Posted on: December 29, 2011 10:11 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Outback Bowl.
Georgia's interior offensive line vs. Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy
Though it wasn't the grueling grind of past years, Georgia still made it through the SEC schedule and saw plenty of good defensive linemen. Outside of games against South Carolina and LSU however, they haven't seen anybody playing at the level that Jerel Worthy has been for Michigan State this season. Named a first team All-American, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound junior racked up 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks but the numbers don't show how dominating he was during games. His play is one reason why CBSSports.com draft experts have him pegged as a first round pick should he decide to leave school early.
The Bulldogs offensive line has come together better than expected after dealing with injuries and other issues at the beginning of the year. They had their issues with good defensive lines from Boise State, South Carolina and LSU and better buckle up to face another big test in Michigan State. The group gave up just over two sacks a game on the season, good (bad?) enough to rank 80th in the country in that category. Ben Jones is an experienced and battle-tested center who will likely be part of plenty of double-teams of worthy with young guards Kenarious Gates and Chris Burnette. The ability to contain worthy and keep quarterback Aaron Murray upright to deliver a few throws will be key for the offense to move the ball at all down in Tampa.
It's not all about the passing game either, as the Spartans allowed just 104 yards per game on the ground thanks in large part to Worthy. The UGA run game is a bit of a mystery at the moment but they no doubt need all the backs healthy and for the offensive line to get some push up front. Don't expect this to be a high scoring game given the way both teams are constructed but the ability for the Dawgs to break big plays comes down to their offensive line creating holes and time to throw.
This should be a great battle in the trenches but based on how Georgia has fared in other games this season, expect Worthy and his defensive teammates to get plenty of pressure. Don't be surprised if a running back is kept back to pass block more than usual and, given the amount of time between games, expect Mark Richt and the coaching staff to develop an offensive game plan that avoids Worthy as much as possible. In a matchup of two 10-3 teams, this one should go to the group who controls the line of scrimmage the best.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 3:04 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2011 3:05 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF: While both offenses in this game are pretty balanced, the Wolverines proved to be more potent on offense throughout the season, and generally did so against better defenses than the Hokies this year. Which should be good preparation for the Virginia Tech defense that Michigan will be facing in New Orleans. Statistically, the best defenses Michigan faced this season belonged to Michigan State, Illinois, Ohio State and Notre Dame. In those four games the Wolverines averaged 30 points per game. A good sign going into a game against a Virginia Tech defense that's allowing only 17.2 points per game this season, which is good enough for 8th in the country.
The true test for the Wolverines will be running the ball against a Hokie defense that allowed only 107.7 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry on the season. Still, considering that Michigan's strength on offense is running the ball with both Fitzgerald Toussaint and Denard Robinson (the duo combined for 2,174 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2011) it wouldn't be in the Wolverines best interest to change things up now. Also, whie the Hokies were successful stopping the Georgia Tech run game this year, Georgia Tech doesn't present the passing threat that Michigan brings. No, Denard Robinson is not a great passing quarterback, as he completed only 56% of his passes this season, but he did throw for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns. What Robinson lacks in accuracy, he can make up for with the deep ball once Virginia Tech safeties begin creeping toward the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Virginia Tech offense is similar to that of Michigan, though it's a bit more proficient when it comes to moving the ball through the air thanks to Logan Thomas. That being said, Virginia Tech averaged only 28.5 points per game this season, which is pretty middle of the road, and nearly 6 points less per game than Michigan. So how will Virginia Tech make up for those 6 points against a defense that is just as sturdy as its own? It's a good question and one that's tough to answer because Michigan is the best defense the Hokies will face this season.
Still, there is some reason to be optimistic about Virginia Tech's chances. The only defense that compares to Michigan that the Hokies faced this year would be that of Virginia's, and the Hokies posted 38 points and 410 yards of offense against their state rivals at the end of November. The best way for Virginia Tech to repeat that performance against Michigan may be to put the ball in the hands of running back David Wilson. Wilson finished the season with 1,627 yards rushing and averaged over 6 yards per carry. While Michigan's defense was solid as a whole, against the run it was rather mediocre. The Wolverines may have allowed only 129.1 yards per game on the ground, but they did so while giving up 4.07 yards per carry, which is only good enough to be 57th in the nation. So Virginia Tech would be well-served to use Wilson and the run game to set up Logan Thomas and the passing game.
