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December 24, 2007

2007 Bowl Preview Series

Motivation is the single key word that defines this bowl season, and especially in this first set of bowl games between BCS conference teams. Will these teams be disappointed to be in these so-called lower level bowl games, or are the kids motivated to play another game in December on a national stage? Plenty of compelling storylines come from this quartet of bowl games, so let's jump right in to the analysis of the Champs Sports, Texas, Emerald, and Meineke Car Care Bowls that highlight the week after Christmas.

Champs Sports | Texas | Emerald | Meineke Car Care

SCS.comCHAMPS SPORTS BOWL - Boston College vs Michigan State
December 28 - 4:00 PM PM CST ESPN - Orlando, FL

When Boston College has the ball...

The Eagles offense has been very potent this season, rolling up 448 yards per game to go with 29 points per game. The key to the Boston College offense is without a doubt star QB Matt Ryan. Ryan has a slew of quality receivers to throw to, including Rich Gunnell and Brandon Robinson. The only thing holding the Eagles back has been Ryan's inconsistency and late-game interceptions.
On the other side of the ball, the Michigan State defense struggled to stop some mediocre Big Ten offenses. The Spartan secondary does not match up well with the BC receivers, but Michigan State has come up with big defensive efforts against the best teams they played, Michigan and Ohio State. Still, the Spartans have not faced as talented a QB as Ryan, so expect a lot of blitzes due to BC's lack of a running threat.

When Michigan State has the ball...

Even though the Spartan defense was not great this season, the offense carried MSU to their first bowl game since 2003. QB Brian Hoyer led a very balanced offense as an experienced junior, but the real key was the dual threat running backs Javon Ringer (1346 yards) and Jehuu Caulcrick (21 TD). The Spartans are more than happy to be here, so don't expect any rust on this offense.
The Boston College defense was hot and cold this season, brilliant at times against Virginia Tech and terrible in other games against Maryland and Florida State. A solid linebacking corps will be truly tested by Ringer and Caulcrick, but I expect Boston College to hold Michigan State in check, just like Michigan and Ohio State did.

Star watch...

No doubt about it, the star of this game is Eagles QB Matt Ryan. Ryan could have been a Heisman winner had a few games broken differently for BC, and he is the top talent on the field in this bowl game.

Deciding factor...

The deciding factor could be motivation, as BC is not happy to drop to this bowl game. Still, Michigan State has not been able to make big plays against Top 15 caliber competition this season, so expect BC to ride Matt Ryan to another bowl victory in a close shootout.

The staff says...

- - - - - F o o t b a l l   S t a f f - - - - - - - - O t h e r   S t a f f - - -
David Gregg Joey Jonathan Matt Ben Daniel Eddie Larry
177-97 169-105 175-99 179-95 165-109 - S e a s o n   R e c o r d s -

SCS.comTEXAS BOWL - TCU vs Houston
December 28 - 7:00 PM CST NFL Network - Houston, TX

When TCU has the ball...

The Horned Frogs will be heavily relying on freshman QB Andy Dalton. Dalton made the usual freshman mistakes this season and did not get much help from the TCU running game, but TCU is still a high quality bowl team because their defense helps out the offense a lot. Expect a lot of safe calls mixed in with a few tough plays to test where the TCU offense will go next season.
Houston's defense has to be licking its chops to play a freshman quarterback and a mediocre running game after facing some quality opposition in Conference USA. The Cougars gave up almost 30 points per game, so the key on this side of the ball will be the battle in the trenches. If TCU's experienced offensive line can knock back the Cougar defense, it will be a long day for Houston.

When Houston has the ball...

Now this is the real battle in the game, the unstoppable force against the immoveable object. Houston is trying to recover from losing their coach last week to Baylor, but freshman QB Case Keenum and RB Anthony Aldridge have led one of the top 5 offenses in America and will not stop now. Expect Houston to throw everything they have on the field, and they will need it because...
The TCU defense is the real deal. The Horned Frogs were ranked and a BCS contender early this season based only on their defense, as everybody knew the offense was not going to have a banner year. The Horned Frogs are far and away the best defense Houston will face this season, and expect the highly talented back 7 to step up and make good reads. TCU finished the season on a mini-roll, and their defense will keep Houston in check.

Star watch...

Really, there are a lot of choices here, but I think the best player on the field will be Houston RB Anthony Aldridge. Aldridge is about 200 yards away from setting a school record for yards in a season, and anybody who rushes for over 1500 yards is a tough runner. It will be interesting to see him against the defensive line of TCU.

Deciding factor...

Definitely what happens on the TCU defense-Houston offense, as TCU cannot win if they cannot hold the high-octant Cougar offense in check. I think the defense steps up and plays some BCS bowl level defense in this one.

The staff says...

