interceptions.
Because of the inconsistency of Jefferson backup quarterback Jarrett Lee saw time under center this season where he completed 60.7 of his passes for 573 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 interception. Clearly whoever is under center when the ball is in the air Terrence Toliver is usually who is looked to with his 467 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Rueben Randle has started to come into his own near the end of the season and gotten himself open for 525 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Defensively the Tigers have one of the best players in all of college football on this side of the ball and will definitely find himself playing on Sundays in defensive back Patrick Peterson, the 2010 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, as well as the winner of both the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards. Peterson was also named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year. Peterson has 4 interceptions to his credit and is the definition of a shut-down corner.
Texas A&M, 9-3, 6-2 Big 12, Aggies finished in a first place tie in the Big 12 South but had the BCS computers decide its fate. Head coach Mike Sherman got his team to rebound after a 3-3 start and replacing of its senior quarterback and captain Jerrod Johnson for Ryan Tannehill to rallying and win their final six games.
Tannehill has taken over the quarterback position where he has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 1,434 yards and 11 touchdowns with 3 interceptions. Tannehill wasn’t the only major change for the Aggies offensively as they lost running back Christine Michael to a broken leg in October. Cyrus Gray took over the starting tailback position and finished with 6 consecutive 100-yard games and finished the season with 1,033 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ryan Swope leads the receivers with 67 catches but Jeff Fuller is the playmaker at that position with his 65 catches to go for 983 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Defensively the Aggies have an impact player on this side of the ball too as they have the nations top linebacker and Butkus Award winner Von Miller. He Miller has 14.5 tackles for a loss on the season to go with his 9.5 sacks as well as 3 forced fumbles.
The is the 50th meeting between the two schools but first since the 1995 season. LSU leads the all-time series 26-20-3.
PICK: Louisiana State University Tigers
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders taking on Miami University of Ohio RedHawks in the 12th annual GoDaddy.com Bowl, formerly the GMAC Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.
Miami University of Ohio, 9-4, 7-1 MAC, Redhawks are no longer coached by Mike Haywood who left the program after turning it around from a 1-11 campaign in 2009 to coach University of Pittsburgh. However Haywood was fired from his coaching position for felony assault on the mother of his child. Defensive backs coach Lance Guidry will serve as interim coach as Don Treadwell has been hired to take over the program next season after serving as Michigan State’s offensive coordinator and receivers coach for the last four years.
The season didn’t take on the look it did for the Redhawks until mid-season when they started out 4-4 then reeled off five consecutive victories that finished off with a 26-21 upset of Northern Illinois in the Mid Atlantic Conference title game. The last three games for Miami they had to turn to redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Boucher after starting quarterback Zac Dysert lacerated his spleen.
Boucher has been crucial to the RedHawks win streak as he has thrown for 701 yards and 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. He has had that much of a time to develop a true report with his wide receivers but early on he has often looked in the direction of Armand Robinson. The teams second leading receiver on the season though is Thomas Merriweather who doubles as the running back. Merriweather has 821 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns but as a rusher he has 1,802 and 21 touchdowns, showing he clearly is the Redhawks best player and option.
Middle Tennessee, 6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt, Blue Raiders struggled through an up and down but found their stride late and won their last three straight games. The crucial win came in the regular season finale against Sun Belt Conference co-champion FIU 28-27. Head coach Rick Stockstill has his dual threat quarterback Dwight Dasher back into full swing of things after he was forced to miss the first 4 games of the season for accepting a $1,500 loan from unsuspecting characters.
Dasher is just the 15th player in college football history to pass for 5,000 yards and rush for 2,000 yards during his career. In last years New Orleans Bowl he accomplished another rare feat as he set a bowl record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 201 yards while totaling 4 touchdowns. On the year however Dasher completed 127-of-222 passes for 1,388 yards and 6 touchdownsa and 14 interceptions. On the shortended season though for Dasher he did rush for 453 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Middle Tennessee’s leading rusher is Phillip Tanner who has run for 841 yards and 11 touchdowns on 5.6 ypc. The Blue Raiders ride these two to 178.5 rushing ypg and have compiled 29 rushing touchdowns as a team.
An impact player to keep an eye on the defensive of the ball for the Blue Raiders is Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Jamari Lattimore as he had 11.5 sacks on the season which ranked 6th in the country.
This is the first ever meeting between the two schools.
PICK: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features The Ohio State University Buckeyes taking on University of Arkansas Razorbacks in the 77th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl at Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Arkansas, 10-2, 6-2 SEC, Razorbacks were viewed as an SEC contender earlier in the season but on the biggest stages in SEC play came up short, falling at home to Alabama and then again at Auburn. Head coach Bobby Petrino has a balanced offensive attack as his team uses the pass to set up the run as they average 489.2 yards of total offense, with 338.4 coming via the pass.
Arkansas is led by standout quarterback Ryan Mallett who threw for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns. One of Mallett’s favorite targets is tight end D.J. Williams led the way among pass catchers with 49 receptions for 589 yard and 4 touchdowns. Mallet spread the ball around a lot this year as 6 different receivers had at least 4 touchdowns on the season.
The ground game is led by tailback Knile Davis and his 1,183 yards and 13 touchdowns for a huge 6.6 yards per carry.
Ohio State, 11-1, 7-1 Big Ten, The Buckeyes shared the Big Ten title with Michigan State and Wisconsin, and earned their 6th straight BCS Bowl bid and 9th overall, the most among all Division I schools. The lone loss on the season came in Madison against the Badgers but the team rebounded to win 5 straight to the first school in Big Ten history to win at least 10 games in six consecutive seasons.
