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December 23, 2006 After a short hiatus, football is finally back, and the third leg of the bowl series will feature some great matchups this year. To start things off, the Motor City Bowl will feature a great contest between the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee. CMU quarterback Dan LeFevour will do his best to pick apart a vulnerable Blue Raider secondary in that one. The Emerald Bowl will feature two down-trodden heavy-weights as the UCLA Bruins battle the Florida State Seminoles. The recent upset over rival USC may give the Bruins the emotional edge in this one, coupled with the fact that the FSU offense is reeling after the resignation of offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden.

The Independence Bowl, though, should shape up to be the best matchup of the bunch with two teams at opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum lining up to play. The Alabama Crimson Tide brings one of the top defenses in the country to face one of the nation's top offenses in the Oklahoma State Cowboys, and both teams' strongpoint is the other teamís weakness. Alabama, however, still has not found a head coach to replace the fired Mike Shula, and this could give the Cowboys the edge.

Motor City Bowl | Emerald Bowl | Independence Bowl

MOTOR CITY BOWL - Central Michigan vs Middle Tennessee
December 26 - 6:30 PM CST ESPN - Detroit, MI

When Central Michigan has the ball...

Field-general Dan LeFevour will be the man in charge of making plays. A competent quarterback with big-play ability, LeFevour has lit up defenses all season long thanks in part to some big time receivers and a lackluster running game. Receivers Bryan Anderson and Damien Linson should find themselves open quite frequently against a blitz-heavy Middle Tennessee defense. If MTSU linebacker J.K. Sabb and end Erik Walden can actually put some pressure on LeFevour, he could make some mistakes, as ball security has been his big question mark this season. If LeFevour has time to deliver the ball, this offense could put up some great numbers.

When Middle Tennessee has the ball...

The Blue Raiders will attempt to go right at the Chippewas and hit them in the chin with a smash-mouth running attack that is designed to demoralize the opponent and eat at the clock. Tailback Eugene Gross has all the tools, but this may be the game where the lack of a passing offense allows Central Michigan to load the box and stuff the run. The passing game for the Blue Raiders has been non-existent this season, with quarterback Clint Marks only attempting 246 passes, completing 146 passes for 1666 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven interceptions.

The deciding factor...

This game comes down to one thing. If Middle Tennessee is going to win this game, they must get to LeFevour. If they do not, then Central Michigan will win in a rout. If the Blue Raiders can help out their outmanned secondary by actually getting some sacks and hurries, they stand a much better chance of pulling of the upset.

The staff says...

Ben David Eddie Ethan Gregg Jeff Jonathan Matt Matthew Reed

EMERALD BOWL - Florida State vs UCLA
December 27 - 7:00 PM CST ESPN - San Francisco, CA

When Florida State has the ball...

The Seminoles will try to move the ball using an offense that has no clear identity and no clear starter at quarterback. The Seminoles' coaches have not been able to settle on Drew Weatherford or Xavier Lee this year, as the offense has been downright woeful and has yet to really get clicking. With the talent and depth at wide receiver. the Seminoles could be quite explosive, but the lack of a competent quarterback has limited their touches, as well as their potential this season. The resignation of offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden this season stems as a result of an offense that has been hideous, and if FSU is going to win the Emerald Bowl against a strong UCLA defense, then something must be done to motivate the talented players on the Florida State roster.

When UCLA has the ball...

Look for UCLA to run a ball control offense and attempt to keep the FSU offense on the field. While FSU is worse than usual this year, they do have talent, and the last thing Karl Dorrell wants is for the Seminole athletes to decide to show up against his Bruins. Bruce Davis and Justin Hickman have combined for 25 sacks on the season, and if they can keep pressure on the Seminole quarterback, then they can definitely win the game. Bruin signal-caller Patrick Cowan hasnít been spectacular, but he has been incredibly solid and has put up good numbers when needed. His talent, coupled with the running of Chris Markey, could spell trouble for the Seminoles.

The deciding factor...

If Florida State can get consistent play from their quarterbacks, then they have a chance to get the job done. Their defense is good enough to keep them in the game for a while, but if the offense canít convert and stay on the field, the defense will wear down and UCLA will run away with the game.

The staff says...

Ben David Eddie Ethan Gregg Jeff Jonathan Matt Matthew Reed

INDEPENDENCE BOWL - Oklahoma State vs Alabama
December 28 - 3:30 PM CST ESPN - Shreveport, LA

When Oklahoma State has the ball...

The Cowboys will try to maintain enough balance to keep the extremely talented Bama defense on their heels. These two teams are polar opposites, and as good as OSU is at moving the ball, Bama is just that good at keeping it from moving. OSU tailback Dantrell Savage is a talented runner who can take it to the house, however he lacks the ability to pound the ball between the tackles, and therefore much of OSUís run game is on sweeps and tosses. Bama is exceptionally talented at linebacker, and their speed could negate the ability of OSU to run sideline-to-sideline. The catalyst for the Cowboy offense is quarterback Bobby Reid, an extremely talented athlete who sometimes tries to do too much. His numbers have improved drastically this year, though, as he has added some maturity, skill, and a great target in Adarius Bowman.

When Alabama has the ball...

Tailback Kenneth Darby will see as many carries as possible. The OSU defense has occasionally been a springboard for the careers of opponents, and at times this season, the Pokes have been extremely bad on the defensive side of the ball. If Bama quarterback John Parker Wilson can make some plays, then the OSU defense will be forced to honor the pass, and this in turn will open some run lanes for the always-dangerous Darby. On defense, linebackers Juwan Simpson and Prince Hall lead a unit that has been exceptional all season.

The deciding factor...

The deciding factor in the Independence Bowl will be whether or not the Tide can keep the Pokes out of the endzone. I do not see any problems from the Alabama side on offense, but their offense may have to score big if Bobby Reid, Savage, and Bowman can get in a rhythm against the defense.

The staff says...

Ben David Eddie Ethan Gregg Jeff Jonathan Matt Matthew Reed

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