Tag:Conference USA
Posted on: December 30, 2010 10:06 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Armed Forces Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Army jumped out to a big first half lead and held on to stun the heavily favored SMU by the score of 16-14.

Army

Offense: There usually isn't much pride to be taken in scoring 16 points in an entire game, and it usually adds up to a loss to boot. But even that would be an overestimation of Army's production today; one of the Black Knights' scores came on a fumble return, so the offense really only managed nine points. Further, QB Trent Steelman struggled with the SMU defense: in the second half, Army never even managed to get into field goal range until the last clinching drive. Things really could have gone south for Army today. Grade: D

Defense: Those things did not, in fact, go south for Army today because the defense was so effective in the first half. In addition to the fumble returned for a touchdown, Army also came up with two interceptions in the first half (neither of which it was able to turn into points, mind you, but that's not the defense's fault). In the second half, Army's defense seemed to be running out of gas, allowing two long touchdown drives and another drive to field goal range. That field goal was missed, but again, not necessarily on the defense. Still, three first-half takeaways put Army in charge, and that's nothing to take lightly. Grade: B-

Coaching: Here, Rich Ellerson deserves a great deal of credit; the Black Knights were much more prepared for today's game and took the fight to SMU early. Then late in the game, with the Army offense floundering and SMU desperately needing a stop, Ellerson made two brilliant third-down calls: one a play action QB sweep on 3rd and 9, and an especially gutsy play action throw to the tight end to seal the game with 1:14 left -- only Steelman's second completion of the game. The bottom line is this: Army played four quarters, and SMU didn't. Grade: A

Southern Methodist

Offense: SMU QB Kyle Padron threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, and the Mustang offense gained over 400 yards in total. When their backs were up against the wall, the Mustangs responded well, gaining 198 yards on their three drives of the second half. But thanks to Army's time-intensive ground attack, all SMU got in that second half was three drives, so all Army needed was one stop -- which it got late. The stop itself was something of a surprise, considering how well the Mustang offense was connecting through the air and grinding on the ground, but it still happened. If only Padron hadn't given the ball away three times in the first half. Grade: B-

Defense: The SMU defense did its job, for the most part; Army's offense gathered 16 first downs but only 221 total yards, and it had just two scoring drives on the day. The Mustang defense didn't force any turnovers, though, which meant SMU was never in a short-field situation; even after forcing four punts, SMU's average starting field position was its own 24-yard line. Small nit to pick with a defense that gave up nine points, but an important note when one team outgains the other by almost 200 yards and loses by two points. Grade: B+

Coaching: It's easy to understand why the Mustangs might not have been thrilled about this bowl assignment, since they had to play it at their home stadium in front of a generally disinterested crowd. There are things football players expect out of a bowl experience, and staying home isn't one of them. That said, responsibility for getting the team ready to play ultimately falls on June Jones -- who's normally well-respected as a coach, and deservedly so -- and the flat first half the Mustangs put forth is on his shoulders. Now, whatever Jones said to his guys at the half (probably something along the lines of "GUYS YOU ARE IN A BOWL GAME") worked, as SMU outscored Army 14-0 after the break, but when Matt Smymanski 's 47-yard field goal sailed left, it was too little, too late. Why Szymanski was even kicking a 47-yard field goal in the first place is a good question, since Jones called an inside draw on 2nd and 10 -- away from what had been working very well for the SMU offense the entire day -- and the blitz pickup on 3rd and 9 was nonexistent. Those calls didn't put SMU in a position to win, and for that, June Jones must be judged harshly. Grade: D

Final Grade

Anyone who saw the 16-0 lead for Army knew it wasn't going to stay that way for long, and it didn't; SMU made this a game with plenty of time in the fourth quarter, and if it weren't for some odd play calling on the final series, SMU could have easily won. That said, the contest was pretty sloppy at times on both sides, and fans can probably be excused for tuning out before the exciting last few minutes. All that aside, this is a bowl win for Army -- its first in over two decades -- and it's this writer's opinion that success at a traditional power like Army is on the whole a net plus for the sport of college football, so this game was good to see. Grade: B+

Posted on: December 28, 2010 12:09 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Armed Forces Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli as part of the blog's Bowl Bonanza series.

