December 30 has to be considered the day of the rally in this bowl season as three of the four games involved big
comebacks. The ACC split their two games as Virginia rallied from a 21-7 first half deficit to win an exciting Music
City Bowl game 34-31, but Miami was unable to get anything going in the Peach Bowl as LSU dominated the Hurricanes 40-3.
In the other bowl games, UCLA roared back against Northwestern, scoring 36 straight points after falling behind in the
first quarter 22-0, and Missouri, led by dynamic quarterback Brad Smith, came back from a 21-0 first quarter deficit to
beat South Carolina 38-31. I had my worst day of the bowl season, only getting the UCLA game correct and falling to 12-5
on the bowl season.
Minnesota started fast against Virginia by establishing the running game and hitting some big play-action passes for
three early scores. The Cavaliers kept their composure as Marques Hagans had a huge game in his last appearance as a
Wahoo and UVA kept it relatively close at the half, 21-10. The Virginia defense began to win some battles at the line of
scrimmage in the second half, led by defensive end Chris Long, and Hagans found tight end Tom Santi, splitting the
two-deep zone on several big passes to gradually pull the Cavaliers back into the game. Wali Lundy was able to score an
ACC-record 52nd touchdown on a two-yard plunge to pull the Wahoos even at 31-31 with 8:48 to go. The Virginia defense
stiffened and Hagans was able to drive the Cavaliers down for a 39-yard field goal with 1:08 remaining and a 34-31 lead.
Minnesota made a valiant last-minute drive, but cornerback Marcus Hamilton made a brilliant interception in the end
zone, snatching the ball away from 6-5 wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright to preserve the victory.
Here is how the projected statistics came out for this game:
Music City Bowl
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||35-152||30-103||50-284||51-198|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||19-34||26-33||19-30||18-28|
The keys to this game had to be the huge game by Marques Hagans, who had a superb effort in his final game for Virginia,
and the play of the Wahoo defensive front in the second half. UVA found the tight end in the passing game once again as
Tom Santi and Jonathan Stupar combined for 8 catches for 167 yards. On defense, UVA was able to stifle the Golden Gopher
running game in the second half. As I stated in the analysis, Minnesota had lost every game in which they rushed for
less than 200 yards and Virginia was able to hold them to 198 by playing physically up front. UVA, and the ACC, picked
up a nice win as most predictions, including mine, expected a Minnesota victory.
I am really not sure how to analyze the Peach Bowl game involving the other ACC team in action. Miami laid an egg in
being annihilated by a strong LSU team, 40-3. Why were the Hurricanes seemingly unmotivated for this game? A faulty game
plan? Lack of senior leadership? Distractions thinking about the NFL draft? Too much time on South Beach? Your guess is
as good as mine, and I think a psychiatrist might be able to analyze this game better than I could.
Here are the projected vs. actual statistics for the game, which were not even close this time:
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||34-98||23-53||38-103||56-272|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||15-32||10-23||14-28||13-22|
As can be seen by the statistics, LSU completely dominated both lines of scrimmage. Even the most optimistic Tiger fan
could not have expected LSU to move the ball as easily on the ground as they did. Miami looked completely inept on
offense, failing to establish a running game. Kyle Wright seldom had enough time to throw, and receivers werenï¿½t open
when he did have some time. Also, the Tigers were able to play mistake-free after having turnover problems all season.
Having a new quarterback, Matt Flynn, at the helm didnï¿½t hurt a bit and his play has probably set up a quarterback
controversy in Baton Rouge for next year. Basically, LSU just laid an old-fashion “whupping” on the Hurricanes
in this game.
The ACC falls to 3-2 in the Bowl Championship Series with the Miami loss and the conference will need wins in the
remaining three games to have a chance at the trophy. The next ACC team that is up is the N.C. State Wolfpack who will
take on the South Florida Bulls.
Meineke Car Care Bowl: Dec. 31 ï¿½ N.C. State (6-5; 3-5) vs. South Florida (6-5; 4-3), 11:00 AM EST, ESPN2
The next bowl game featuring an ACC team pits the aggressive defense of the N.C. State Wolfpack against the running
attack of the South Florida Bulls in Charlotte, NC. The Pack have had a relatively disappointing season, losing to
in-state rivals North Carolina (31-24) and Wake Forest (27-19), but State has also picked up some big wins in upsetting
Florida State (20-15) and defeating Maryland (20-14) to become bowl eligible. South Florida has also had an up-and-down
season, recording a big upset of Louisville (45-14) early in the season, but faltering down the stretch in losing to
N.C. Stateï¿½s season began to turn around after Chuck Amato replaced senior quarterback Jay Davis (#10, 6-2 220)
with Marcus Stone (#9, 6-4 234, r-So.). While Stoneï¿½s statistics wonï¿½t overwhelm anyone, he appears to make fewer
mistakes and his mobility adds another dimension to the Wolfpack offense. The real key to Stateï¿½s resurgence, however,
is the insertion of true freshman running back Andre Brown (#32, 6-2 220) into the lineup. Brown rushed for 616 yards in
only half of the season, and the improved ground game was a major factor in a couple of the late victories. But the real
story with N.C. State is the defense, which can be one of the most dominant in the country. The defensive ends, Mario
Williams (#9, 6-7 290, Jr.) and Manny Lawson (#91, 6-5 245, Sr.), are probably the best pair in the country, and they
have stepped up their play in the second half of the season. The linebacker play has gotten tougher with middle
linebacker Pat Lowery (#56, 6-1 240, r-Jr.) being inserted into the lineup and Oliver Hoyte (#22, 6-3 252, Sr.) moving
over to the strong-side, though Hoyte is listed as questionable for this game with an ankle injury. The talented
secondary is led by senior Marcus Hudson (#1, 6-1 200).