Head coach Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes, had an NCAA investigation on their hands that left five players status for this game in question, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor. However the five in question will be suspended for the first five games next season and were recently cleared to play in this game, providing they gave a commitment to return to Columbus next year.
Pryor’s suspension will cover the first five games of next season, so he will be under center tonight orchestrating an offensive that amassed almost 450 yards total per game, with tremendous balance. One of the few teams in the country with over 200 yards both rushing (219.7 ypg) and passing (229.2 ypg).
Pryor completed 65.8 percent of his throws for 2,551 yards and 25 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. When Pryor looked downfield he could either look left for Dane Sanzenbacker and his 52 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns or to his right for DeVier Posey,who will also sit the first five games in 2011, and his 50 catches for 778 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Tailback Dan Herron, who will also sit the first five games in 2011, rushed for 1,068 yards and 15 touchdowns on 5.6 ypc. Pryor got involved as well ranking second with 639 yards and 4 touchdowns.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools.
PICK: The Ohio State University Buckeyes
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the Stanford University Cardinal taking on Virginia Tech Hokies in the 77th annual Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Stanford, 11-1, 8-1 Pac-10, Cardinal established new school records for wins on the seasons and within conference as well as making their first trip to the Orange Bowl. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has a well balanced team but a stud under center in junior quarterback Andrew Luck. The Stanford offense he controls has been unstoppable tallying 40 points per game as he completes 70.2 percent of his throws for 3,051 yards and 28 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Luck also tucked the ball at times and rushed for 438 yards with 3 touchdowns. Luck’s favorite target is Doug Baldwin, who caught 56 passes for 824 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Luck is not the only one to benefit in Harbaugh’s pro style offense as tailback Stepfan Taylor has eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this year, averaging almost 5 ypc, while scoring 15 touchdowns. In college football it’s hard press to find a better offensive line week-in-week-out than Stanford’s which is headlined by First-Team All-American center Chase Beeler.
Virginia Tech, 11-2, 8-0 ACC, Hokies are making their fourth trip to the Orange Bowl, but it didn’t look remotely possible early on in the season when the team dropped its first two games of the 2010 season, falling to Boise State and then to Division II opponent James Madison. Head coach Frank Beamer rallied the team as Tech went on to win 11 straight games, closing out with a win over Florida State in the ACC Championship Game.
The Hokies are balanced offensively like Stanford and have a quarterback who deserves shine just like Luck in Tyrod Taylor, who completed 60.6 percent of his throws for 2,521 yards with 23 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He too is a dual threat to run the ball as he has rushed for 637 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Hokies backfield is stocked with talented runners that contributed this year, led by Darren Evans 817 yards and 11 touchdowns followed by David Wilson 616 yards 5 touchdowns. Ryan Williams added 473 yards on the season but also crossed the end zone 9 times.
Wideouts to keep on eye in the Hokies offense is Jarrett Boykin, 763 yards 6 touchdowns and Danny Coale, 640 yards 3 touchdowns.
This marks the first ever meeting between these two schools.
PICK: Stanford University Cardinal
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of Connecticut Huskies taking on the University of Oklahoma Sooners in the 41st annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Connecticut, 8-4, 5-2 Big East, Randy Edsall’s Huskies captured the Big East title with five straight wins to close out the 2010 campaign and earned their first ever BCS Bowl. Edsall, who was the 2010 Big East Coach of the Year, is no real secret on how he likes for his team to move the ball as they relied heavily on the rushing attack. Edsall exploits of that part of the game because he has junior tailback Jordan Todman, Big East Offensive Player of the Year, who rushed for 1,574 yards and 14 touchdowns to average of 143.09 ypg.
The passing attack was lead by redshirt senior Zach Frazer who only completed 52.7 percent of his throws, for 1,202 yards and 5 touchdowns. Frazer often looked into the direction of Michael Smith as he had 42 receptions for 595 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Oklahoma, 11-2, 6-2 Big 12, Bob Stoops Sooners won their last four games to capture the Big 12 title. The Sooners like to air the ball out and with sophomore quarterback Landry Jones who has thrown for 4,289 yards and 35 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Jones won the Sammy Baugh Award which is awarded to college football’s top passer as he completed 65.3 percent of his throws.
He often looked down field for one of the best college receivers in Ryan Broyles this season who caught 118 passes for 1,452 yards and 13 touchdowns. Tailback DeMarco Murray had a good year despite the Sooners tendencies to pass first as he rushed for 1,121 yards and 14 touchdowns.
This marks the first time these two teams have met.
PICK: University of Oklahoma Sooners
This game goes down on the ABC network and it features the University of Wisconsin Badgers taking on the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs in the “The Granddaddy of Them All” adds its 97th edition this New Year’s Day an the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Wisconsin, 11-1, 7-1 Big Ten, the Big Ten Conference title with Ohio State and Michigan State. Head coach Bret Bielema Badgers are averaging 45 ppg this season and happens to be one of five teams in the country to rank among the top 25 in both total offense and total defense. The others being Boise State, TCU, Stanford and Ohio State.
Wisconsin uses the run about as well as any team in the nation, and the Badgers are the only team to have three running backs who have gained at least 800 yards on the ground this season. James White led the backfielfd with 1,029 yards and 14 touchdowns while John Clay added 936 yards 13 touchdowns and Montee Ball finished it out with 864 yards and 17 touchdowns. That gave Wisconsin an average of 6.12 ypc and 247.3 ypg.