The Basics: Army (6-6) vs. SMU (7-6), Dec. 30 Noon EST

Why You Should Watch: You should tun into the Armed Forced Bowl because you generally don't get a lot of chances to see Army and SMU in bowl games these days.  This will be the first time Army has played in a bowl since 1996, and this is only the second time that SMU has been in a bowl game over the last 25 years, or since Eric Dickerson and Craig James were getting paid.  If that's not enough there's also the contrast in styles of both teams, as Army runs the triple option and SMU is a run and shoot team.

Keys to Victory for Army: The strategy for Army to win this game is simple, yet won't be nearly as easy to execute.  It simply needs to keep the SMU offense off the field as much as possible.  While Army should be proud to be back in a bowl game, the fact of the matter is that they just don't have the talent and depth that SMU has, and can't afford to get into any kind of shootout.

Still, there's reason to believe Army can be successful.  SMU's defense had a lot of trouble stopping Navy's offense earlier this season, particularly the pitch on the option as Navy rushed for 253 yards in a 28-21 victory over the Mustangs.

Trent Steelman and the Army offense will have to have a similar game and hold on to the ball to have any chance of winning in this game.  They just simply don't have the depth on defense, particularly in the secondary, to keep the Mustangs passing attack in check.

Keys to Victory for SMU: Stop the option.  SMU has spent a lot of time in practice trying to fix the mistakes of the Navy game and work on their defensive assignments against the option.  If they can keep Army from running all over them, the Mustangs should come away with the victory.

After all, this game will be played in SMU's home stadium.

When SMU has the ball they should look to exploit any Army linebacker forced into coverage as they just don't have the agility to stay with SMU's slot receivers Darius Johnson and Cole Beasley.  Another key will be to pick up the blitz, as odds are that Army will blitz a lot to make up for its secondary.  Kyle Padron has had some trouble when pressured this season, so giving him time to find his open receiver will be key.

The Mustangs should also look to use the run game to slow down the blitz, as they've been more successful on the ground than you'd expect from a June Jones offense.  Zach Line isn't going to break any long runs, but he is a big, bruising back that can be used to soften the Army defense and cause linebackers to hesitate on play action, therefore opening up more lanes in the secondary for receivers.

The Armed Forces Bowl is like: that old t-shirt you found in the back of the closet.  You haven't worn the thing in a long time, and it's no longer in fashion, but it still fits and it's awfully comfortable.
Posted on: December 25, 2010 1:49 am
 

Bowl Grades: Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

Tulsa uses speedy scoring to keep Hawaii in check on their home turf in the 62-35 win.

TULSA

Offense:  It was going to be tough to try and keep up with the nation's best passing offense score for score, so Tusla did a fantastic job of seizing every opportunity they were given.  Thankfully for Golden Hurricanes fans, Hawaii offered up enough opportunities to stimulate an economy against Tulsa in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.  Tulsa took advantage of Hawaii's mistakes to jump out to an early lead on the heavily favored Warriors.  The thing that was so impressive about Tulsa's offense was their relentlessness once the lead was established.  They scored quickly and often, continuing to steal all the momentum from a Hawaii team that did their best to rally a not-so-neutral crowd in a comeback.  Wide receiver Damaris Johnson wrote himself into the NCAA record books with 326 all-purpose yards, and Hawaii had no answer for the quick-strike attack of Tulsa.  GRADE: A   

Defense: Tulsa didn't do a ton of radically impressive things in their gameplan, but what the simple things worked on Friday.  Hawaii has one of the best passing offenses in the country, and for some reason dropping a linebacker into coverage seemed foreign to both Bryant Moniz and G.J. Kinney.  Both quarterbacks threw interceptions in the first half on coverage-heavy plays by the Golden Hurricanes.  The stats also do not accurately represent the effect of Tulsa's defense sucking the momentum away from Hawaii with the turnovers.  GRADE: B

Coaching: The Golden Hurricanes entered the game as a two-score underdog basically playing an away game.  But none of these obstacles seemed to bother a Tulsa team that came in with the utmost expectations of winning.  Have to impressed with Tulsa's preparation and aggressiveness coming into the game.  Over and over again, it seems that half of the postseason battle is seeing which team cares more, and Tulsa seemed to have that edge about them on Friday. GRADE: B+

HAWAII

Offense:  If Hawaii thought they were going to run n shoot over the Golden Hurricanes on their home turf they were sorely mistaken Statistically, there are tons of reasons to believe that Hawaii's offense was successful on Friday night. Unfortunately, all of that analysis requires you ignore the fact that they had six turnovers. Sure, 471 sounds about right for a Warriors win. But having multiple drives end in turnovers and allowing Tulsa to convert those turnovers into points continued to keep Hawaii stuck behind a deficit the entire game. GRADE: F