X-FACTOR: While there are plenty of people upset by the fact Michigan and Virginia Tech are playing in this game rather than higher ranked teams like Boise State and Kansas State, the fact is, this matchup should be pretty interesting. These two teams are incredibly similar to one another, which could lead to a pretty exciting and close game. And anytime that's the case, you tend to look at the special teams, as a field goal could very well be what decides this contest. Unfortunately, that's another area where these two teams are essentially the same.
At least, they were during the regular season. Since then, however, Virginia Tech kicker Cody Journell has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with breaking and entering. In a game like this that should be close, being without Journell could be the deciding factor and tilt things in Michigan's favor.
Posted on: December 26, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 2:19 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Well, you can't blame Penn State for trying, can you?
The Nittany Lions are conducting what by their own admission has a been a "deliberate and measured" search for Joe Paterno's replacement and are the final FBS team to fill their 2011 head coaching vacancy. But any complaints would have been quickly silenced if they could become the program that finally pries away Chris Petersen from Boise State. It's no surprise a Penn St. official reportedly visited Idaho twice last week in an effort to make the program's pitch to Petersen.
But like every other previous suitor for the Bronco coach's services, that pitch has fallen on deaf ears--if it was ever even heard in the first place. The Patriot-News's David Jones has reported that Petersen "has made it known he is not interested in Penn State's vacant head coaching position."
Jones writes that the decision is "no shocker," and surely it isn't; after he turned down all manner of high-profile jobs the previous several offseasons (including UCLA earlier this month), convincing Petersen to take a scandal-plagued position that several lesser coaches have already shied away from was always the longest of long shots.
But given the position Penn State finds itself in -- no coach and not even any real leads on one, with Signing Day rapidly approaching and the fanbase growing more nervous by the day -- Petersen was the kind of prize that was worth taking that shot anyway. The only criticism to be made is if that shot came out of desperation, and with it having failed, the search is poised to go on for several more days ... or even weeks.
Posted on: December 22, 2011 11:24 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
LAS VEGAS -- It wasn't the time (before Christmas) nor place (Las Vegas) that many had expected Boise State to wrap up the season but, alas, there the 11-1 Broncos were in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl against 6-6 Arizona State. The game went as expected, with the men from the blue turf blowing out the boys from the desert. There were trick plays and turnovers on one side, personal fouls and a 6-foot-8 quarterback on the other. All-in-all, another ho-hum victory for Boise while the ASU fans were able to continue the losing in the casinos after the game.
BOISE STATE WON. The bowl game was all about the end of prolific quarterback Kellen Moore's career and the successful senior class for Boise State. It wasn't a sharp performance by a team making a return trip to Vegas for a game they'd trade anything for to have "BCS" in front of the title but it was another 'W.' There were three turnovers by Moore alone - two picks and a fumbled snap - but that only kept the score closer than it could have been. There was a successful trick play for a touchdown, a staple of the team's run under head coach Chris Petersen, and plenty of points as the Broncos capped another 12-win season off with a victory.
HOW BOISE STATE WON: How didn't they win is a better question. BSU had touchdowns in all three phases of the game in a game they pretty much controlled from start to finish. There was Doug Martin's opening kick return for a touchdown, Jamar Taylor's 100 yard interception return for a score and, of course, a couple of tosses to the end zone by Moore. They nearly had a Yahtzee of college football scoring with TDs coming through the air, on the ground, via kick return and two on defense.
WHEN BOISE STATE WON: When Arizona State left the hotel? When the Broncos warmed up? As soon as the bowl match up was announced? It seemed that way. The tone was set early on when Martin took the opening kick return back for a touchdown and it seemed to be all blue from there on out. ASU had a few chances after grabbing some turnovers but never could capitalize. The back-breaker came in the third quarter when Brock Osweiler tossed a pick-six on the one-yard line that pushed the Boise lead to 35-10 and signaled the Sun Devils waving white flag.
WHAT BOISE STATE WON: The seventh-ranked Broncos captured their second-straight Maaco Bowl trophy with plenty of thoughts about "what could have been" this season. The senior group wrapped up their careers with 50 wins for a new school and FBS-record and capped the program's sixth straight 10+ win season.