With an overly effective running game its easy to overlook the work quarterback Scott Tolzien put in as he threw for 2,300 yards with 16 touchdowns and and only 6 interceptions. His favorite target was Lance Kendricks, who had 39 receptions, 627 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The Badgers only turned the ball over 9 times on the year as well as being the least penalized team in the country with just 2 per game.
TCU, 12-0, 8-0 MWC, the Horned Frogs enter its last games as a memeber of the Mountain West Conference as next year they will become part of the Big East and they hope to go out in style with a win in “The Granddaddy of Them All”. Head coach Gary Patterson also has a very potent offense as his team is averaging 43 ppg on 491.5 total ypg. The TCU rushing attack is just as punishing as the Badgers, turning out 261.2 ypg and accounting for 39 touchdowns.
Ed Wesley has rushed for 1,065 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, picking up 6.6 ypc. Wesley was joined by three others who rushed for at least 400 rushing yards including quarterback Andy Dalton.
Dalton has thrown for 2,638 yards and 26 touchdowns while only throwing 6 interceptions and leads the school in almost every caterogy. Dalton never really had one single reciever he just threw to instead played the role of equal distrubitor. Jeremy Kerley and Josh Boyce where the teams leaders when it came to catching the ball though as Kerley caught 50 passes for 517 yards and 10 touchdowns while Boyce had 602 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Defensively the Horned Frogs are truly one of the elite defensive teams in the country holding opponents to 11 ppg and only 215.4 total ypg. Tanner Brock is a standout player on defense with his 97 tackles, a pair of sacks, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception on the season.
PICK: Texas Christian University Horned Frogs
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features the University of Michigan Wolverines taking on the Mississippi State University Bulldogs in the 48th annual Progressive Gator Bowl at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.
Mississippi State, 8-4, 4-4 SEC, Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen team halted a two game skid by winning the season finale against in-state rival University of Mississippi. The Bulldogs are a solid offensive football team, as the club is averaging 27 ppg and 394.3 total ypg. The Bulldogs have scored 39 offensive touchdowns, 24 of which have been on the ground.
Vick Ballard has made the most of his attempts gaining 892 yards to go along with 16 rushing touchdowns. MSU’s quarterback Chris Relf has run for 683 yards and 4 touchdowns. As a passer, Relf has only connected on 56.3 percent throws for 1,508 yards with 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Chad Bumphis is the top receiver on the roster, as he has 44 catches for 634 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs have 26 takeaways and 26 sacks on the season.
Michigan, 7-5, 3-5 Big Ten, in now in its third season with head coach Rich Rodriguez who saw a major improvement in 2010. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, the 2010 Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Year is a true dual threat. Robinson has rushed for 1,643 yards and 14 touchdowns at 6.7 yards per carry, and he has thrown for 2,316 yards and 16 scores. In large part because of their versatile signal-caller, the Wolverines are racking up 34.3 ppg and 500.9 total ypg.
Robinson’s top target is Roy Roundtree, who has posted 882 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns on 63 receptions. As for the ground attack, Robinson does get some help from the likes of Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw. Smith has run for 588 yards and 5 touchdowns, while Shaw has 9 to his credit.
This showdown marks the first ever meeting between Mississippi State and Michigan
PICK: University of Michigan Wolverines
This game goes down on the ABC network and it features the Penn State Nittany Lions taking on the University of Florida Gators in the 25th annual Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Florida, 7-5, 4-4 SEC, The Gators are playing their final game under Urban Meyer who lost two of their final three games of the season and the lone win came against Division II opponent Appalachian State. Meyer will hand over the reins to former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp following this game.
The Florida offense averaged just under 30 ppg while putting up 165.6 ypg rushing and 191.2 ypg passing every game. Quarterback John Brantley is completing 61.4 percent of his passes for 2,020 yards with 9 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Deonte Thompson was the team’s leading receiver with 36 grabs for 548 yards. The ground game for the Gators wasn’t a whole lot better as it was led by Jeffery Demps and his 531 yards on 89 carries. Trey Burton was the most efficient of the rushers, scoring 11 times though on 73 attempts.
Defensively the Gators have an impact player and Sunday bound in Ahmad Black who registered 102 tackles and 10 tackles for loss to go along with 3 interceptions and pair of fumble recoveries.
Penn State, 7-5, 4-4 Big Ten, Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions enter this bowl having lost two of its final three games of the season but prior to that the Lions had reeled off three straight wins. The Nittany Lions offense has seen better days but still has the schools all time leading rusher in Evan Royster who is playing in his last game. Royster produced 916 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The passing attack for Penn State now relies on quarterback Matt McGloin, who was given the job midway through the season. He has since gone on to complete 58 percent of his passes for 1,337 yards with 13 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. Derek Moye is Penn State’s impact player in the receiver department with 806 yards and 7 touchdowns while Brett Barrett is next with 497 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Nittany Lions have a standout player on defense as well in linebacker Chris Colasanti who has 102 tackles.
Florida is 2-0 all-time against Penn State.
PICK: Penn State Nittany Lions
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of Alabama Crimson Tide taking on Michigan State University Spartans in the 65th annual Capital One Bowl at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
Alabama, 9-3, 5-3 SEC, The Crimson Tide is making its fourth consecutive bowl appearance under head coach Nick Saban but with many key contributors back from last season’s title team, Alabama clearly fell short of expectations.
