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BOWL PREVIEW PART II: CLASHES OF STYLE
December 25, 2009

SCS.com Music City Bowl
Kentucky vs. Clemson
12/27

Although much of the Big Blue nation has turned its collective attention to the hardcourt, the Wildcats come into their fourth straight bowl game looking for a fourth straight bowl victory. Kentucky is well-forged by the battles of the SEC, and that will come in very handy against a team which was one play away from the BCS in Clemson. Kentucky's offense matches up fairly well against Clemson's defense, which was gashed twice by Georgia Tech and has been suspect against the run at other times this season. Kentucky will look for RB Derrick Locke to carry the load, especially if freshman QB Morgan Newton gets the start. There is a chance starting QB Mike Hartline, who missed the second half of the season due to injury, will be back for this game. If Hartline can go, there's no question Kentucky will be more balanced on offense. There's no reason to believe Kentucky will not try to contain the Clemson offense by keeping them off the field and keeping the score manageable.

The Tigers are certainly not as motivated to be here after the ACC Championship, but C.J. Spiller may will this team to a victory in his last collegiate start. Look for freshman Kyle Parker to have a much more open playbook after having multiple weeks to prepare for the Kentucky defense. The Wildcats will certainly miss their leader, LB Sam Maxwell, who would have definitely been the spy on Spiller and Parker. Just looking at the talent on the field, Clemson should win this game. However, Kentucky and the SEC just find ways to win bowl games. Look for Kentucky to win this game if they can keep Clemson under 24 points, but if this becomes a shootout, the Tigers will likely run away at some point. I believe Rich Brooks will have a solid gameplan for his defense and will find a way to lead his team to an upset. Kentucky wins by 4.

Independence Bowl
Texas A&M vs. Georgia
12/28

Texas A&M stumbles into this Independence Bowl at 6-6 after starting 3-0 in September. The Aggies have had little trouble on offense, racking up over 460 yards per game on offense. QB Jerrod Johnson is the star of the show, who is just as likely to kill a defense with his accurate passing as he is with his running ability under pressure. The Bulldogs defense will have to decide whether to risk loading up against the run. Johnson is not the only Aggie who can gash the Bulldogs on the ground. RB Christine Michael and RB Cyrus Gray have nearly identical amounts of carries and statistics. The good news for the Bulldogs is that while Georgia struggled mightily on defense overall, opposing rushing attacks did not find a ton of openings. So the match up on this side of the ball will likely come down to whether Johnson can continue to make big plays with his arm. While this seems likely, the Aggies will not run away with this game because...

As good as the Aggies have been on offense, they have been worse on defense. Now obviously defensive statistics can be deflated to very poor standards in the offense-heavy Big XII conference, but the Aggies are really struggling to find the toughness on defense that made the program a real threat to Oklahoma and Texas earlier in the decade. Georgia has rebounded from an awful start to the season by turning to their own rushing game, led by RB Caleb King and RB Washaun Early. Senior QB Joe Cox has also flourished at times in his senior season, but he also can be prone to big mistakes. Georgia will definitely be happy to see a non-SEC defense across the sidelines, but the Bulldogs must also worry as much as the Aggies about their defense keeping them in the game. In a compelling battle of good offenses and poor defenses, the keys to the game are usually special teams and coaching. In this regard, Texas A&M cannot hope to keep up with the talent on the field and the prowess of Mark Richt. Expect Richt to take a good hold on his defense and lead that unit to their best performance all season. Georgia wins by 17.

Eagle Bank Bowl
UCLA vs. Temple
12/29

UCLA has to thank Navy for knocking Army out of this EagleBank bowl, but the task at hand may not be as easy as it looks on its face. Temple has really turned around their program under coach Al Golden and the Owls will not make it easy on a relatively inconsistent Bruin offense. Rick Neheisel is building for the future in 2009 with a pair of freshman leading the offense. QB Kevin Prince and RB Johnathan Franklin are responsible for most of the offense, although don't be surprised if a few backups see some significant playing time in this game, especially if things do not start well. Watch for Adrian Robinson to lead the Owls defense into this game and try to add more sacks to his season total against the relatively inexperienced freshmen stars. Temple is one of the best teams in the country against the run, so this game could come down to whether Prince can avoid the rush and manage the game without making any crucial mistakes.

The Owls come into this game a little disappointed after losing their final game to Ohio, which cost the team a trip to the conference championship game. Nevertheless, Temple will be very happy to be in this game and has to be thrilled to see a similar team from a major conference as the opponent. QB Vaughn Charlton has relied on the Temple running game most of the season, and they have not disappointed except when RB Bernard Pierce missed the Ohio game with a shoulder injury. Pierce and RB Matt Brown will likely share the load in this bowl game, but Pierce is the star of the show. UCLA does have some superstar players on the defensive side to try and slow this rushing attack, including run-stuffing safety Rahim Moore and DT Brian Price. If the Temple offensive line can contain Price, then Temple will likely rush their way to victory. Another slight factor in this game is special teams, which could make all the difference in a defensive slugfest. Thankfully for the Bruins, they have the nation's best kicker in Kai Forbath. Look for Forbath to kick four field goals and do just enough to beat the Owls in a close one. UCLA wins by 3.

