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December 26, 2006 As Christmas day passes by, the bowl season really begins to heat up as some of the better matchups start to appear on the upcoming schedule. Among those is the always-exciting Holiday Bowl, which annually features two of the better non-BCS teams from the Big XII and Pac-10. This year it will be Texas A&M, fresh off a huge win over Texas, going up against California, who finished in a tie for the conference title this fall. Also on the upcoming slate is a Texas Bowl matchup featuring Kansas State and Rutgers, perhaps the most surprising team in the country this fall. The Music City Bowl, meanwhlile, pits Clemson against Kentucky, while the Sun Bowl will match Missouri against Oregon State in a game that looks to be capable of producing plenty of points.

Holiday Bowl | Texas Bowl | Music City Bowl | Sun Bowl

HOLIDAY BOWL - California vs Texas A&M
December 28 - 7:00 PM CST ESPN - San Diego, CA

When California has the ball...

Nate Longshore stepped in at quarterback for the Bears this fall and played well for the most part, completing nearly 60% of his passes for 23 touchdowns, though he did toss a dozen interceptions. The offensive catalyst, though, is RB Marshawn Lynch. The Pac-10's best back dashed for 1245 yards and 9 scores this year in leading Cal to a 9-3 regular season record. DeSean Jackson, meanwhile, established himself as one of the conference's top wide receivers and possibly the most dangerous punt returner in all of college football. The A&M defense, ranked fifth in the Big XII, should be able to focus on those three players when looking to shut down the Bears' attack, though backup RB Justin Forsett and WR Lavelle Hawkins are dangerous as well.

When Texas A&M has the ball...

Sophomore QB Stephen McGee stepped in under center and played well this season, completing almost 62% of his passes for over 2100 yards while throwing a dozen TDs and just two picks. RB Mike Goodson is the team's leading rusher, but the Aggies' more ferocious back is the big-bodied Jorvorskie Lane, a 5'11" 265 monster who dashed for nearly 700 yards and a Big XII-best 19 touchdowns. When looking to pass, McGee turns most often to Chad Schroeder and Martellus Bennett. That pair combined for more than 1000 yards and a half-dozen scores in 2006. The Bears' defensive unit, meanwhile, is led by outstanding CB Daymeion Hughes.

The deciding factor...

This game always seems to be one of the season's best, and this year should be no exception. Both teams are extremely talented and were just a win or two away from possibly spending their vacation in a more luxurious BCS contest. The key to this one will likely be A&M's attempt to keep Cal from scoring the big plays. If the Aggies can keep Lynch from scoring on the long runs, limit Jackson on the long catches and punt returns, and keep the likes of Hughes and others on defense from turning A&M possessions into Cal scores, they'll likely be able to control the ball and pace of the game, in turning taking a Holiday Bowl title back to College Station. That, however, is a lot to ask for.

The staff says...

Ben David Eddie Ethan Gregg Jeff Jonathan Matt Matthew Reed

TEXAS BOWL - Rutgers vs Kansas State
December 28 - 7:00 PM CST NFL Network - Houston, TX

When Rutgers has the ball...

There is little secret when it comes to the Knights' offensive attack. They want to get the ball into the hands of their dynamic tailback Ray Rice, just as they have done over 300 times already this fall. On the season, he has accumulated over 1600 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns. Rutgers then likes to use the always-reliable Brian Leonard out of the backfield as a change of pace and a sneaky way to cash in a big play. QB Mike Teel, meanwhile, will attempt to manage the offense without getting extremely creative. His stats aren't impressive, but the Scarlet Knights' results on the field are a different story. Attempting to stop this unit will be a Wildcat defense ranking just seventh in the Big XII this year.

When Kansas State has the ball...

Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, though his stats don't appear to be all that impressive, looks to be an up-and-coming star in college football after leading the 'Cats to seven wins and a return to the postseason in his first season under center in Manhattan. A trio of tailbacks - Leon Patton, James Johnson, and Thomas Clayton - carry the load when KSU looks to run. In passing situations, Freeman most often looks in the direction of the team's leading wide receiver Jordy Nelson, a former walk-on. Attempting to slow down this attack will be the Big East's best defense from this past season, as the Knights averaged allowing just under 15 points per contest.

The deciding factor...

Rutgers appears to hold the edge in basically every facet of this game, but every college football fan knows that can all be thrown out the window once the game kicks off. One thing to watch for will be the Knights' attitude and excitement level from the beginning, as their aspirations and goals were set a bit more lofty than what they were awarded when bowl invites were officially handed out earlier this month. Will Rutgers take care of business, or will the young Freeman lead his team to a huge victory early in the career of first-year head coach Ron Prince?