Alabama junior running back Mark Ingram and the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner was one of those players that did not live up to the previous season expectations. Ingram’s season of 816 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns was definitely a far cry from last season. With Ingram’s struggles to effectively run the ball like his Heisman Trophy year the nation saw the emergence of fellow tailback Trent Richardson who rushed for 658 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.
Alabama’s quarterback Greg McElroy emerged as an accomplished passer completing 70.6 percent of his passes for 2,767 yards and 19 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions. His favorite target was Sunday bound Julio Jones who has 75 catches for 1,084 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Defensively it’s still hard to score on the Crimson Tide as they only gave up 14 ppg.
Michigan State, 11-1, 7-1 Big Ten, won a school record number of games in 2010 and a share of its first Big Ten Championship since 1990. Big Ten Coach of the Year Mark Dantonio becomes the first coach in MSU’s history to earn a postseason bowl bid in each of his first four seasons.
The Spartans possessed a balance attack on the season offensively as they scored 31 ppg and racked up 406.7 total ypg. The Spartans put up 25 touchdowns on the ground and 22 passing touchdowns on the season. That success was in part of quarterback Kirk Cousins who has completed 67.5 percent of his throws for 2,705 yards with 20 touchdowns against 9 interceptions. B.J. Cunningham his favorite receiver and team high 50 catches 9 touchdowns will miss the bowl game with a broken foot.
Mark Dell leads the Spartans with 761 receiving yards and he will have to pick up some of the slack in the absence of Cunningham. As for the ground game Edwin Baker has rushed for 1,187 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Alabama and Michigan State have never met on the football field, and adding intrigue of this showdown is the fact that Saban was once the head coach at Michigan State.
PICK: Michigan State University Spartans
This game goes down on the ESPNU network and it features the Northwestern University Wildcats taking on Texas Tech University Red Raiders in the first ever TicketCity Bowl, which is taking place in the Cotton Bowl Stadium at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas.
Northwestern, 7-5, 3-5 Big Ten, Head coach Pat Fitzgerald had his Wildcats storming out of the gates this season, winning their first five games but stumbled down the stretch losing five of their last seven games.
The Wildcats were nothing special offensively and especially not now that starting quarterback Dan Persa is out, who was completing 73.5 percent of his passes. Evan Watkins will take over for Persa in this game. That leaves Northwestern with only one real impact player going into the TicketCity Bowl and that is wideout Jeremy Ebert, who led the team in three categories: receptions with 59, 919 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Texas Tech, 7-5, 3-5 Big 12, the Red Raiders came into this season with a new head in Tommy Tuberville and new offensive philosophy quite different from that of its former head coach Mike Leach and his high powered passing attack. Tuberville’s team finished the year with three wins in its last four matchups to end the year.
Quarterback Taylor Potts will look to abuse the Wildcats through the air, as he leads the Red Raiders offense that is producing 32 ppg. Potts completed over 65 percent of his throws this season, and finished the regular season with 3,357 yards and 31 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Potts favorite targets are Detron Lewis and Lyle Leong with Lewis grabbing a team best 79 receptions for 803 yards and 6 touchdowns while Leong collected 64 catches for 808 yards and a crazy 17 touchdowns.
Usually overlooked at Texas Tech is the ground game however these Red Raiders have found success on the ground this season with running back Baron Batch who has 805 yards and 5 touchdowns. Backup Eric Stephens also helped in the backfield scoring 5 touchdowns to go along with 542 rushing yards.
The defense was hit with the unexpected announcement that defensive coordinator James Willis has left the program.
PICK: Texas Tech University Red Raiders
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of South Carolina Gamecocks taking on Florida State University Seminoles in the 43rd annual Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
South Carolina, 9-4, 5-3 SEC, head coach Steve Spurrier is enjoying his best season for the Gamecocks. They began the season with three straight victories but followed that by a loss to Auburn. The rest of the way saw the Gamecocks play on an inconsistent level until they took the last three games of the year. That found them in a rematch against Auburn in the SEC title game which they where roasted 56-17.
Offensively the Gamecocks are producing 32 ppg behind freshman running back Marcus Lattimore, who has rushed for 1,198 yards and 17 touchdowns. Lattimore, who earned Freshman of the Year honors in the SEC, and also landed on the All-SEC First Team.
Finally the Gamecocks got the most productive year out of quarterback Stephen Garcia who helped keep defenses honest and not lock into the Lattimore. Garcia completed 65.1 percent of his passes and finished with 2,816 yards and 20 touchdowns along with 11 interceptions. Garcia’s favorite target down field was sophomore Alshon Jeffery as he caught 79 passes for 1,387 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Florida State, 9-4, 6-2 ACC, is under the direction of first year head coach Jimbo Fisher who guided his team to an ACC championship game, however they lost to Virginia Tech 44-33. The Seminoles ival Florida. Unfortunately, the Seminoles were unable to remain in the win column as they fell to Virginia Tech, 44-33 in the ACC title matchup.
The Seminoles have a very balanced attack led by senior quarterback Christian Ponder, who threw for 2,038 yards and 20 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in only 11 games. Ponder doesn’t really signal out a single receiver but does look for Bert Reed to come through at critical times. Reed led the team with 56 catches and 589 yards while Taiwan Easterling followed in second with 41 catches and Willie Haulstead scored 6 touchdowns.
The running game has rumbled on the season of 167.8 ypg with Chris Thompson and his 698 yards 5 touchdowns is the main option. The Seminoles like it’s passing attack doesn’t focus in on one runner as Ty Jones helped the team with 5 touchdowns and Jermaine Thomas 6 touchdowns.