Defense: The Warriors not only allowed Tulsa to score in plentiful amounts, but they allowed it to happen at record speeds.  The longest (time) scoring drive Hawaii gave up on Friday night was 3:31, and that was late in the fourth quarter with the game decided.  Granted, the defense was not given much of a chance with the turnovers by the offense, but still it is hard to leave a 62-35 game and feel like the losing team really did their best out there on the defensive side of the ball. GRADE: F

Coaching:  Outside of a general lack of preparation for the moment, it is difficult to pin the blame for Hawaii's embarrasment on head coach Greg McMackin.  The team did come into the game flat, but the coaching had nothing to do with the first half turnovers that basically buried the Warriors.  I will give the coaching staff credit for keeping Hawaii fighting for a while, but by the fourth quarter they did a great job of making their opponents look like the runners and shooters.  GRADE: C-

FINAL GRADE
All in all, the Hawaii Bowl was not the best game on the slate thus far.  Not that we have been served the most gourmet menu thus far, but still a painful second half to watch.  The stadium in Honolulu had less fans than points on the scoreboard by the time the final horn sounded, and my guess is that most of the national audience chose to divert to other holiday festivities.  There was a lot of scoring, and the big plays at least gave some "wow" factor.  Still far too sloppy to laud the "greatness" of the game.  GRADE: C
Posted on: December 22, 2010 2:18 pm
 

MWC, C-USA to team up for BCS bid?

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Mountain West has been taking hits all season long.  Things started out promising enough when the conference landed Boise State, and speculation that the league could end up with an automatic BCS bid because of it began.  Unfortunately, since then, the conference has watched TCU, Utah and BYU move on to greener pastures, and any talk of an automatic bid for the Mountain West quickly came to a halt.

Though that hasn't stopped the conference from brainstorming ideas to get that bid.  In fact, it seems that the Mountain West is teaming up with Conference USA in an attempt to find a way to get a BCS bid between the two conferences.
A united approach to a Bowl Championship Series automatic-qualifying berth has been among the most intriguing possibilities since neither currently has automatic status.
"There is still some level of interest in talking about that between the two conferences," [C_USA commissioner Britton] Banowsky said. "Where the conversation ultimately goes, I think, is way too early to tell. But I think as long as folks are interested in exploring that idea, we'll continue to do that."
There has been speculation the two could push for a BCS play-in game between the winners of their conferences.

That laughing you hear in the background is Bill Hancock.

It's a noble idea, sure, and one that in a perfect world would likely deserve some consideration, but let's be real, the BCS isn't looking to bring in any new members.  While the two conferences may team up and help each other with marketing and television, there's no way either will end up with an automatic BCS berth.
Posted on: December 22, 2010 12:51 am
Edited on: December 22, 2010 12:57 am
 

Bowl Grades: Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

Louisville storms back from a two touchdown deficit to defeat Southern Mississippi 31-28

LOUISVILLE

Offense: When Louisville came out throwing the ball, I must say I did not have high hopes for their prospects of winning.  After all, running back Bilal Powell is one of the best rushers in the nation behind a veteran offensive line.  But Southern Miss forced Justin Burke to keep the offense balanced for most of the game.  When Louisville's offense needed to step up and eat some clock in the fourth quarter, they kept converting to keep drives alive.  Eating up more than ten minutes of the clock in the final period, the rushing game finally sealed the deal for the Cardinals.  GRADE: B+

Defense: Going to group special teams in with defense, in which case we have to discuss the moment the game changed.  After a completely scoreless third quarter, Southern Miss scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to take a 28-27 lead with no signs of Louisville really threatening to score since the first half.  Freshman running back Jeremy Wright took the kickoff 95 yards the other way for an immediate answer that let the air out of Southern Mississippi's momentum.  The Golden Eagles didn't really bounce back from that one, so the defense benefited?  GRADE: B 

Coaching: This has been a great week for first-year coach Charlie Strong.  First he snags former Miami quarterback commit Teddy Bridgewater from the Hurricanes, adding the top-ranked dual threat quarterback to Louisville's 2011 recruiting class.  After putting in some work on the future, Strong was able to get Louisville a win in their first bowl appearance since 2006.  I have a feeling the Cardinals fans are pretty happy with their new head coach right now. GRADE: A-