WHAT ARIZONA STATE LOST: Dennis Erickson's last game for one. Uninspired, undisciplined and unfit to play, the Sun Devils appropriately sent their head coach out with a 31-31 record over five years in Tempe. The loss also drops the team below .500 on the season thanks to their fifth straight loss. It was a fitting end to the season really.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Kellen Moore cemented his 50th win as the starting quarterback of the Broncos, most in NCAA FBS history. He also wraps up his career with an insane 142-28 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
FINAL GRADE: B. The only reason why it even gets that grade is because it was Moore and the senior group's last game. Boise State at least made it entertaining with a few trick plays and touchdowns just about every way possible.
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Posted on: December 16, 2011 1:42 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Maaco Bowl
Boise State secondary versus Arizona State's passing game
Some numbers can lie. Boise State's 25th-ranked pass defense is one of them. If you caught any of their loss to TCU, you'll know why: the Broncos are young and can be picked on with speedy receivers going down field. Guess what Arizona State has? Experienced wide receivers who know how to run routes and get behind defenses.
Gerell Robinson is averaging over 18 yards a catch and has topped the 100 yard mark five times this season for the Sun Devils. Aaron Pflugrad gets close to 15 per grab and though he slowed down after a great start to the year, is a veteran who can slip behind a corner and find holes in zone defenses. Jamal Miles is a multipurpose threat and has to be contained in the return game as well. A sore point in past years, the ASU offensive line was much improved this year and has given quarterback Brock Osweiler some time to throw. Outside of their game against Cal to end the year, this has been a pretty pass-heavy offense at the end of the year.
The Broncos secondary did well with time to prepare against Georgia earlier in the year but was torched by TCU (473 yards, five touchdowns) and San Diego State (350 yards, three touchdowns). Osweiler has thrown for over 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns on the year and is tall enough (he's 6-foot-8 if you haven't heard) to see open receivers down the field.
Boise State safety George Iloka was moved to cornerback at the end of the year and the secondary improved so it will be interesting to see how ASU attacks the new-look unit. Things are also interesting considering Sun Devils offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has moved on to the UCLA coaching staff. Very intriguing match up that should determine whether this game is close or a blow out.
You can read our complete Maaco Bowl preview here.
Posted on: December 16, 2011 12:34 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
BOISE STATE WILL WIN IF: This is a total mismatch, there's no doubt about it. The Broncos are better coached and a better team - a decent kicker away from playing for the national title. Instead, they wind up in Las Vegas in the swan song for FBS' winningest quarterback Kellen Moore. It's pretty simple for Boise State, win the game by doing what you've been doing for years. Hit big pass plays, run the ball effectively, get pressure using the front four, run a trick play or two. The Sun Devils are 106th in pass defense so it should make for a big game by Moore.
ARIZONA STATE WILL WIN IF: After a disappointing season and a fired coach on the sidelines, this game gives the Sun Devils a chance to end the season on a high note. The defense never did live up to expectations - due to injury and on-the-field play - but getting stops and forcing turnovers give their offense a chance to score some points. Brock Osweiler and company have done a solid job this year but have to remain balanced, even if they are behind in the game. More than anything, the team is going to have to put together a complete game like they did earlier in the year if they are to have a chance at pulling the upset in Vegas.
THE X-FACTOR: You never know how a team going into a bowl game with a departing coach, in this case Dennis Erickson, will play. They could be inspired and pull off the upset against all odds. They could roll over and play lifeless after being down a score or two. Given the way ASU ended the season, it would be a good bet that it's the latter but you never know. These are two talented football teams playing in an exhibition game to end the year, so it's hard to tell who will be motivated to win it.
Posted on: December 15, 2011 3:47 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 9:28 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
TCU WILL WIN IF: How's a trip to San Diego before Christmas for a Mountain West swan song sound? The Horned Frogs dominated conference play for the final time, including a memorable upset of Boise State, and will head to one of just four bowls matching up conference champions. Motivation would normally be a factor for some teams coming from two straight BCS bowls but not for one coached by Gary Patterson - as intense and well-prepared a coach as you will find.
"I think the key is, the team that wins bowl games is the team that wants it the most," Patterson said. "What I’ve found is that you usually find out in the first five minutes of the ballgame how that’s all going to go down, with the intensity level and how they do it. I think this is going to be one of the games people talk about, one of the better ball games in the bowl season."
