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, 2008

SCS.comAll college football fans know the best day for bowl games is on January 1st. However, there are five solid games on New Yearís Eve. The three that I am covering involve six BCS conference teams. The most interesting story line is Vanderbiltís appearance in the Music City Bowl. Vandy will be playing in its first bowl since 1982. They will be playing in their own backyard in Nashville, Tennessee. If they upset Boston College, a huge favorite, it would be their first bowl win since 1955. Kansas and Minnesota promises to be a high-scoring affair (at least on one side of the scoreboard). Minnesota has lost four in a row, including a 55-0 beat down by Iowa in the season finale. In Kansasís season finale, they beat rival Missouri in a last-second shootout. The night will end with the days best game, Georgia Tech versus Louisiana State. LSU was ranked in most top 10s to start the season. However, poor quarterback play killed their chances at winning the SEC West, dropping them behind Alabama and Ole Miss. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, is flying high after rushing for 400 yards in a win against rival Georgia to close up the regular season.

Music City | Insight | Chick-Fil-A

MUSIC CITY BOWL - Boston College vs Vanderbilt
December 31 - 2:30 PM CST ESPN TV - Nashville, TN

The matchup...

Vanderbilt is excited to finally be playing in a bowl game. However, they would be even more excited if their season had not ended so poorly. Remember when Vandy beat Auburn on ESPN at night to move to 5-0? Well, since that Ďhugeí win, Vanderbilt is 1-6, including losses to Mississippi State and Duke.
Boston College was a win away from going to the Orange Bowl. However, they were beaten soundly by Virginia Tech. Although their season ended on a sour note, Boston College is still a very good team that will look to blow out Vanderbilt and keep its bowl win streak alive at nine.

When Boston College has the ball...

Boston Collegeís offense is in turmoil. Quarterback Chris Crane, broke his collar bone against Wake Forest. Dominique Davis, a freshman, has taken over since then. The freshman has gone 1-1 in his two starts. His ability to run makes him dangerous, but his youth makes him prone to mistakes. A freshman, Montel Harris, will get most of the carries for BC. Harris has rushed for 832 yards and five touchdowns this season. BC has a solid group of receivers, including Rich Gunnell, who has made 49 catches for 551 yards this year.
It is hard to blame the 1-6 slide on Vandyís defense. They do a good job at getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing turnovers. The only team Vandy could not stop during the losing streak was Florida, which is understandable. The Commodoreís strength is in their back seven. Linebackers Patrick Benoist and Chris Marve combined for 195 tackles this year. Four players have three or more interceptions for Vanderbilt. I have no doubt Vandy will stay in this game because their defense will stifle Boston Collegeís young quarterback.

When Vanderbilt has the ball...

Why do most people think BC will beat Vandy? Because BCís defense is ranked 6th in total defense and 19th in scoring defense. Vanderbiltís offense is ranked 117th in total offense and 104th in scoring offense. Most people think Vandy will be held under 17 points. I would have to agree. They played three quarterbacks in their final game due to injuries. The Commodoreís best rusher is their injured QB Chris Nickson. Their best receiver is cornerback D.J. Moore.
Boston College is more than ready to face Vandyís struggling offense. Boston College has intercepted 26 passes this season. Two players, Paul Anderson and Mark Herzlich, both have six interceptions. Herzlich also leads the team with 105 tackles. Sometimes BCís defense is better than its offense. Their defense has scored six touchdowns this season. Vandy is going to have a tough time moving the ball on this vaunted BC defense.

Star watch...

D.J. Moore,who has intercepted six balls this season, is a lockdown corner. He is also a great punt returner. Even more so, he is a great receiver. He single handedly beat Kentucky with his returns, interceptions, and touchdown catches. Moore will see time on offense to boost their below average passing attack. Mark Herzlich is having an outstanding season. His six interceptions and 105 tackles earned him 1st team All-ACC honors. He has returned two of those six interceptions for a touchdown and recovered two fumbles.

Deciding factor...

Can Vanderbilt feed off the home crown and move the ball on offense? They are banged up at quarterback, like BC, but their running game is not as strong. D.J. Moore will have to have another Kentucky-like game to lead Vandy to a win over BC, who has not lose Bowl games in this decade.

INSIGHT BOWL - Kansas vs Minnesota
December 31 - 4:30 PM CST NFL Network TV - Tempe, AZ

The matchup...

The Insight Bowl, played on NFL network, is a matchup of teams that started well and ended poorly. Kansas started 5-1, but ended the season 7-5. However, their win over Missouri was one of the best games I saw this year. If their offense is firing on all cylinders like it was in that game, this game could get ugly. Minnesota, who started 7-1, met reality in the form of four straight losses to end the season. Tim Brewster is turning that program around in a hurry, but his team will have to play lights out to avoid ending the season on a five game losing streak.

When Kansas has the ball...