PICK: Florida State University Seminoles
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
This game goes down on the CBS network and it features the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish taking on the University of Miami Hurricanes in the 76th annual Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
Notre Dame, 7-5, 11 of the 12 games that Fighting Irish played this season came against bowl eligible teams. First year head coach Brian Kelly clearly has his squad playing with a wealth of confidence after being hit hard with the by injury bug during the season.
Notre Dame lost quarterback Dayne Crist in the ninth game and Kyle Rudolph to injuries. The offense looks quite different now then at the start of the season who are lead by Tommy Rees. Rees has completed 63 percent of his passes for 905 yards with 10 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. His favorite target as of late is Michael Floyd who has 916 yards and 10 touchdowns in the 11 games that he has played. The Fighting Irish are scoring 25 ppg behind 378.2 total ypg and the 36 touchdowns the team has scored 26 have been passing.
Definsively Manti Te’o is the man to watch, as the linebacker has 127 total tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss.
Miami, 7-5, 5-3 ACC, the Hurricanes fired head coach Randy Shannon before the conclusion of the season after the team once again fell short of expectations. Miami then decided that former Temple head coach Al Golden was the right man for the job. Golden becomes the 22nd head coach in the history of Hurricane football and has a proven track record of rebuilding programs. After taking over the Owls, who went 0-11 the season prior to his arrival, Golden led his team to a 17-5 record over the last 22 regular-season games.
Golden was an excellent hire by Miami however won’t be on the sidelines in the Sun Bowl, as that job will fall to holdover offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.
Jacory Harris is the teams quarterback who has thrown for 1,756 yards and 14 scores with 12 interceptions and missed the last three games of the season due to injury. Miami has one of the nations top wide reciever in Leonard Hankerson,who has accounted for 66 receptions 1,085 yards and 12 touchdowns, that leads the in all three categories. Damien Berry does the bulk of the carries in the rushing game with his 865 yards and 5 touchdowns while second option Lamar Miller has 6ix touchdowns and 633 yards.
Sean Spence is a man to watch on defense as he has 17 tackles for loss and 101 tackles.
Miami owns an all-time bowl record of 19-16 while Notre Dame is 14-15 all-time in bowls. The Fighting Irish and Hurricanes are set to face off for the 24th time, with the two teams meeting for the first time since 1990. Notre Dame holds a 15-7-1 series lead.
PICK: University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of South Florida Bulls taking on Clemson University Tigers in the 9th annual Meineke Care Care Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Clemson, 6-6, 4-4 ACC, Tigers season has been somewhat of a disappointment thus far after reaching the ACC title game last year. they faltered down the stretch this year, going 2-2 over their last four games to finish at 6-6.
Clemson is led offensively by quarterback Kyle Parker, who has thrown for 2,079 yards, 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season. In the regular-season finale Parker was benched in the third quarter in favor of redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd. Parker is expected to get the start despite a heated sideline exchange with head coach Dabo Swinney following the benching.
The offense has dragged its feet all season, due in part to the departure of running back C.J. Spiller to the NFL. The void has been filled most prominently by Jamie Harper, who has rushed for 726 yards and 6 touchdowns this season. The Tigers are averaging 146.4 rushing ypg, 191.4 passing ypg and 23 ppg.
Defensively the Tigers have Sunday bound Da’Quan Bowers who is the Bronco Nagurski Trophy winner with his 15.5 sacks on the year. He also has recorded 67 tackles, including 25 tackles for loss.
South Florida, 7-5, 3-4 Big East, Bulls experienced a productive season under first-year coach Skip Holtz, as they matched last year’s win total and finished the season strong, winning four of their final six games. Three of the team’s five losses were decided by a touchdown or less.
The Bulls was lead by quarterback B.J. Daniels, who threw for 1,496 yards, 9 touchdowns and 12 interceptions before he suffered a quadriceps injury late in the year. True freshman Bobby Eveld played well in Daniels absence leading a fourth-quarter comeback against Miami and playing efficiently in his only start, against UConn. Coach Holtz has said that the team will prepare as if Eveld will get the start who has completed 42-of-75 passes for 454 yards and 2 touchdowns with 3 interceptions.
A constant in the USF backfield has been senior running back Moise Plancher, who was the team’s leading rusher this season with 743 yards and 4 touchdowns, after being granted a sixth year of eligibility due to medical hardships. He leads a backfield which has amassed 17 rushing touchdowns and averages 149.4 rushing ypg. However the team will be without fullback Jeff Hawkins and running back Bradley Battle due to injury.
This matchup marks the first ever meeting between South Florida and Clemson.
PICK: Clemson University Tigers
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of Washington Huskies taking on the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers in the 33rd annual Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.
Washington, 6-6, 5-4 Pac-10, enters the Holiday Bowl in the midst of a three-game win streak. Head coach Steve Sarkisian Huskies defeated UCLA, Cal and Washington State to salvage a deteriorating regular season and is looking to secure their first bowl appearance since the 2002 Sun Bowl.
The Huskies are led by senior quarterback Jake Locker who threw for 2,209 yards and 17 touchdowns and 9 interceptions while only completing 56.6 percent of his passes. Locker’s job is made easier by the phenomenal play of sophomore running back Chris Polk, who has rushed for 1,287 yards and 8 touchdowns, making him just the second player in Washington history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in two seasons.
