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BOWL SEASON BEGINS WITH A TRIPLEHEADER
December 18, 2010

SCS.com After a short two week respite from college football (less if you watched Army-Navy or the FCS playoffs), bowl season arrives today with three games. Even if you never get a chance to follow some of the non-BCS conferences during the regular season, this Saturday is an opportunity to see some good teams leading those lesser known conferences. Without further ado, let the previews begin!

NEW MEXICO BOWL - BYU vs. UTEP

Although excitement might not be two 6-6 teams trying to avoid a losing season, the New Mexico Bowl features two teams going in different directions. BYU is headed to football independence next season and finished with four wins in their final five games. QB Jake Heaps relies significantly on RB JJ De Luigi to catch a lot of passes and also carry the running game. UTEP's defense will likely try to shut down De Luigi and force Heaps into difficult passing situations as the game goes along. However, the Cougars have a solid offensive line and should be able to produce some push to keep the ball moving as the game goes along. UTEP has found a decent balance on offense, but QB Trevor Vittatoe has taken a few steps back as this season wound down, with 8 interceptions during a 1-5 stretch to end the season. BYU has an experienced defensive backfield led by CB Brian Logan and Brandon Bradley which generally shuts down opposing pass offenses. Thus UTEP may be forced to rely on the running game, which has not generated a ton of points for them this season. Given the way these teams ended the season and BYU's solid defense, expect to Cougars to slowly distance themselves and win easily by 17.

HUMAINTARIAN BOWL - Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State

Two weeks ago, Northern Illinois surprisingly lost in the MAC Championship after an undefeated conference regular season. However, the bigger blow came when the Huskies lost their head coach to Minnesota. What would have certainly favored NIU on paper before Kill's departure now looks like a toss-up against the Bulldogs, who are very familiar with the blue turf in Boise. Fresno State was prone to defensive breakdowns this season against good offenses like Boise State, and the Huskies will present a tough challenge as RB Chad Spann powers the seventh best running attack in the country. QB Chandler Harnish is efficient with his throws as well, so loading up against the run does not always work either. It will not be much easier on the other side of the ball, as LB Alex Kube has the football instincts of a Troy Polamalu, seemingly being involved in every play on the field. Young RB Robbie Rouse should be back for the bowl game after missing the last coupled of weeks with injured ribs. The Bulldogs will need Rouse to keep the Huskeis offense off the field to stick around in this one. However, the one intangible is the coaching questions at NIU and the man on the other sideline, Pat Hill, is a master of preparation and getting the most out of his team. Fresno State will keep this close and may have an opportunity late to win, but the Huskies will end up putting a cap on thier most successful season in history with a 4 point win.

NEW ORLEANS BOWL - Ohio vs. Troy

The nightcap on Saturday is a battle of teams that found success in league play in the MAC and Sun Belt, but perhaps not to the extent each program desired. Ohio and Troy each had designs on conference championships but had to settle for second place or a shared crown. They will now meet in a great match up to end the opening tripleheader. The Bobcats do not have a dynamic offense, but they play tough midwestern football under Frank Solich and put a lot of emphasis on pounding opponents with the running game. Backup QB Phil Bates runs a lot of option with RB Vince Davidson, but look for senior QB Boo Jackson to have more playing time in his final game. Jackson is prone to mistakes and is not as big a threat to run the ball, but fellow senior WR Terrence McCrae will probably find some openings against a weak pass defense for Troy. The Trojans have a much more dynamic offense driven by the passing game and QB Corey Robinson, who threw for over 3300 yards this season. Like Jackson, Robinson has thrown a lot of interceptions this season and Ohio's defense is very opportunistic. Expect the Bobcats to come out trying to dominate the clock, but the key will be stopping the Trojans wide open attack to keep a mediocre offense close enough to win. The game is truly a toss-up, which is problematic for Ohio, which finds ways to lose bowl games (0-4 all time) in the clutch moments. Troy will escpae New Orleans with a 3 point win.

Well, you have my apologies readers for the late previews on this pass and perhaps some short analysis, but the first draft of this article was lost in digital abyss. But fear not, the bowl previews will continue and we will focus quite a bit on a great slate of five BCS games when we get closer to New Year's. Until next time, enjoy the bowls.

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