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December 30, 2007

2007 Bowl Preview Series

The next two bowls in the preview series feature yet another SEC versus Big Ten battle with Michigan and Florida meeting in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando in addition to a Big Twelve versus ACC clash in the Gator Bowl with Virginia and Texas Tech colliding in Jacksonville. For Virginia, what began as a season with no expectations ended with great results, earning Al Groh the ACC coach of the year honor. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has guided his Raiders into a bowl game all eight seasons he has been at the Lubbock campus and has built a team that is among the most fun to watch in the nation. In the Capital One Bowl, the defending national champion Gators will look to end the thirteen year Lloyd Carr era at Michigan with a loss, while the Wolverines are focused on sending Lloyd out on top before incoming coach Rich Rodriguez takes over in Ann Arbor.

Gator | Capital One

SCS.comGATOR BOWL - Virginia vs Texas Tech
January 1 - 12:00 PM CST CBS - Jacksonville, FL

The matchup...

The Gator Bowl presents an interesting clash of styles with the wide-open passing game of Texas Tech going against the controlled offense of Virginia. Tech will start passing from the opening whistle and not stop until the final whistle, no matter what the score is at the time. Virginia will look to slow down the pace with a mixture of the run and the short passing game to keep the high-octane Raider offense off the field. These teamsí attitudes on the field perfectly reflect the personality of their coaches with the free spirited Mike Leach leading Tech and the old school Al Groh in charge of the Cavaliers. For Texas Tech, the Gator Bowl will be their eighth consecutive trip to the post-season, while Virginia is back in the bowl picture after a one year absence.
This will be the first meeting ever between these two programs, and the first time since 1996 that Virginia will be playing a Big Twelve school, while Tech last played an ACC school in the 2002 Tangerine Bowl, a 55-15 win over Clemson. The Cavaliers rebounded from a 5-7 record last season to a 9-3 mark in 2007, including an impressive 6-2 mark in ACC action. An even more impressive statistic for Virginia is that this team won five games by two points or less this season. For Tech, the Raiders ended the year at 8-4 overall, with all four of their losses coming within league play. The highlight of the their year was a season ending victory over third ranked Oklahoma, a win that knocked the Sooners out of the national championship race.

When Virginia has the ball...

The Cavaliers do not do anything great on offense, but they do just enough scoring to win ball games. The leader of the unit is quarterback Jameel Sewell, who is at his best when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter, where he directed game winning drives versus Middle Tennessee, Connecticut, Maryland, and Wake Forest. Jameel will have a major challenge on his hands in this game, as the Tech secondary is a major strength, ranking seventeenth in the nation in pass defense. Expect tight ends Jonathan Stupar and Tom Santi, the teams second and third leading receivers to play a huge role in the Cavalier game plan as they work the middle of the field and fit in perfectly with the controlled passing attack. Virginia will be thrilled to have either Stupar or Santi lead the team in receptions in this one.
When Virginia looks to run the ball, Mikell Simpson will get the majority of the carries. Simpson led the team in rushing yards with four hundred on the season after he took over for the injured starter in Cedric Peerman, who only played in six games. The main concern for Simpson will be Tech linebacker Joe Garcia, who led the Raiders in tackles on the season and is the leader of the defensive unit. Expect to see Simpson get a good deal of carries with the Tech rush defense ranked seventy-eighth in the nation, giving up 171 yards per game on the ground. Mikell will need to make numerous receptions out of the backfield as well with Virginia counting heavily on their backs and tight ends in the passing game. The Cavalier receivers have not been much of a factor all season long and that is unlikely to change in the final game of the season.

When Texas Tech has the ball...