South Florida is led by running back Andre Hall (#2, 5-10 205, Sr.) in the ground-oriented offense of the Bulls. Hall
has rushed for 1,256 yards and 13 touchdowns, plus he is USFï¿½s leading receiver with 24 catches for 272 yards and 2
more touchdowns. Pat Julmiste (#3, 6-2 220, Jr.) is the quarterback, but he is known as much for his ability to run (342
yards rushing) as he is for throwing the ball (1,398 yards passing). When they do throw the ball, watch for tall and
talented wide receivers Amarri Jackson (#18, 6-5 195, So.) and Johnny Peyton (#8, 6-5 200, So.). Defensively, South
Florida is led by outside linebackers Stephen Nicolas (#51, 6-3 225, Jr.) and Patrick St. Louis (#54, 6-1 220, r-So.).
USF is solid up front headed by defensive tackle Tim Jones (#99, 6-2 275, r-Sr.) and the secondary, led by cornerback
Trae Williams (#21, 5-10 185, r-So.), is young but decent.
Looking at the game statistically, here are the averages for the season for the two teams (rounded to the nearest
Meineke Car Care Bowl
|N.C. State||South Florida|
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||36-121||38-95||49-209||36-144|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||16-29||16-32||12-25||14-26|
Plugging all of the data into my statistical projection model, here is how the computer sees the game:
Meineke Car Care Bowl Projection
|N.C. State||South Florida|
|Rushing Attempts ï¿½ Yards||34-121||48-163|
|Passing Completions ï¿½ Attempts||13-26||11-26|
The key to this game is simple: can South Florida run the ball on the N.C. State defense? In all of the games that South
Florida has won this year, they have rushed for at least 190 yards. In the games that the Bulls have lost, they have
rushed for fewer than 150 yards. However, the projection is for USF to run for 163 yards, so this statistic appears to
be in a “gray” area. Also, USF has relied on protecting the ball with their conservative game plans, so N.C.
State needs to take care of the ball and not give South Florida too many breaks. My feeling is that the Wolfpack will be
able to slow down the Bulls running game and generate enough ground game of their own to pull out a low-scoring win ï¿½ N.C.
State by 5 (19-14).
Autozone Liberty Bowl: Dec. 31 ï¿½ Fresno State (8-4; 6-2) vs. Tulsa (8-4; 7-2), 1:00 PM EST, ESPN
The Liberty Bowl pits the tough Fresno State Bulldogs against the Conference USA champion Tulsa Golden Hurricane in
an interesting matchup. Fresno State is best known this season for giving Southern Cal their toughest game before
succumbing to Reggie Bushï¿½s incredible performance, 50-42. However, that game seemed to take the gas out of the
Bulldogs as they were upset in their last two games by Nevada (38-35) and Louisiana Tech (40-28), after seemingly having
the WAC championship in the bag after their 27-7 victory over Boise State. Tulsa had a surprising season, in knocking
off Memphis (37-31) and Southern Miss (34-17) to win the relatively weak CUSA West Division and then defeating Central
Florida in the CUSA championship game 44-27. Basically we have a hot team in Tulsa facing a slumping team in Fresno
State, but will those trends hold in the Liberty Bowl?
Fresno State is led on offense by quarterback Paul Pinegar (#13, 6-4 220, Sr.) with 3,122 passing yards. His favorite
targets are wide receivers Paul Williams (#1, 6-2 200, Jr., 682 yards and 7 TDs) and Joe Fernandez (#84, 5-10 165, Jr.,
536 yards and 7 TDs). The Bulldogs have a balanced attack with Wendell Mathis (#22, 5-9 185, r-Sr.) leading the rushing
game with 1,196 yards. Also, watch for talented running back Bryson Sumlin (#34, 5-10 200, Sr.) who gained 479 yards.
Fresno State seems to always have a tough offensive line and this year is no exception led by center Kyle Young (#59,
6-5 320, r-Jr.). Defensively, the Bulldogs are led up front by rugged Garrett McIntyre (#71, 6-3 250, Sr.) at defensive
end and Dwayne Andrews (#51, 6-0 240, r-Jr.) at middle linebacker. The secondary, headed by Richard Marshall (#24, 5-11
190, r-Jr.), has struggled at times. All-in-all, this is a typical tough Fresno State ball club.