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI

Offense: The Golden Eagles hit the ground running in the first quarter, with two fast scoring strikes that shellshocked the Louisville defense.  With how fast they started, the final takeaway for Southern Miss has to be a little sour on the offensive end.  In particular, two fourth quarter drives of 17 and -7 yards that both ended in punts.  If one of the highest scoring offenses can turn one of those drives into points we may be having a difference conversation.  GRADE: C  

Defense: While Southern Mississippi's ability to score quick provides an adavantage in close games, it was their defense's inability to stop Louisville from driving that ended up being their demise.  Louisville chewed up 10:52 across two drives in the fourth quarter.  Those drives only produced three points, but the time they chewed up left Southern Mississippi with only real opportunity to put together a game-winning drive.  They did not give up 40+ points or any absurd statistics, but as projected, Southern Mississippi's loss falls on the shoulders of the defense.  GRADE: D

Coaching: Head coach Larry Fedora game in with just the right gameplan: they wanted to take some chances early, keep the speed up on offense, and hit them in the face early on defense.  The only problem was being able to keep it up for 60 minutes.  Hard to put the kickoff return on the coaches, but after Wright's return in the fourth quarter the Golden Eagles never really bounced back.  GRADE: B

FINAL GRADE 
Considering the three blow outs served up in the first weekend of bowl games, the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl was a friendly change of pace.  There were big plays, a two-score comeback, and the game came down to the last minutes.  Can't ask for much more than that.  Highlighted by this incredible reverse-WR pass to quarterback Austin Davis (WHICH HE GRABS WITH ONE HAND) I must say it was a pretty good game for a pre-Christmas bowl. GRADE: B+

Posted on: December 20, 2010 6:47 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2010 10:27 am
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

Why to watch: These teams have already started to tussle, with Southern Miss getting disrespected by their former conference rivals , and there has already been promise of payback on the field. Additionally, the game pits former colleagues against each other. Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora and Louisville's Charlie Strong served on the Florida coaching staff together from 2002-2004. The Golden Eagles are entering their ninth straight postseason appearance, while Strong has succeeded in getting Louisville back into the bowl schedule for the first time since 2006. Both teams have a lot of pride on the line, and with these early bowls "showing up" sometimes is more than half the battle. I expect both teams to show up ready to play on Tuesday.

Keys to victory for Louisville: Louisville's best performances all season involved a heavy dose of the running game. Mostly that will be anchored by running back Bilal Powell (120.9 yards per game), but even when Powell was banged up reserves Jeremy Wright and Victor Anderson carried the ball well behind the Cardinals offensive line.

Running the ball will be key to keeping the high-scoring Southern Miss offense off the field, as well as setting up the play-action down the field. It would not be surprising to see both Adam Froman and Justin Burke at quarterback for Louisville, and both of them should have no trouble finding an opportunity to take advantage of a Southern Miss secondary that gave up an average of 248.8 yards per game through the air in 2010.

Keys to victory for Southern Miss: West Virginia was one of the few teams to really shut down Louisville's rushing attack, holding Powell to zero yards in one half of play and getting the Cardinals' leading rusher sent to the bench at the break. The Golden Eagles are no West Virginia, but they can try to do just enough to create drive-ending stops. If they can keep the Cardinals from getting in the end zone, Austin Davis and the offense should be able to do work on Louisville's defense. Strong has improved the Cardinals defense, but they were inconsistent across 2010.

Davis was very consistent under center for Southern Miss, throwing for 2989 yards and 18 touchdowns on the season. He has plenty of weapons, and the offense scheme stretches the defense to leave seams open for the running game. If Davis can get comfortable and hit a rhythm, and the aforementioned Golden Eagles secondary can keep from giving up the big play, Southern Miss could answer Louisville's pre-game taunts with a bowl victory.

The Beef 'O' Bradys St. Petersburg Bowl is like: Hot Tub Time Machine - I mean, it is kind of absurd. A collegiate bowl game named after Beef 'O' Brady's. No respectable game should have that many apostrophes in the official title. But similar to Hot Tub Time Machine , there is some promise to the game. It may come in the form of cheap thrills (fights, wacky turnovers, etc.), but there is enough on the line for both teams to know that they will at least be fired up to play. It will likely not be the game we remember the most come January (or Wednesday), but there is enough intrigue to sit down and check it out.
Posted on: December 20, 2010 3:04 am
 

Report: Ralph Friedgen to coach Maryland in bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Updating an earlier report, it's now known who, precisely, will be coaching the Maryland Terrapins in their Military Bowl appearance against East Carolina on December 29. According to the Baltimore Sun, it'll be Ralph Friedgen himself, even though Friedgen is facing an imminent firing after being told he would not be coaching Maryland in 2011 and reportedly refusing to retire.