The Kansas offense relies on quarterback Todd Reesing to get rolling. Reesing threw 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in another successful year. Reesing reminds me a lot of Doug Flutie. He is small, 5Ď11, can move around in the pocket, and has a strong arm. His main target is former quarterback Kerry Meier. Meier led the team with 87 catches. Against Missouri, the tight end caught 14 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. If he is covered, Reesing will look for wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe. Briscoe made 78 receptions for 1206 yards and 12 touchdown passes. If they need to run, they will hand the ball off to Jake Sharp, who has 11 rushing touchdowns this year.
Minnesotaís defense is defeated since their season finale debacle. Iowa whooped them 55-0. The defense has the ability to get after the quarterback, ranking 25th in the nation in sacks. Willie VanDeSteeg has 9.5 sacks this season, which ranks 4th in the Big Ten. If they thought stopping Iowa was hard, wait until they face Kansas. The only way Minnesota can win is if their defense can slow down the Jayhawkís offense and hold them to around 28 points.

When Minnesota has the ball...

Minnesota will fair slightly better on offense. Quarterback Adam Weber has been a solid leader this season while throwing for over 2500 yards and 14 touchdowns. His favorite target his Eric Decker, who has 76 receptions for 925 yards this season. Weber is also dangerous with his legs, rushing for 202 yards and four scores. Freshman DeLeon Eskridge will see most of the carries at running back. The Weber-Decker combination is dangerous is Decker can stay injury-free throughout the entire game. He misses the final two games with an ankle injury.
Kansas has been burned many times by good offenses this year. They gave up 33 or more points seven times this year. Darrell Stuckey leads the secondary with five interceptions, but Kansasís pass defense ranks 113th in the nation. Minnesota will look to exploit that weakness with constant passing.

Star watch...

The best players on the team are the big physical pass catches for both teams. 6Ď2 Eric Decker is a huge threat anywhere on the field to catch the ball. You can bet Kansas has been focusing on shutting him down for the past four weeks. Tight end Kerry Meier is 6Ď3 220lbs. His performance against Missouri is not something to be ignored. Meier has the ability to terrorize this Minnesota defense if he is not double teamed for most of the game.

Deciding factor...

Which quarterback will make the least mistakes? Reesing and Weber are two solid veteran quarterbacks. Neither turn the ball over too much. However, in a big game, turnovers decide everything. The quarterback that plays the most effectively and will win. If you give either of these teams a short field, they will make you pay.

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL - LSU vs Georgia Tech
December 31 - 6:30 PM CST ESPN TV - Atlanta, GA

The matchup...

If someone had told me in September that these two teams would meet in a bowl game, I would have said LSU would win going away. Now, in December, I have to say that Georgia Tech is the clear favorite. LSU ended the season with losses to Ole Miss and Arkansas. Tech ended the season with wins over Miami and Georgia. In both of those games, the Yellow Jackets scored over 40 points. They have been running at will against anyone. LSU has the ability to stop them, but they have been underachieving lately. Will Tech make LSU look like Georgia, or will LSU turn its season around with a win over a quality opponent.

When LSU has the ball...

LSU relies heavily on the run. So does Georgia Tech. However, LSU does it not because of their offensive scheme, but because of poor quarterback play. Jarrett Lee will likely see the field, but he will be on a short leash. Lee has thrown 16 interceptions this season. Freshman Jefferson Jordan may get time at quarterback. Jordan, a running threat, saw action in LSUís final three games. If he is in, he will be doing more running than throwing. LSUís running game is its strength. Charles Scott has rushed for 1109 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. The big bruiser has the ability to run all over Techís defense.
The Yellow Jacketís defense is ranked 22nd in the nation. However, late in the season, they started giving up more and more points (24,28,28,23,42). They excel at getting pressure on the quarterback. Derrick Morgan and Michael Johnson both have seven sacks this year. If they can get after Jordan or Lee, they will make mistakes.

When Georgia Tech has the ball...

Stop the run. Stop the run. Stop the run. Opponents of Tech have been saying that all year and they have failed to stop the run. Tech has the nationís third ranked rushing offense. Jonathan Dwyer is the leading rusher, but he is not the only threat lining up in the backfield. Dwyer rushed for over 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. Roddy Jones is also a solid running back, rushing for 628 yards this season. Sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt has been outstanding, rushing for seven touchdowns and throwing for four. Their offense is one-dimensional, but it is nearly impossible to stop.
LSU has always had a nasty defense. However, this yearís defense is not as great as years past. They give up 26 points and 326 yards per game. The strength of the defense still lies within the front four. Rahim Alem, a junior defensive end, has eight sacks this year. To shut down the option attack that Tech runs, you must get pressure quickly to make Nesbitt make a decision sooner than he wants. Force the runners inside.

Star watch...

Charles Scott is a one man wrecking crew. He loves to initiate the contact. He is a great goal line running back. In this game, however, he needs to be an all-field back. LSU should feed Scott 25-30 carries. With solid blocking, Scott could gobble up 5-6 yards per carry on Techís defense. The Yellow Jackets star rusher is one of the nationís best backs. His 144 yard and two touchdown performance against Georgia was not surprising. He has the ability to break the big one at any moment. He fits this offensive scheme perfectly.

Deciding factor...

LSU must run the ball and control the clock. The longer LSUís defense is off the field, the better. While on the sideline, the defense will be able to catch its breath and make adjustments on how to slow down the option attack. They cannot put the game in the hands of Lee or Jordan if they plan to win. It will be up to Scott or Keiland Williams to win the game.
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