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NEW YEAR'S EVE BOWLS HIGHLIGHT TEAMS ON THE RISE
December 30, 2010

SCS.com MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL - South Florida vs. Clemson

If you are a fan of offensive powerhouses, this will not be the game for you. However, South Florida and Clemson will bring two tough defenses into Charlotte for what appears to be an even match up. The major question coming into this game for the Bulls is whether two-year starting quarterback B.J. Daniels will be healthy enough to start. Walk-on QB Bobby Eveld played against Miami and Connecticut, but the Bulls are much better with Daniels at the wheel. If Daniels cannot go, the focus of the Bulls offense will be their two remaining uninjured running backs Demetrius Murray and Moise Plancher. Clemson will counter with Da'Quan Bowers, the nation's top defensive player. Expect Bowers to have a huge performance against a struggling and shallow Bulls offense (due to injury). When Clemson has the ball, Kyle Parker will likely be the quarterback for his final college start, although Parker has been benched a couple of times this season. Parker threw 10 interceptions this season and may need help from RB Andre ellington and RB Jamie Harper to avoid making a couple mistakes that could cost the Tigers the game. Clemson is simply too strong on defense to allow the Bulls to win this game. Clemson wins by 17.

SUN BOWL - Notre Dame vs. Miami

Although neither team will be terribly happy to end up in El Paso, the Irish and the Hurricanes did luck into an old rivalry revisit in the Sun Bowl, echoing the great days of Catholics vs. Convicts in the late 1980's. Miami struggled down the stretch with QB Jacory Harris's injuries and inconsistency, but when Harris plays well he is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Harris will be looking for Leonard Hankerson more often than not for big plays, as Hankerson has nearly 1100 yards this season. Harris or backup quarterback Stephen Morris will be tested by a talented Irish linebacker crew led by Darius Fleming and Manti Te'o. Expect the Irish defense to play well against the pass and force Miami to run with Harris or senior RB Damien Berry. When Notre Dame has the ball, the Hurricane defensive front will try to bring pressure to disrupt freshman QB Tommy Rees, who finished the season well after coming in for the injured starter Dayne Crist. The Irish's best threat this season was RB Armando Allen, but he was lost to a season-ending injury as well and so speedy sophomore Cierre Wood needs to continue to do better for Brian Kelly's wide open offense. Miami's defense is well-suited to slowing the Irish offense, considering Kelly likes to put the ball in the air frequently. However, Miami is going to have to scramble without their fired head coach Randy Shannon or their new coach Al Golden, and Kelly is a master tactician who will make a gutsy call or two to let the Irish pull the game out by 3.

LIBERTY BOWL - Georgia vs. Central Florida

Although each of these teams had early growing pains and struggles, both finished the season hot and UCF came back to win the C-USA Championship. This game also features a battle of the best two freshman quarterbacks in the country this season, as Georgia's Aaron Murray takes on UCF's Jeff Godfrey. Godfrey threw for over 2000 yards and ran for 540 more, helping a strong running attack with RB Ronnie Weaver and RB Latavius Murray. Georgia's defense was rock solid against the pass, but had serious trouble stopping the good running backs in the SEC this season. It will be interesting to see if the Golden Knights can overcome a size deficiency on the lines to push back the Bulldogs front and open holes for the running game. The Bulldogs will hope LB Justin Houston can sniff out plays as well as he did in November in this bowl game. When the Bulldogs have the ball, Murray will look for phenom junior WR A.J. Green, who certainly helped turned the Bulldogs around after a 1-3 start during a four game suspension for Green. The Golden Knights also cannot sleep on WR Kris Durham, who finds holes in defense when Green receives double teams and too much attention. In a battle of freshman quarterbacks, anything could happen, but the difference in overall athletic talent will show by the end of this game as Georgia will grind out a 10 point victory.

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL - South Carolina vs. Florida State

Although neither team had an easy assignment in their respective conference championship games, both the Gamecocks and the Seminoles were one game away from playing on the game's biggest stage a few weeks ago. However, the teams will have to settle for an intriguing game between a former Florida coach against the new man in charge at FSU, Jimbo Fisher. The deciding factor of this game might be whether Seminoles QB Christian Ponder is healthy enough to play, which is still uncertain at the time this article is being written. If Ponder cannot go, E.J. Manuel will need to be much better than he was in the ACC Championship and in other action during the regular season (3 touchdowns, 4 interceptions). Ponder can buy time and find many weaknesses in a secondary, and South Carolina certainly is prone to good passing attacks. Seminoles RB Chris Thompson was completely shut down by Virginia Tech in the finale, but expect a bounceback performance, especially if Ponder can soften up the Gamecocks defense. South Carolina's offense goes as RB Marcus Lattimore goes. Lattimore rushed for 17 touchdowns and 1200 yards this season, single-handedly ripping apart Alabama and Florida in the Gamecocks' two biggest wins on the season. QB Stephen Garcia most often targets WR Alshon Jeffery, and Jeffery will be a hard cover assignment for CB Ochuko Jenije or CB Greg Reid. Florida State may not have a Cam Newton to run the Auburn game plan against the Gamecocks, but Ponder will probably try to play in one final bowl game and will likely make enough good throws to carry FSU to another win over Spurrier. Florida State wins by 7.

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