The staff says...

Ben David Eddie Ethan Gregg Jeff Jonathan Matt Matthew Reed

MUSIC CITY BOWL - Clemson vs Kentucky
December 29 - 12:00 PM CST ESPN - Nashville, TN

When Clemson has the ball...

The Tigers' attack is led by a pair of the nation's top running backs, perhaps the best one-two punch in all of America. Sophomore James Davis and freshman C.J. Spiller combined for more than 2000 rushing yards, 300 receiving yards, and 29 total touchdowns this fall, leading Clemson to an 8-4 record. QB Will Proctor, meanwhile, has stepped in under center to lead the offense and has fared well at times. He's completed more than 60% of his passes on the season, though his 13 to 10 touchdown to interception ratio is not all that admirable. His favorite target, though, is star WR Chancy Stuckey, a speedstar capable of taking one to the house at any moment. Trying to quiet this unit will be a UK defense ranked dead last in the SEC, yielding nearly 30 points per contest.

When Kentucky has the ball...

Kentucky's return to the postseason has been led by the passing game, something those who remember the Cats' success under QBs Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen shouldn't be all that surprised to hear. Current QB Andre Woodson threw for over 3200 yards and 28 touchdowns this fall while having just 7 passes picked off. His favorite target is one of the SEC's best, WR Kennan Burton. The junior had over 1000 receiving yards and a dozen scores this fall, while fellow WR Dicky Lyons Jr. had nearly 800 yards and 8 TDs of his own. Burton is also one of the country's better kick returners. RB Rafael Little, meanwhile, is a speedster who had over 600 yards on the ground while also returning punts. The Clemson defense, however, was one of the ACC's stingiest this year, allowing just over two touchdowns per game.

The deciding factor...

The Kentucky offense has been great this year, especially through the air, but the Tigers' defense hasn't been bad itself. The matchup to watch, therefore, will be Clemson's offense, ranked #1 in the ACC, against the UK defense, the SEC's worst. Can Kentucky slow the Tigers' attack at all? If so, Rich Brooks stands a great chance of leading his team to victory. The Wildcats are capable of putting points on the board, but if Clemson can control the clock with their potent running game, UK won't be able to keep up.

The staff says...

Ben David Eddie Ethan Gregg Jeff Jonathan Matt Matthew Reed

SUN BOWL - Oregon State vs Missouri
December 29 - 1:00 PM CST CBS - El Paso, TX

When Oregon State has the ball...

After losing three of their first five, the Beavers turned it up and lost just once over the final eight weeks of the season. QB Matt Moore had a good season, completing more than 61% of his passes for nearly 2700 yards and 14 touchdowns. His six picks were a vast improvement over that same stat from a season ago. RB Yvenson Bernard was again one of the nation's best backs, dashing for over 1200 yards and a dozen touchdowns this fall. Moore's top target, Sammie Stroughter, was one of the Pac-10's best wide receivers, as he had just over 1200 yards and 4 TDs on the season. While the Beavers' offensive unit averaged nearly 27 points per game, Missouri's defense was one of the best in the Big XII this year, allowing just under 18 points per contest.

When Missouri has the ball...

The Tigers' season went in much the opposite fashion of OSU's, as Mizzou won their first six before dropping four down the stretch. QB Chase Daniel, just a sophomore, emerged as a solid guy under center this year, throwing for nearly 3200 yards and 26 touchdowns while tossing just 10 picks. Daniel also ran for almost 400 yards and 4 more scores. RB Tony Temple, meanwhile, did most of the work out of the backfield, running for nearly 900 yards and 5 scores, while Daniel's favorite target was WR William Franklin, who had a half-dozen scores and over 800 receiving yards on the year. Attempting to slow this unit, which averages almost 30 points per game, will be an Oregon State defense allowing an average of 3 touchdowns per contest.

The deciding factor...

There's no doubt that both of these offenses look to put points on the board as often as possible, so this one will likely come down to which defense can slow the opposition down. It will also be interesting to see if Oregon State stays as hot as they were late in the year as they took down the likes of Southern Cal and in-state rival Oregon down the stretch. Will the young QB Daniel lead Mizzou to victory, or will OSU pick up their impressive tenth win of the year?

The staff says...

Ben David Eddie Ethan Gregg Jeff Jonathan Matt Matthew Reed

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