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PRE-CHAMPIONSHIP BOWLS SHOW OFF THE STARS
January 6, 2011

SCS.com GODADDY.COM BOWL - Middle Tennessee State vs. Miami (OH)

Although bowl fatigue may have set in after 30 of the 35 bowl games, Thursday night's Go Daddy Bowl features two of the best teams from the non-BCS conferences and two teams on good finishing streaks. Miami won their final five games to win the MAC Championship a year after going 1-11, and losing their quarterback Zac Dysert did not slow the Redhawks at all down the stretch as backup QB Austin Boucher threw for 700 yards in the final three games. Miami will look to establish the run against a weak Blue Raiders run defense, and RB Thomas Merriweather should have a big day. Miami was one of the worst running teams in college football this season, but this bowl game could change the tune at least temporarily. It will be interesting to see if the Redhawks stumble without head coach Michael Heywood, who is moving on to be the head coach at Pittsburgh. Middle Tennessee State ended on a three game winning streak to finish 6-6, and the Blue Raiders are led by QB Dwight Dasher, who had a nice season after begin suspended for the first four games. The Blue Raiders like to establish the run with RB Phillip Tanner and Dasher, and will probably try to avoid forcing Dasher to put the ball up after he threw 14 interceptions in 8 starts. Austin Broucher has been solid in his three starts, but expect the Blue Raiders defense led by Sun Belt defensive player of the year Jamari Lattimore to pressure Broucher and force a couple of mistakes that turn this game for the team from the Sun Belt. MTSU wins by 10 to send the Sun Belt to a perfect bowl season.

COTTON BOWL - LSU vs. Texas A&M

The Cotton Bowl features two teams that came within a whisker of playing in the BCS after solid seasons, one with a great defense and the other with a great offense. Texas A&M had a mid-season revival when Ryan Tannehill moved from receiver to quarterback and backup RB Cyrus Gray took over for injured starter Christine Michael. Tannehill has two other talented receivers to throw to in Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope, but he will find the going very difficult against one of the best defenses in college football. LSU is led on defense by CB Patrick Peterson, who will likely shut down whichever receiver is on his side of the field. The Tigers have held most teams below 20 points, and A&M may have to rely on their own defense to win this game. The Aggies are led on that side of the ball by Butkus Award winner Von Miller, who will be looking to add to the 10 interceptions LSU's two quarterbacks Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee have thrown this season. Jefferson is also a moderate threat to run the ball, as LSU was really only successful running the ball this season. The Aggies will certainly load up against RB Stevan Ridley and Jefferson and force the LSU quarterbacks to beat them through the air. And that is precisely what will happen, as Les Miles will have his offense ready to go after a month of preparation for the Aggie defense. LSU wins another heartbreaker by 4.

BBVA COMPASS BOWL - Pittsburgh vs. Kentucky

Two teams highly familiar with the lesser bowl scene will take the field in Mobile for this game, as Dave Wannstedt will be making his final coaching appearance for Pitt while Joker Phillips ends his first season at Kentucky. The Panthers offense struggled to open running lanes for RB Dion Lewis, but Lewis is definitely the best athlete on the field in this bowl game. QB Tino Sunseri will also look to get star WR Jonathan Baldwin more looks than he received in the regular season, assuming Lewis can get the offense started against a weak Wildcats defense. Kentucky salvaged a bowl appearance with a win against SEC East champion South Carolina, but the defense never looked as good after that game and will have to hope Pittsburgh's offensive woes follow them to Mobile. When Kentucky has the ball, backup QB Morgan Newton will be taking the snaps after starter Brian Hartline was suspended for his final game as a Wildcat. Newton did see action as a freshman last year for 8 games, but has thrown only 7 passes this season. Newton has had time in bowl preparations to get ready to take this start though, and he will be ready to spread the ball around to Randall Cobb and the other Kentucky receivers. One interesting match up will be DE Jabaal Sheard against the Kentucky offensive line, which had trouble with similar talented defensive ends in SEC play. Sheard will get to Newton and force some mistakes, and Pittsburgh will do just enough to send Wannstedt out a winner. Pitt wins by 7.

FIGHT HUNGER BOWL - Nevada vs. Boston College

The penultimate bowl of bowl season features one of the best non-BCS conference schools in Nevada and a team that finished on a five game roll in Boston College. Nevada brings a couple of great seniors in QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Vai Taua and their pistol offense to San Francisco to be on the national stage for only the second time this season (the first being the win over Boise State). Kaepernick threw for 2800 yards and 20 touchdowns and ran for 20 more, an astounding feat considering Taua added 19 touchdowns of his own. This may be Nevada's toughest test yet, as Boston College's defense led the country defensively against the run, only giving up 80 yards per game. Eagles LB Luke Kuechly will not be fooled by the unfamiliar pistol formation after a month of watching it on film and should slow the Wolfpack attack. Nevada will certainly break through 80 yards on the ground, but the question will be whether what they do put up will be enough to outpace the Eagles offense. Boston College is led by RB Montel Harris, who ran for over 1200 yards on the season. Harris is a bit dinged up but backup RB Andre Williams is capable, having run for 185 yards in the finale when Harris was missing. Freshman QB Chase Rettig will need to rely on his running game and avoid mistakes, as Nevada's offense must be kept off the field as much as possible. Boston College will put up a better effort than most expect, but Nevada is simply too good to fall with these seniors at the helm. Kaepernick goes out with a 13 win season, defeating BC by 14.

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