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December 29, 2007

2007 Bowl Preview Series

A pair of major conference matchups will highlight the early portion of the schedule on New Year's Day, as the SEC takes on the Big Ten and Big XII in the Outback and Cotton Bowls, respectively, to welcome in the new year. Wisconsin and Tennessee will go head-to-head in the day's sunrise contest, as both teams look for their tenth win of the 2007 season. Arkansas and Missouri will do battle in the Cotton Bowl as a pair of stellar Heisman finalists reunite to do battle on the gridiron in Dallas.

Outback | Cotton

SCS.comOUTBACK BOWL - Wisconsin vs Tennessee
January 1 - 10:00 AM CST ESPN - Tampa, FL

The matchup...

The Outback Bowl will pit the SEC against the Big Ten in a battle between a pair of nationally ranked teams. Tennessee will be making its second straight appearance in the game after a regular season that was chock full of ups and downs. On October 17th the Vols were blown out by Alabama 41-17 on the road to fall to 4-3. After that they reeled off five straight wins, putting them in SEC title game. If not for a costly interception by Erik Ainge in the fourth quarter, we would be talking about Tennessee preparing for a BCS bowl game.
Wisconsin put together another solid season and are in position for another 10-win year. Two of the Badgers three losses came at the hands of teams that are participating in BCS bowl games (Ohio St and Illinois). What should have been a battle of Tennesseeís strong pass attack against the gut busting rushing game of Wisconsin will now be in jeopardy due to the question mark hanging over Badgerís running back P.J. Hill. Head coach Bret Bielema has said he isnít optimistic about Hill being able to play in the game.

When Wisconsin has the ball...

Still expect them to run first, pass second. Despite the likely absence of Hill, the Badgers still have two solid running backs in freshman Zack Brown and sophomore Lance Smith-Williams. In the two games that Brown started in place of the injured Hill, he wracked up 358 yards and 4 touchdowns on 56 carries, good for a phenomenal 6.4 yards per carry. Smith-Williams has only appeared in 7 games this season but has still run for over 400 yards on 65 carries. This two headed attack has more than filled the void left by Hill in the last two games, and there is no reason to think they wont do the same against the Vols.
While senior quarterback Tyler Donovan hasnít posted huge numbers this season, he hasnít really had to because of the running game. Donovan completed 58% of his passes this season for 2,452 yards and 16 touchdowns. While he did throw 10 interceptions, has had only one in his last three games. By far and away the top receiver for the Badgers has been junior tight end Travis Beckum. The somewhat undersized Beckum hauled in 73 catches for 960 yards and 6 touchdowns. He posted four 100 yard receiving games, including two against Michigan and Ohio State.

When Tennessee has the ball...

They will spread you out with the passing game. Senior quarterback Eric Ainge has been a model of consistency his past two seasons under center and this season has thrown for over 3,100 yards and 29 touchdowns will completing an impressive 63% of his passes. Of course no one will forget Ainges performance just a couple of weeks ago in a win over Kentucky in which he threw for 397 yards and 7 touchdowns. While junior Lucas Taylor (73 receptions, 1,000 yards, 5 touchdowns) has been Ainges favorite target, the Vols have five players who have hauled in at least 35 catches, and all but one of them has at least 4 touchdowns.
The running game was just 71st nationally, producing 144 yards per game, but donít sleep on running back Adrian Foster. The junior is a very solid 6í1Ē 225 pounds and has put together a strong season, gaining over 1,100 yards on the ground and scoring 12 touchdowns. Fosterís consistency has wavered this season though, and he hasnít found the end zone in his last three games. After Foster things get a little thin. Montario Hardesty and Lennon Creer are the second and third options. Together they have combined for 554 yards and four touchdowns on 117 carries.

Star watch...

Ainge will be the man in the spotlight for Tennessee on offense. He ranked in the top three in the SEC statistically among quarterbacks, and his 300 completions were tops in the conference. Defensively look out for junior linebacker Jerod Mayo who tallied 127 tackles in the regular season. For Wisconsin all eyes will be on Zach Brown who has been nothing short of spectacular in replacement of P.J. Hill thus far. Defensively there will be a few players to keep an eye on for the Badgers. Defensive back Shane Carter was tops in the Big Ten with 7 interceptions. Defensive lineman Matt Shaughnessy has wreaked havoc all season long with five sacks and 16 tackles for a loss.