Expect to see quarterback Graham Harrell to have at least sixty pass attempts in this game as he works the spread offense. Graham tossed the ball for 5,298 yards this season, leading the nation in total offense while ranking sixth in passing efficiency. On the receiving end of the majority of Harrell aerials is the freshman, Michael Crabtree, whose one hundred twenty-five receptions and twenty-one touchdowns earned him the Biletnikoff award as the nationís best receiver. When Crabtree is not the target, fellow one-hundred reception receiver Danny Amendola is likely to get the ball and he can be just as effective. Virginia played well against the pass this season, ranking thirty-third in the nation, but they have yet to see a scheme anywhere near what the Raiders will throw at them on New Yearís Day. The Cavaliers need to have plenty of players ready to go in the secondary because it is going to be a long day of chasing down Tech receivers.
The good news for Texas Tech is that their offensive line has played well all season long, giving up only fifteen sacks on the season, and when your quarterback throws the ball 694 times, that statistic is even more impressive. The bad news is that facing them on the end will be Virginia All-American Chris Long, a pass rushing demon who registered fourteen sacks this year, leading the Cavaliers to the sixth most sacks in the nation. Tech is likely to use the draw play as a way of slowing down the Cavalier rush, with running back Shannon Woods getting the call. Woods is a talented back, but only carried the ball eighty-four times on the season, gaining over five yards per attempt. The leading tackler for Virginia is Jon Copper and he will be focused on containing the Raider ground game so that the rest of his mates can prepare for the all-out passing attack that they will be facing.

Star watch...

There are three huge stars to keep an eye on as this game kicks-off. For Tech, quarterback Graham Harrell will put on a show with his arm as he has done all season long, generating 436 yards of offense per game. Expect at least ten of his completions to land in the hands of Michael Crabtree, who was tops in the nation in both receptions and receiving yards. Harrell and Crabtree connected for twenty-one touchdown passes on the season, the best single season total in Big 12 history. Working to slow down the Tech offense is All-American and ACC player of the year, defensive end Chris Long, who ranks in the top five in the nation in both sacks and tackles by a defensive lineman. Long is also very good at playing the pass from his end position as he is ranked fifth in the country in passes defended by a lineman, so he will get plenty of opportunity to showcase those skills against Tech.

Deciding factor...

A key factor in this game will be whether Harrell turns the ball over in his numerous pass attempts. In Techís four losses, Graham tossed nine of his fourteen interceptions on the season and the Raiders were unable to overcome those lost opportunities. The pressure in this game falls onto the Virginia defense as the group must get into the backfield and harass Harrell into making critical mistakes, otherwise he will pick apart the Cavalier secondary. The Cavaliers will look to maintain ball control with a short passing game to their trio of tight ends and the running of Mikell Simpson. If Virginia can put together twelve to fifteen play drives that keep the clock moving and reduces the amount of Tech scoring opportunities, the Cavaliers have a shot to earn the win.

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.comCAPITAL ONE BOWL - Michigan vs Florida
January 1 - 12:00 PM CST ABC - Orlando, FL

The matchup...

The Capital One Bowl features two programs that are among the most successful in reaching the post-season with Michigan playing in its thirty-third consecutive bowl, while Florida is playing in their seventeenth straight. The storyline of this game will be on Lloyd Carr, as he leads the Wolverines onto the field for his final game as head coach. Carr was at the helm of the Michigan program for thirteen seasons and is one of only three coaches to guide the Wolverines to one hundred wins during his tenure. The Michigan players would like nothing more than to send out their coach with a big win after a season that began with national championship aspirations ended below expectations. A disappointing season which was highlighted by streaks as the Wolverines began the year with two losses, followed by eight wins, before they ended the year as they began it, with a two game losing streak, which included a fourth consecutive loss to Ohio State.
For Florida, the Gators enter this game red-hot, winning their last four games, while averaging fifty-one points per game. A win over the Wolverines would give the Gators a third straight bowl win, an accomplishment only achieved twice in the programs history. The storyline for Florida is their Heisman winning quarterback in Tim Tebow, who became the first sophomore to win the award as the nationís best football player. These two storied programs have only met once in their history, with Michigan earning a 30-28 win in the 2003 Outback Bowl. That win by Michigan was their last in the post-season as since that victory the Wolverines have lost four consecutive bowls.

When Michigan has the ball...