Also a threat offensively is wide recover Jermaine Kearse, who has caught 62 passes for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns. Kearse and Polk have combined for just the second 1,000-yard rusher/receiver tandem in Huskies history as well only 9th in the nation to do that this season.
Nebraska,10-3, 6-2 Big 12, Tode to a second straight Big 12 North title but blew a 17-0 lead en route to a 23-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Head coach Bo Pelini has freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez to handle the offensive duties as he has thrown for 1,578 yards and 9 touchdowns. However Martinez does his most damage when he keeps the ball and rushes where he has 942 yards and 12 touchdowns.
As a team, the Cornhuskers compile an impressive 259.6 rushing ypg headlined by the rushing of tailback Roy Helu Jr, who has amassed 1,211 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Defensively the Cornhuskers are lead by Sunday bound Prince Amukamara in the secondary who has recorded 58 tackles and 13 pass breakup this year. The secondary’s job is made easier by the pressure applied by the defensive line, which has tallied 31 sacks and is lead by another Sunday bound player in defensive tackle Jared Crick who leads the team with 9.5 sacks.
Nebraska currently holds a 24-22 all-time bowl game record while Washington is 15-14-1 all-time record.
PICK: University of Washington Huskies
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of Tennessee Volunteers taking on the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in the 12th annual Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee.
North Carolina, 7-5, 4-4 ACC, started off the season with high expectations only to find itself in an 0-2 hole amid a slew of NCAA suspensions that involved 12 players due to receiving benefits and being associated with agents.The NCAA’s evaluation dragged well into the second month of the season and weighed heavily on the Tar Heels, who eventually saw the dismissal of senior defensive tackle and All-American candidate Marvin Austin and were handed permanent ineligibility rulings on top returning wideout senior Greg Little as well as first-team preseason All-American defensive end Robert Quinn and senior starting cornerback Charles Brown.
Tar Heels persevered under head coach Butch Davis to gain a bowl bid for the third straight year, but dropped its last three to end the season. Under a season of turmoil the play of senior quarterback T.J. Yates, who holds UNC career records for completions, attempts, yards and completion percentage and is second in touchdowns, was very consistent and rose up to the occasion at times. Yates threw for 3,184 yards and 18 touchdowns with just 8 interceptions while completing 67.6 percent of his passes. Yates favorite target down field was junior wideout Dwight Jones, who had 895 yards and 4 touchdowns scores on 57 catches.
Senior running back Anthony Elzy has come on strong for the Tar Heels since taking over as the starter in the backfield averaging 177 all-purpose yards over UNC’s final three games and finished as the team’s second leading receiver with 338 yards.
The Tar Heel defense took the biggest hit via off field incidents giving up 338.5 yards per game.
Tennessee, 6-6, 3-5 SEC, came on strong to win its last four games under the first year of head coach Derek Dooley after Lane Kiffin up and bolted after one year. The Volunteers are handled by freshman quarterback Tyler Bray, who the Vols offense has flourished with 50 and 52 points in consecutive weeks in wins over Memphis and Ole Miss. Bray appeared in eight games and threw for 1,537 yards and 14 touchdowns with 7 interceptions and connected on 54.7 percent of his throws.
Bray had quite a few options to work with, mainly junior Tauren Poole who racked up 994 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns on an averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Senior Denarius Moore led the receiving corps with 912 yards and 9 touchdowns. Gerald Jones, Luke Stocker, and freshman Justin Hunter where stellar as well this year especially Hunter who only made just 15 catches but had 6 touchdowns, a UT freshman record, and gained 407 yards with a 27.1 yard average.
The Tar Heels are 12-16 all-time in bowl games with losses in each of their last three postseason appearances. Tennessee is 25-23 all-time in postseason play and making its 49th bowl appearance, which is tied for second in NCAA history alongside Texas.
PICK: University of Tennessee Volunteers
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Kansas State University Wildcats taking on Syracuse University Orange in the first ever New Era Pinstripe Bowl and is taking place at Yankee Stadium in New York, New York.
Kansas State, 7-5, 3-5 Big 12, experienced an up and down year as they started the year 4-0 before losing convincingly to then No. 7 Nebraska. The Wildcats though lost four of the next five games in Big 12 play. Head coach Bill Snyder has the luxuary of having standout running back Daniel Thomas who was the engine that drove the Wildcats offense in 2010. The senior ranked 9th in the nation with 1,495 yards, placing him second among K-State’s single-season rushing leaders. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry and 124.6 per game while scoring 16 touchdowns. He needs just 58 yards to move into second place on the Kansas States all-time rushing list.
The quarterback position is manned by senior Carson Coffman, who threw for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns while running for another 9 in 11 games this season while throwing 7 interceptions and was efficient in completing 64.2 percent of his passes in his first season as the starter. However, while K-State ranked 20th in the country in rushing offense, the passing game stood 97th and wideout Aubrey Quarles was the lone player to post any sort of significant numbers on the receiving end.
Syracuse, 7-5, 4-3 Big East, took a step forward in 2010 and the height of the Orange’s season came on when it shocked then 20th-ranked West Virginia with a win in Morgantown. But the Orange finsihed out the season losing two of its last three games. Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone offense leans heavily on senior running back Delone Carter, who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season. He averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry on his way to 1,035 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Ryan Nassib was at the head of a proficient if unspectacular passing attack that finished 92nd in the country. Nassib’s ended the year with 2,095 yards passing, 16 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and completed 56.1 percent of his throws. He was able to spread the ball around to a number of different receivers, most notably junior Van Chew, who led the team with 41 receptions, 611 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Syracuse owns a 12-9-1 record all-time in bowl games but will be the Orange’s first bowl since 2004. The Wildcats are 6-7 all-time in bowl competition.