Deciding factor...

Will Wisconsinís offense still continue to click without P.J. Hill. So far so good for the Badgers who have won their two games handily without their star running. Defensively Wisconsin has done well enough against the pass (210 yards allowed per game) where they should be able to do a decent job keeping Erik Ainge in check. For the Vols establish the running game early on will be big for them. Clearly the Badgers will be playing the pass early on since that has been Tennesseeís strength all season. If Adrian Foster can pull off a few big runs in the first half, that should afford Ainge the opportunity to spread the ball a little more in the second half and pick apart the secondary.

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.comCOTTON BOWL - Arkansas vs Missouri
January 1 - 10:30 AM CST FOX - Dallas, TX

The matchup...

This yearís Cotton Bowl has just about everything you could ask for in an intriguing match up. Missouri was the number one team in the land and just a week away from playing for a national championship before running into Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game. Despite the loss, they still seemed almost a lock to play in a BCS bowl game, but when bids came out, the Tigers somewhat shockingly slipped to the Cotton Bowl.
Arkansas had its share of disappointments this season as well. Armed with preseason Heisman trophy favorite Darren McFadden, the Razorbacks looked like a team to be reckoned with in the SEC. Two losses in their first three games though set the Hogs back quite a bit. A late season surge, including a thrilling 50-48 victory over LSU on November 23 thrust Arkansas back into the national spotlight, and sealed up a New Yearís Day bowl game.

When Arkansas has the ball...

They will be running Ďtill the cows come home. The Razorbacks rank third in the country with 297 yards per game on the ground. It all starts with All-American running back Darren McFadden. The junior had his ups and downs this year, but still finished with over 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground. His 321 yard performance on November 3rd against South Carolina was one for the ages. As if that wasnít enough though, fellow junior running back Felix Jones has wracked up a stellar 1,117 yards and 11 touchdowns on only 123 carries this year.
Donít completely sleep on the Razorbackís passing game, although it isnít likely to beat you downfield too often. Junior quarterback Casey Dick posted modest numbers this season, throwing for 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns. Only two players on the team caught more than 20 balls, the leader being another running back, senior Peyton Hillis who recorded 57 receptions for 327 yards and two touchdowns.

When Missouri has the ball...

Arkansasís defensive backs better be ready to work. Quarterback Chase Daniel had himself an All-American caliber season. The junior completed just under 70% of his passes for 4,170 yards and 33 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. In only four games during the regular season did Daniel fail to eclipse 300 passing yards. Freshman receiver Jeremy Maclin was one of his favorite target, hauling in 77 receptions for just over 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. Tight end Martin Rucker was another big time weapon this season, he caught 81 passes for 815 yards and 8 touchdowns.
While the Tigers donít run the football with the same prowess as Arkansas, they still ranked 47th nationally with 165 rushing yards per game. Senior Tony Temple has been the teams top option, carrying the ball 162 times for 758 yards and 8 touchdowns. Temple has been inconsistent though, and hasnít had a 100 yard game since his 141 yard performance against Texas A&M in early November. Jimmy Jackson has been a solid short yardage back, with 7 rushing touchdowns on just 62 carries.

Star watch...

Few bowl games this year will have the kind of star power that the Cotton Bowl will carry. Chase Daniel and Darren McFadden spent the majority of the season right in the thick of Heisman trophy talks, and both will be first round draft picks when they decide to leave school. Junior strong safety William Moore has been a defensive standout for Missouri with 104 tackles, 9 for losses and a team best 7 interceptions. For the Razorbacks the strong safety position is solid as well, with senior Matt Hewitt averaging 10 tackles per game during the regular season.

Deciding factor...

The match up between Chase Daniel and Arkansasís pass defense. The Razorbacks are allowing just 211 passing yards per game to opponents this season. On top of that, they have 19 interceptions and 22 sacks. If Arkansas can keep Daniel from getting comfortable that could spell trouble for the Tigers who donít have a solid enough run game to fall back on. Also donít underestimate a tough regular season schedule. Aside from Oklahoma, Missouri hasnít been tested nearly as much as Arkansas has in the stacked SEC.

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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