The Wolverines are led by an offense featuring a great set of skill position players, but which struggled during the year with inconsistency and injuries. Quarterback Chad Henne had a disappointing season for him, as he missed three games in their entirety and never reached the expectations that were established for him coming into the season. If there is a weakness for Florida, it is in their pass defense so expect to see plenty of Henne dropping back to pass and looking for his top target in Mario Manningham. Mario started the campaign slow but towards the end of the season, he was playing as one of the top wide outs in the nation and he has the potential to have a huge game on New Yearís Day.
One matchóup that is sure to create a great deal of excitement is Michigan running back Mike Hart running directly at the nationís tenth ranked rush defense. Hart had yet another great season, rushing for 1,232 yards on the season, even with him missing three entire games due to injury. Challenging Hart is a Gator front line that yielded only three yards per carry on the season, led by linebacker Brandon Spikes and his one hundred eighteen tackles. Also worthy of mention on the UF defense is end Derrick Harvey who can not only rush the passer, ranking ninth on Floridaís all time sack list, but he plays the run very well from his end position. Harvey will be responsible for keeping Henne and Hart under control as he plans to spend a great deal of time in the Michigan backfield.

When Florida has the ball...

No surprises on this side of the ball as quarterback Tim Tebow is the star of the show and the director of the second highest scoring offense in Florida history. Tebow ranks seventh in the nation in total offense and is not only the Gators leading passer but he also leads the team in rushing yardage. Tim is the top weapon in the nation as he can do damage from anywhere on the field even though the opposing defenses game plans are solely focused on containing him. A similar weapon to Tebow is wide receiver Percy Harvin, who is not only dangerous as a wide out but he also gets a great deal of carries to highlight his game breaking speed. Harvin led the team in receiving yardage and ranked second on the team in rushing behind Tebow.
When the Michigan defensive staff is watching the film of the Gators, they will probably wonder where the running back is in this offense. Kestahn Moore led the Florida backs with only 571 yards rushing, as he is mainly a change of pace to keep defenses honest, averaging only nine carries per game. The star of the Wolverine defense is linebacker Shawn Crable who ranked second in the nation in tackles for loss as he recorded twenty-seven stops behind the line of scrimmage. Crable will be spending the majority of his afternoon focused solely on Tim Tebow and trying to keep him contained. The Michigan defense has had little success defending the spread offense this year, losing to Appalachian State and Oregon, and now they get to battle an even more potent offense in Florida.

Star watch...

This game is highlighted by numerous players that can be found on All-American lists this season. The number one star is Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who is one of the best if not the best at improvising on the move, a perfect fit for the Urban Meyer offense. Tebow became the first player in NCAA history to rush for twenty touchdowns and to pass for twenty touchdowns in the same season. Tim has a game breaking talent to assist him in fellow sophomore Percy Harvin, who can multi-task just like Tebow with his receiving and running skills. For Michigan, the highlight reel usually features either running back Mike Hart or receiver Mario Manningham. Hart is Michiganís all-time leading rusher with 5,053 yards and he is the first Wolverine back ever to rush for over five thousand yards. Manningham ranks fourth all-time in Michigan history in touchdown receptions and with the way he performed towards the end of the season, expect to see plenty of him in the finale.

Deciding factor...

The Florida offense has to be salivating after watching the tape of Michiganís initial two games of the season versus the spread offenses of Appalachian State and Oregon. The Gators run the same type of offense and will look to utilize their team speed to turn this game into a track meet, a game plan that worked to perfection in last seasonís rout of Ohio State. Michigan will look to outscore the Gators and with their offensive weapons healthy, they have a chance at achieving their goal. The Wolverines aim to get Mike Hart at least thirty carries in this game and to pound away on the ground to keep the Gator spread offense off the field. For Michigan to win this game, the most valuable player trophy should end up in the hands of Hart, as he must lead the offense. If Big Blue can achieve initial success with Hart, Henne can take shots up top with Manningham, catching the Gator secondary focusing too much on the backfield.

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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