On offense, Tulsa is led by All-American tight end Garrett Mills (#20, 6-2 232, Sr.), who is one of the best players
that most college football fans have never heard of. Mills caught 83 passes for 1,183 yards and 9 touchdowns this
season. The quarterback for the Golden Hurricane is Paul Smith (#12, 6-2 192, r-So.) who threw for 2,601 yards and 19
touchdowns against only 6 interceptions. The running game is headed by Uril Parrish (#23, 5-9 209, Sr.) with 736 yards.
The defense for Tulsa is led by linebackers Nick Bunting (#41, 6-1 225, Jr.) and Nelson Coleman (#55, 6-2 227, r-So.).
The defensive front, headed by defensive end Brandon Lohr (#97, 6-0 250, r-Sr.) is decent and the secondary, led by
strong safety Bobby Blackshire (#4, 6-3 200, Jr.) and free safety Bobby Klinck (#26, 5-11 195, r-Sr.), has been
surprisingly good with 20 interceptions for the season.
Tulsa has been an opportunistic team all season with a +18 turnover margin for the year, but Fresno State would
appear to be the more talented team. The key to this game is the ability of Tulsaï¿½s defensive front to stand up to
Fresno Stateï¿½s offensive line. If the Bulldogs control the line of scrimmage, then Fresno State should be able to put
up some big numbers on offense. On defense, the Bulldogs must find a way to contain Garrett Mills who will line up in a
variety of positions. I like Fresno State to turn around their losing streak and to win a fairly high-scoring game ï¿½ Fresno
State by 6.
EV1.Net Houston Bowl: Dec. 31 ï¿½ Iowa State (7-4; 4-4) vs. Texas Christian (10-1; 8-0), 2:30 PM EST, ESPN2
Another interesting match-up pits the Mountain West Conference champion TCU Horned Frogs against the Big 12ï¿½s Iowa
State Cyclones. This game could be important for the Bowl Championship Series Trophy, since the Big 12 would take a
commanding lead with an Iowa State victory. The Cyclones have been one of the more erratic teams this season defeating
arch-rival Iowa (23-3), Texas A&M (42-14), and Colorado (30-16), but suffering a three-game losing streak in the
middle of the season to Nebraska (27-20), Baylor (23-13), and Missouri (27-24) before losing a chance to win the Big 12
North Division title to Kansas (24-21) in the final game of the season. Texas Christian is only one of four schools to
go undefeated in their conference schedule (the others being USC, Texas, and West Virginia) rolling through their first
season in the Mountain West. TCUï¿½s only loss came in the second game of the season to SMU, 21-10, so the Horned Frogs
have a nine-game winning streak coming into this game.
Iowa State is led by quarterback Bret Meyer (#7, 6-3 205, r-So.) with 2,622 passing yards. His favorite receivers are
Todd Blythe (#1, 6-5 210, r-So.) with 895 yards and 7 touchdowns and Austin Flynn (#13, 6-1 185, Jr.) who leads the team
with 53 receptions. The running game has been inconsistent with Stevie Hicks (#27, 6-1 215, Jr., 546 yards) having
problems with a leg injury. The defense is tough up front headed by defensive tackle Nick Leaders (#66, 6-2 290, Sr.),
defensive end Jason Berryman (#84, 6-3 250, r-So.), and middle linebacker Tim Dobbins (#44, 6-1 245, Sr.). The secondary
is led by strong safety Nik Moser (#9, 6-0 195, Sr.) and has been inconsistent over the season recording 21
interceptions but also giving up a number of big plays.
Offensively, Texas Christian has a balanced attack, led quarterbacks Tye Gunn (6-3 218, r-Sr., 646 passing yards) and
Jeff Ballard (#16, 6-1 208, Jr., 1,526 passing yards). Gunn has had should problems this year and Ballard has capably
filled in. The leading receiver for the Horned Frogs is Cory Rodgers (#17, 6-1 195, r-Jr.) with 48 catches for 639
yards. The running game is led by Robert Merrill (#33, 5-10 204, r-Jr., 802 yards) and Aaron Brown (#23, 6-1 190, Fr.,
710 yards, 6.1 average). A key component of the TCU offensive is a tough, aggressive offensive line headed by strongman
Shane Sims (#62, 6-3 290, r-Sr.) who has a reported 630 pound bench press. The defense for TCU has been very tough as
well led by defensive end Tommy Blake (#97, 6-3 250, So.) and defensive tackle Ranorris Ray (#88, 6-3 275, r-Sr.). The
defense only allows 2.9 yards per carry rushing and the secondary, led by cornerback Quincy Butler (#4, 6-0 190, Sr.)
has been very good with 24 interceptions recorded.
Both Iowa State and TCU have been opportunistic this season with the Horned Frogs having a +20 turnover advantage and
Iowa State have a +15 turnover margin. Obviously, mistakes will be a key in this game and both teams must be careful
with the ball. Both teams have very good run defenses, so the most efficient passing team will likely win this game. I
like TCUï¿½s defense a little more in this game in what should be a tough, physical battle ï¿½ TCU by 4.