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MAJOR CONFERENCES TAKE THE STAGE
December 29, 2010

SCS.comARMED FORCES BOWL - Army vs. SMU

The Armed Forces Bowl features two more teams coming back to winning ways after long droughts of losing seasons. Like the other service academies, Army runs the triple option and the fullback is the biggest threat in that system. For the Golden Knights, that FB is Jarden Hassin, who may break 1000 yards on the season in this game. QB Trent Steelman is the second-leading rusher but has proven to be an adequate passer when necessary to stretch out defenses forced to focus against the run. SMU does have the advantage of facing the triple option earlier this season against Navy, so with a full month to prepare, expect the Mustang defense to be ready to cover all wrinkles the Golden Knights throw at them. Unlike June Jones's days at Hawaii, his SMU team in 2010 has set up the strong passing game with a decent running attack. RB Zach Line may be underrated with nearly 1400 yards on the ground, but the Golden Knights must not underestimate Line's running ability when focusing on stopping the wide-open passing attack led by QB Kyle Padron. Padron has two 1000-yard receivers in Cole Beasley and Aldrick Robinson, each of which will be tough assignments for the defensive backs from West Point. SMU will be eager to break out their offense after being completely shut down by UCF in the C-USA championship game, and despite a good performance led by DE Josh NcNary, SMU will find the sledding easy enough to run away from the Golden Knights. SMU wins by 21.

PINSTRIPE BOWL - Kansas State vs. Syracuse

Although the last thing the college football world needed was another bowl game, the Pinstripe Bowl at least brings an interesting setting in New York at Yankee Stadium. The offensive strategy for both the Wildcats and the Orange in this game will be to establish the run and then run, run, run all day to victory. Kansas State will be hoping that senior RB Daniel Thomas continues his fantastic season with nearly 1500 yards and 16 touchdowns already. Syracuse has a fantastic defensive backfield but has been prone to opposing running games this season. Thus, the Wildcats will not want to put QB Carson Coffman in a position where he must throw into the teeth of the Syracuse defense to win the game. Thomas will be helped in his running attack by the absence of Orange starting DT Andrew Lewis. When Syracuse has the ball, RB Delone Carter will also be trying to impose the running game on Kansas State, which also suffers against opposing running games. The Wildcats have given up well over 200 yards per game on the ground, so Syracuse will definitely run to open up the passing game. Orange QB Ryan Nassib has had a successful sophomore season but will need to improve from his last two games where he did not throw a touchdown. both teams struggled down the stretch, but the Orange have a slightly more balanced offense and will have serious home field advantage in New York, which will make the difference in a 3 point victory.

MUSIC CITY BOWL - North Carolina vs. Tennessee

Each of these teams comes into Nashville feeling thrilled to be in a bowl game and probably happy to see one another after Tennessee backed out on a home-and-home series between these teams in 2011 and 2012. The Volunteers won their final four games to rebound from a 2-6 start, and the story of the recovery was freshman QB Tyler Bray. Bray and RB Tauren Poole revamped an offense that struggled to score at all behind Matt Simms at quarterback. Bray will be facing his best opposing defense of the season in the Tar Heels, but the North Carolina defense that could have been great is only good thanks to seven season-long suspensions and a couple injuries. Tennessee fans are completely reinvigorated and sold out the stadium in Nashville to support their volunteers. North Carolina may be happy to escape three straight bowl games in Charlotte and missing a bowl after the turmoil to start the season, but this hornets nest of Volunteers in Nashville may not be the best bowl destination for a team just finding out how good they really are. QB T.J. Yates completed nearly 68 percent of his passes and racked up 3100 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season. A fellow senior RB Johnny White will also be looking to cap his college career with one more big running game against a Volunteers defense that does have some holes up front. Look for the Tar Heels to try and establish the run, but the Volunteers will hold the Tar Heels at bay long enough for the freshman quarterback to find weaknesses in the UNC defense. Tennessee wins by 3.

HOLIDAY BOWL - Nebraska vs. Washington

Although Nebraska was disappointed to drop another Big XII championship game, they hoped to land softly in a preview of a future rivalry with Iowa in the Insight Bowl. Instead, the Conhuskers get shipped out west to play Washington, a team they beat in September and will play again next September. This Huskies team is a lot different than the one the Cornhuskers beat in September, on a three game winning streak and seeing Jake Locker thrive in his final games as quarterback of Washington. Locker's favorite target is WR Jermaine Kearse, who should be able to find some openings against Nebraska's secondary, assuming Locker has enough time to throw. Nebraska has a strong defensive front even without Ndamakong Suh, and the blackshirts harassed Locker and completely shut down RB Chris Polk, who averaged over 100 yards per game despite being held to 50 by the Cornhuskers. When Nebraska has the ball, phenom freshman QB Taylor Martinez will try to have another monster game against the Huskies. In his first true road game at Seattle, Martinez ran for 137 yards and threw for 150 more. As the season progressed, Martinez learned to rely more on RB Roy Helu Jr. and became a more accurate passer, although he only threw for 9 touchdowns on the season. Washington's defense will know that the key to stopping Nebraska is to load up against the run and find a way to contain Helu and Martinez from gaining the outside corner. Assuming Martinez stays healthy throughout this game, Washington will not be able to keep up considering the strength of Nebraska's defense. The Conhuskers will find a tougher challenge than they did in September, but another Holiday Bowl win is in the works for Nebraska. Cornhuskers by 17.

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