If Maryland does indeed allow Friedgen to coach out the end of the year, it'll be the first noble gesture toward him on the school's part since word first came down that his career at Maryland would be ending. Friedgen, as a longtime ambassador for (and alumnus of) Maryland, at least deserves one last chance to lead his team on his own terms instead of some unceremonious dump just weeks after being named ACC Coach of the Year.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Maryland's not exactly facing stiff competition for Mike Leach, who's reportedly Maryland's first choice to replace Friedgen. The ex-Texas Tech head coach has been out of the college football world since being fired as Red Raiders head coach last December, so he's under no current obligation from any team and will likely remain available for Maryland until after the Terps' bowl game. 

At any rate, whether Maryland wins or loses against ECU, Friedgen deserves a hero's sendoff from his players -- right down to being carried off the field on their shoulders. He's lost over 100 pounds over the last two years, after all; that's a lot of prep work for just that one moment. Friedgen's reportedly an emotional guy, so we'll all know exactly how much the moment means to him when it's all said and done. We can debate for days whether Maryland is right to send Friedgen packing -- it's unpopular, but obviously, this isn't a decision a BCS school makes recklessly -- but if Maryland unconditionally allows Friedgen to coach through the bowl game, it'll at least be a step toward grace and the right message to send to the returning players.

Posted on: December 17, 2010 4:49 am
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: New Mexico Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Why You Should Watch: It's the very first bowl game of the year! It's Saturday at 2:00 p.m., and don't you really want one more dose of Saturday afternoon football before the relatives start showing up and the holidays start getting a little too real? Plus, sure, BYU is 6-6, but that record's a bit misleading, as the Stormin' Mormons' regular season schedule featured seven bowl teams -- including all four non-conference foes. UTEP also faced a litany of impressive players, including Ryan Mallett with Arkansas and Houston QB Case Keenum before his season-ending injury. Neither defense is going to be surprised or overmatched, compared to what they'd seen earlier in the season.

Keys to Victory for BYU: The Cougars need to get Jake Heaps going early in the game. The freshman quarterback has been turning his season around after throwing just two touchdowns in his first eight games; Heaps is up to 11 passing TDs on the year and another TD on the ground, and the UTEP passing defense is just porous enough to allow the Cougars to get something going if they're in the mood.

But most of all, BYU has to shake the Green Chili Curse. Every year, before the New Mexico Bowl, the two teams engage in a green chili cookoff in honor of New Mexico's most famous cuisine. Trouble is, the winning team in the cookoff is 0-4 in the actual bowl game thereafter. Brigham Young won this year, so that's obviously a problem; near as we can tell, there are ancient gods who control green chilis and punish those who desecrate their sacred fruit to the infidel judges' liking in said competition. That's a factor BYU needs to account for, or this game's as good as lost. Either that or the cookoff correlation is just random chance, but where's the fun in that?

Keys to Victory for UTEP: On paper, UTEP is overmatched in this game, but the Miners are facing a freshman quarterback with a penchant for not throwing touchdowns who's playing in his very first bowl game. So often, these minor bowl games just come down to a battle of who could care less, so if ever there were an opportunity for UTEP to grab its first bowl win since 1967, it's now.

QB Trevor Vittatoe and star wideout Kris Adams are likely the keys for UTEP. Both are seniors playing in their last game as Miners, and despite their considerable career numbers, neither is projected to be much of a factor in the NFL as of right now. Adams might get drafted late; Vittatoe probably won't. If the tandem can hook up the deep game a couple more times in their last dance, UTEP could put up enough points to take this game.

The New Mexico Bowl is like: a glass of water. What's the first thing you get when you dine out? Appetizer? Salad? Rolls and butter? Drink order? No, no, no, and no; it's that ubiquitous glass of water, there to welcome you to the restaurant and whet your appetite for what's to come. It's not there to satisfy, and to expect otherwise would be just silly. Yet the longer you wait for it, the more uncomfortable everybody at the table becomes. Ladies and gentlemen, fret not; your water is here, and your bowl experience is about to begin.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com