- - - - - F o o t b a l l   S t a f f - - - - - - - - O t h e r   S t a f f - - -
David Gregg Joey Jonathan Matt Ben Daniel Eddie Larry
177-97 169-105 175-99 179-95 165-109 - S e a s o n   R e c o r d s -

SCS.comEMERALD BOWL - Oregon State vs Maryland
December 28 - 7:30 PM CST ESPN - San Francisco, CA

When Oregon State has the ball...

The Pac-10 and ACC do not get many chances to play each other in football, but this match up is a great one. The Beaver offense is led by RB Yvenson Bernard, who is coming off a knee injury. Oregon State is definitely a run to set up the pass kind of team, as the Beavers struggle when they get behind. There could be some openings for play action if the Beavers get going quickly.
Maryland's defense will try to stop the OSU offense from establishing a presence on the ground. Maryland was good at producing a turnover in close games this season when they needed a break, so expect this opportunistic defense to test the hands and arms of the Beaver running backs.

When Maryland has the ball...

For the Terrapin offense, the unit does not have a true leader. RB Lance Ball and RB Keon Lattimore have almost identical statistics in splitting carries this season, and sophomore QB Chris Turner has been effective as well. Maryland did not put up a lot of points this season, so Oregon State will have a chance even if the Terrapins drive into the red zone.
Oregon State's defense looked excellent in wins over Oregon and California, and even limited the damage in losses to UCLA and USC. With the notable exception of a blowout loss at Cincinnati, Oregon State's defense never let a game get too far out of hand for their offense, and that should not change here. Oregon State will put 7-8 guys up on the line of scrimmage and force Maryland into what should be a one-dimensional attack.

Star watch...

Terrapin WR Darrius Heyward-Bey led his team in receiving as a sophomore, and the future looks bright for this talented young man. He will need to come up big to force Oregon State to stop pressing the line of scrimmage. This is a young star in the making.

Deciding factor...

Whoever scores 20 should win this game, as both defenses are expected to step up and force the offenses into a struggle. Still, the deciding factor has to be whether Oregon State can stop the dual running threat of Maryland. Given that this game is on the west coast, Oregon State could have a big crowd advantage too.

The staff says...

- - - - - F o o t b a l l   S t a f f - - - - - - - - O t h e r   S t a f f - - -
David Gregg Joey Jonathan Matt Ben Daniel Eddie Larry
177-97 169-105 175-99 179-95 165-109 - S e a s o n   R e c o r d s -

SCS.comMEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL - Wake Forest vs Connecticut
December 29 - 12:00 PM CST ESPN - Charlotte, NC

When Wake Forest has the ball...

The Demon Deacons are facing a Big East champion for the second straight season, and the offense is mostly back from a tough loss in last year's Orange Bowl to Louisville. QB Riley Skinner is one of the most efficient passers in the country, and his favorite target is senior wideout Kenneth Moore. RB Josh Adams has given Skinner a lot of help as far as keeping the offense balanced and pressure off.
The Huskies defense will be hard-pressed to stop these talented and experienced offensive leaders, but UCONN has played tough defense this season. As long as UCONN does not let Wake Forest jump out to a big early lead (think the 66-21 debacle at fellow Big East co-champ WVU), UCONN will stay close with a solid linebacking corps. Still, the Huskies have 22 INT on the year and seem to get turnovers when they need them.

When Connecticut has the ball...

UCONN's offense was nothing special this year, but any offense is good when the defense produces a lot of takeaways. RB Andre Dixon and RB Donald Brown will need to pick up some early first downs to win a field position battle, which UCONN desperately needs to win. QB Tyler Lorenzen has been efficient in his first year as a starter, but the Demon Deacon defense is better than almost any he faced in the Big East.
Wake Forest does not give up a lot of points, and part of that has been turnovers. If UCONN is an opportunistic team, then Wake Forest is even more opportunistic as they hold the I-A lead for interceptions returned for touchdowns with six. Expect Wake Forest to put a lot of pressure on the UCONN offense, trying to jump to a big lead.

Star watch...

Demon Deacon QB Riley Skinner is one to watch for, as he is only second to Texas Tech in passing efficiency. Skinner will be impressive in this bowl game, making up for his sub-par Orange Bowl performance last season.

Deciding factor...

Both coaches are great men and even better program-builders, as Jim Grobe and Randy Edsall put these two "basketball schools" on the map. The location of this game is the deciding factor, Wake Forest is essentially playing at home. A critical turnover will take the game for Wake Forest.

The staff says...

- - - - - F o o t b a l l   S t a f f - - - - - - - - O t h e r   S t a f f - - -
David Gregg Joey Jonathan Matt Ben Daniel Eddie Larry
177-97 169-105 175-99 179-95 165-109 - S e a s o n   R e c o r d s -

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