PICK: Syracuse University Orange
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Army Black Knights taking on Southern Methodist University Mustangs in the 8th annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, Texas.
Army, 6-6, is playing in its first bowl game since 1996 and only the second since 1988. The Black Knights did fade a bit down the stretch, dropping three of their final four contests to close out the regular season which included their ninth consecutive loss to Navy. Head coach Rich Ellerson has made his triple option attack a staple at West Point. Army averages a robust 256 rushing yards per game, which ranks 10th in the nation. Like most option teams, the passing game has taken a backseat as the Black Knights rank 120th.
Army quarterback Trent Steelman has been as integral to the team’s success as anybody as he has rushed for 694 yards and a team best 11 touchdowns in addition to his 7 passing touchdowns. Fullback Jared Hassin tops the team with 931 rushing yards to go along with his 9 touchdowns.
Defensively Army’s defense has been susceptible to the run at times this season, but the Knights are solid against the pass, ranking 23rd nationally with 190.5 passing yards allowed per game and rank 27th in total defense.
SMU, 7-6, 6-2 C-USA, will have the luxury of playing in its home stadium for this matchup, where the team went 4-2 this year. SMU has reached the postseason for the second straight year after topping Nevada in the 2009 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, 45-10. The Mustangs won the Conference USA West Division with a 6-2 league mark this year, though they went just 1-4 outside of conference play. SMU’s spread passing attack under head coach June Jones will present quite a contrast in styles.
The Mustangs are littered with playmakers on that side of the ball, including three first-team All-Conference picks. One of those players is left tackle Kelvin Beachum, who has started all 13 games this season to anchor a line that has paved the way for a school-record 5,391 yards of total offense. Another is running back Zach Line, 1,391 rushing yards on the season only trails that of Eric Dickerson in school history. Line is the C-USA leader with 107 yards per game on the ground. At wideout, senior Aldrick Robinson has amassed 1,225 receiving yards this season, making him the only receiver in school history with two 1,000-yard seasons. His 13 touchdown catches are also a new SMU record, as are his seven straight games with a touchdown grab.
Quarterback Kyle Padron has had a fine season for SMU, is averaging 271.2 passing yards per game and has thrown 29 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. While Robinson has accounted for nearly half of those TD passes, Padron does have some other solid options in the passing game. Cole Beasley has also gone over the 1,000-yard mark (1,036) and actually leads the team with 84 catches.
SMU’s defense has seen the triple-option already this season, so there shouldn’t be many surprises there. SMU has played a fairly tough schedule, with seven of its opponents this season earning bowl bids.
Army has won both prior meetings in the all-time series between these two schools, although these teams have not met since 1967.
PICK : Southern Methodist University Mustangs
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features Oklahoma State University Cowboys taking on the University of Arizona Wildcats in the 18th annual Alamo Bowl here in San Antonio, Texas.
Oklahoma State,10-2, 6-2 Big 12, finished in a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South and lost out in a chance to play in the Big 12 Championship by way of a tiebreaker through the BCS standings this season. The Cowboys controlled their own destiny heading into the season finale against their rival Oklahoma but came out with a 47-41 loss in Stillwater back in November.
The Cowboys had the nation’s No. 1 ranked offense this season, averaging an eye popping 537.6 ypg and had the country’s top-ranked passing offense as well. Big 12 Coach of the Year Mike Gundy saw his Cowboys set school records for points (539), total offensive yards (6,451), passing yards (4,256) and touchdown passes (34) in single season in 2010.
The center piece of the Cowboys offensive juggernaut is quarterback Brandon Weeden and 2010 Biletnikoff Award winner and unanimous All-American sophomore Justin Blackmon. Blackmon caught 102 passes for 1,665 yards and 18 touchdowns in just 11 games en route to being named the nation’s top wide receiver. The Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year also added a pair of scores with a 69-yard run and a blocked punt return and ranked first in the country in receiving ypg with 151.36. Blackmon tied the NCAA record with his 11th consecutive game of at least 100 receiving yards and a score in the Oklahoma game and needs only 8 yards to break Larry Fitzgerald’s NCAA record for receiving yards by a sophomore.
Weeden broke Oklahoma States single-season record for passing touchdowns with 32 and became the first Cowboy quarterback to pass for over 4,000 yards in a season with 4,037. He completed 67.4 percent of his passes but had 13 interceptions.
Not to be forgotten is running back Kendall Hunter, who rushed for 1,516 yards to lead the Big 12 and tied for the conference lead with 16 touchdowns this season. He averaged 5.8 ypc and 126.3 ypg on just 261 carries.
The Cowboys also have one more weapon in their aresenal as they have the 2010 Lou Groza Award winner, Dan Bailey, as the nation’s top placekicker, who was 24-for-28 on field goals this year including a pair of from 52 yards.
Arizona, 7-5, 4-5 Pac-10, is headed in the right direction under head coach Mike Stoops as they are making its third straight bowl appearance. The Wildcats got off to an impressive 7-1 start to the year before going on a four game lossing streak that started with a loss to Stanford. Arizona is also a high powered throwing offense as they ranked 9th in the nation with 310 ypg.