Champs Sports Bowl
Miami vs. Wisconsin
12/29

For the first time in half a decade, the Miami Hurricanes became relevant again in a September to remember. Although things got muddled at the beginning of conference play, Randy Shannon kept the team on course and finished strong with nine wins. Now Miami will take a short trip up to Orlando to try and keep the ball rolling against a strong Wisconsin defense. Miami is led by QB Jacory Harris, who is the epitome of a hot and cold quarterback. Harris has thrown for over 3000 yards but also 17 interceptions. Harris could have some issues in this game due to a banged up offensive line. Furthermore, the Badgers defense will likely load up against RB Graig Cooper and RB Damien Berry, daring Harris to beat them through the air. The Hurricanes will live and die by Harris's decisions, but that is not all that much different from what led them to a 9-3 record.

On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin is a smashmouth Big Ten team which will rely on a highly talented running back to carry them to victory. John Clay was nearly impossible to stop as the Big Ten's offensive player of the year, racking up over 1300 yards and 16 touchdowns. Clay not only knows how to smash into the line and move defenders, he can break out with speed at times as well. QB Scott Tolzien was an unsung hero this year, throwing the ball around for 16 touchdowns of his own. Each of these teams stacks up very equally in terms of offensive and defensive output, but the contrasting styles will be interesting to see in action. Conventional logic says the team who can domiante the clock with a strong running game will win this type of battle, but Miami looked very much improved on defense down the stretch. While Wisconsin will not suffer a shocking 29 point blowout like last season's Champs Sports Bowl, Miami will finish its turnaround with a tenth win. Hurricanes win by 6.

Humanitarian Bowl
Bowling Green vs. Idaho
12/30

As the lovely blue turf cannot host the hometown Broncos, the Humanitarian Bowl takes the next best thing by grabbing in-state rival Idaho. Idaho will welcome Bowling Green to the blue turf, and the Falcons bring the best receiver in the country Freddie Barnes with them. Barnes will almost certainly set the NCAA record for receptions in a season in the Humanitarian Bowl, and double teams have not discouraged the Falcons from going to him this season. QB Tyler Sheehan has really thrown the ball all over the field, and the Falcons will likely not get any kind of rushing game going. With the exception of a couple of conference losses, the lack of a rushing attack has not mattered. That could change in the one bowl game where winter weather and nasty conditions are an annual ritual. In any event, Bowling Green is on a four game win streak and hopes to keep the momentum going against a sturggling Vandals defense.

The Vandals lost their final three regular season games, including a blowout on this blue turf against Boise State. Idaho also throws the ball all over the field with QB Nathan Enderle. Enderle has a lot of help from a trio of running backs led by DeMaundray Woolridge. While the Vandals are not a juggernaut rushing the ball, the balance they bring on the offensive side of the ball should give the Falcons defense fits. The Falcons were fairly strong against the run this season, but look for the story to change if Enderle breaks down the Falcon coverage a couple of times in the first half. Bowling Green has more momentum, but the home field advantage and the rushing game will come in more than handy as the Vandals strike a 7 point win in this one.

Holiday Bowl
Arizona vs. Nebraska
12/30

The Holiday Bowl generally finds a way to match up two very good teams who just missed out on the BCS, and this year is no exception. Arizona lost a late lead and fell in double overtime to Oregon, while Nebraska had beaten Texas before a second was placed back on the clock to give the Longhorns a game winning field goal. Nebraska comes into this game with an offense that certainly is not all that effective. QB Zac Lee was prone to mistakes and the Cornhuskers were not able to pull together much more than 250 yards of offense over the latter half of the season. If Nebraska will score any points against a decent Wildcat defense, it will come on the ground with Roy Helu. Arizona was able to completely stuff the many talented running backs of USC, so this match up all hinges on the offensive line of Nebraska. If the Cornhuskers do not fall apart, they may score just enough points to win.

The much more compelling battle will be Nebraska's top notch defense against the Wildcats offense. QB Nick Foles has thrived behind a good offensive line this season, spreading the ball around to many receivers including Juron Criner. A pair of running backs Keola Antolin and Nic Grigsby split the duties in the backfield and have found moderate success this season. However, Nebraska is the second ranked defense in the country and showed their muscle in completely dominating Texas a few weeks ago. DT Ndamukong Suh has taken on double teams and all comers on any offensive line, leading his defense and surprising the nation with a fourth place Heisman Trophy finish. Suh makes good offensive lines look silly, and Nick Foles may see more pressure than he's been accustomed to in this game. If that happens, Foles might just make the mistake or two than Nebraska has been able to thrive on. Expect the new Blackshirts to determine the course of this game. Nebraska holds onto a lead this time around, winning by 4.

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