Arizona is led by its own 1-2 punch in quarterback Nick Foles and wide receiver Juron Criner. Foles completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,911 yards with 19 touchdowns with 7 interceptions in just 10 games this season. The bulk of the yardage was dished out to first-team All-Pac 10 selection and second-team All-American Criner, who totaled 1,186 yards and 10 touchdowns on 73 receptions while averaging 16.2 yards per reception. Criner’s yardage and reception totals were both tops in the Pac-10.
Fellow juniors David Douglas and David Roberts provide depth as secondary options in the Wildcats air attack. Douglas was second on the team with 46 catches for 424 yards with 5 touchdowns and Roberts finished second to Criner with 468 receiving yards with just a pair of touchdowns.
The Wildcats rushing game features a pair of capable backs in junior Keola Antolin and senior Nic Grigsby. While neither player stood out in terms of yardage, the two combined for 15 of the team’s 20 rushing touchdowns. Antolin led the team with 667 rushing yards and his 4.7 yards per carry, while Grigsby averaged an equally solid 4.6 yards per tote with 474 yards and 8 touchdowns.
This will be the first meeting between Oklahoma State and Arizona since 1942 with the all-time series split at 3-3. This is the first year the Alamo Bowl will feature both the Pac-10 and Big 12 Conferences as for the past 15 years, the game has seen the matchup of the Big 12 against Big Ten competition. This will also serve as a preview to a home-and-home series between the two schools starting in Stillwater next season.
PICK: University of Arizona Wildcats
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features University of Illinois Fighting Illini taking on Baylor University Bears in the 5th annual Texas Bowl at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Illinois, 6-6, 4-4 Big Ten, will be appearing in its second bowl game since 2002. Once again the Fighting Illini had an up-and-down season under head coach Ron Zook, who only won consecutive games once this season.
Illinois offense is all about the running game and depends on it to have any kind of success downfield. The Fighting Illini come into the game ranking 13th nationally in rushing with 242.3 ypg. Mikel Leshoure ran for a school-record 330 yards and 2 touchdowns in their last game of the season and has averaged 126.1 rushing yards per game on the season, while scoring 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is also a threat with his legs, as he ranks second on the team with 815 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. In the passing game Scheelhaase though averages just 131.9 ypg to go along with 17 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. A.J. Jenkins heads up the receiving corps with 694 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Baylor, 7-5, 4-4 Big 12, is going bowling for the first time since 1994 and is playing just three hours away from its campus. Head coach Art Briles watched as his team started the season strong but faded down the stretch, dropping each of their final three games after a 7-2 start. The Bears haven’t had much success against Big Ten teams though posting a 2-9-1 mark all-time.
Baylor’s offense is capable of picking up yardage in huge chunks, as the Bears rank No. 12 in the nation in total offense with 478.5 ypg. They have a potent air-ground combo to keep defenses off balance in quarterback Robert Griffin and running back Jay Finley. Griffin is completing 66.3 percent of his passes on the year and has thrown 21 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. He is an asset on the ground too with 8 rushing touchdowns and averaging 50 ypg. Finley averages 6.3 ypc and has scored 11 touchdowns.
Kendall Wright is Griffin’s favorite target on the season with his 825 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Baylor won the only previous meeting between these two schools back in 1976.
PICK: Baylor University Bears
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features East Carolina University Pirates taking on the University of Maryland Terrapins in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, previously known as the EagleBank Bowl, which is now in its 3rd year taking place at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
East Carolina, 6-6, 5-3 C-USA, is lead under first year head coach Ruffin McNeill and has the Pirates strength being their explosive passing attack, which ranks 7th nationally at 319.3 ypg. Quarterback Dominique Davis has thrown for 36 touchdowns while completing nearly 65 percent of his passes. His 3,699 passing yards are the 4th-most in the nation. Behind Davis the Pirates rank 12th in the nation in scoring at 38 ppg.
The Pirates have a pair of top-notch receivers in Lance Lewis and Dwayne Harris, a First Team All-Conference USA pick as both a wideout and punt returner. Lewis has caught 78 passes for 979 yards and a team-high 13 touchdowns, while Harris set single-season school records with 93 catches and 1,055 yards to go along with 10 touchdowns. The rushing game is handled by Jon Williams who has rushed for 846 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Defensivley the Pirates have found themselves in shootouts on a weekly basis this season as they ranked dead last out of 120 Division I schools in total defense at 478.8 ypg and rank 118th in scoring defense at 43 ppg.
Maryland, 8-4, 5-3 ACC, had the second best turnaround in all of college football season as they posted a 6 win increase from a year ago. However, the Terps suffered a pair of late-season losses to division leaders Florida State and Miami to finish one game shy of qualifying for the ACC title game. Now, they must be carry a heavy emotional burden into this game as Athletic Director Kevin Anderson had decided to not bring back head coach Ralph Friedgen, who was responsible for the turnaround next season and named the ACC Coach of the Year.
The Terps offense has been anything but dynamic, as they rank 85th nationally in total offense 342.4 ypg and have had virtually no running game. However, in their last three wins the Terps quarterback Danny O’Brien began to grow into the role of the teams leader and displayed it on the field in each performance. On the season as whole though O’Brien has completed only 56.8 percent of his passes while throwing 21 touchdowns against only 6 interceptions. A major part of O’Brien late season success was his ability to find Torrey Smith who has caught 65 passes for 1,045 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he’ll no doubt be able to work his strengths against a Pirates horrible secondary.
This marks the first ever meeting between these two schools.
PICK: University of Maryland Terrapins