A win in the bowl game would also give TCU 11 wins for the seventh time in a decade. Though they've taken a few lumps, this team is built on defense and linebacker Tank Carder is looking to cap off a great career by slowing down Louisiana Tech's high-powered offense with help from the secondary. The offense is pretty good too, rounding into form as the season progressed. The Horned Frogs have scored at least 27 straight in every game this year and if quarterback Casey Pachall and the offense - sans coordinator Justin Fuente - keep turnovers to a minimum, they should be riding off to the Big 12 with a bowl game win.
"This ball game is a challenge for us," added Patterson. "Not only is it a challenge at the end of the season but it’s a challenge to go into next season, to teach our kids what it’s about to play at a high level. There are no two ways about it."
LOUISIANA TECH WILL WIN IF: The Bulldogs certainly can score some points, averaging almost 450 yards of offense and 35 points per game ever since Colby Cameron took over at quarterback and started throwing the ball around. The offense gets most of the attention but the defense isn't too shabby either with 20 interceptions on the year - good for third in the nation.
"This will be a bit of a measuring stick for our program and where we are headed," head coach Sonny Dykes said. "This has been a great team to coach, we’ve had a fun ride."
A sound game plan that mixes up a few runs as Cameron finds top wide receiver Quinton Patton should be able to move the chains and find the end zone. If the defense can make some plays and slow down the TCU offense, special teams will come into play and the team has a great weapon in Ryan Allen, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter and can help flip the field position battle in favor of LaTech.
"Our guy Ryan Allen had plenty of punts," said Dykes. "We won ball games because of him, especially when we were trying to find an identity offensively early. We were making a quarterback switch and trying to find which direction we were going. Our defense was playing pretty consistent football and our punter was giving us a chance to win. He is a weapon."
"This is the biggest bowl game for us, probably in school history, so we have to see this as an opportunity."
THE X-FACTOR: As always, turnovers. Pachall has been pretty good in not throwing interceptions or fumbling the ball but he has to keep that up in this game. Give Louisiana Tech extra chances to score and things might get interesting. Spread offenses - Baylor, SMU - have hurt TCU already this year and the WAC champions know how to beat teams if the game is close.
Tags: Baylor, BCS, Big 12, Boise State, Bowl previews, Bryan Fischer, Casey Pachall, Colby Cameron, Gary Patterson, Justin Fuente, Key Matchups, Keys to the Game, Louisiana Tech, Mountain West, MWC, Non-BCS, Poinsettia Bowl, Quinton Patton, Ray Guy Award, Ryan Allen, SMU, Sonny Dykes, Tank Carder, TCU, WAC
Posted on: December 15, 2011 1:52 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 1:56 pm
Postedy by Tom Fornelli
TOLEDO WILL WIN IF: This game is going to be a very interesting matchup. In order for Toledo to come out on top they'll have to continue to do a lot of the things that they did all season, and that means put up a lot of points. Something that the Rockets should be able to do, even without Tim Beckman around. The Air Force defense isn't terrible, but it did give up nearly 28 points a game this season. Which means that Terrance Owens, Austin Dantin and Eric Page should find plenty of opportunity to make plays for the Rockets. Where the problems for Toledo may come is on the defensive side of the ball. The Rockets defense gave up 31 points a game this season and while the run defense was acceptable, it hasn't faced a rushing attack like Air Force. When you haven't faced an option offense it's hard to stop one because you're not quite sure what you're seeing right away. The good news for Toledo is they've had the extra time to prepare for it, but how well the Toledo defense executes on the field will play a big role in this contest.
AIR FORCE WILL WIN IF: The key for Air Force in this game is simple: keep Toledo out of the end zone. While Air Force's defense hasn't been terrible this season, it's also had some pretty bad games. There was a three week stretch against teams like San Diego State, Notre Dame and Boise State in which the Falcons gave up 45.67 points per game. Now, Toledo's offense is different than any of those three teams because it provides more of a running threat at quarterback, but it does have a lot of similar characteristics. So slowing Toledo down will not be easy, but it will be a must if Air Force wants to win. The Falcons should find success on offense running the ball, but not enough to where they can afford to get into a shootout.
X-FACTOR: Eric Page. Simply put, Eric Page is the most exciting player in this game. He's Toledo's biggest threat on offense and he finished the season with 112 catches for 1,123 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Air Force pass defense hasn't given up a lot of yards this season, but it does allow opposing quarterbacks to complete 61% of their passes, which means Page should find openings on short to intermediate routes and be a favorite target of both Dantin and Owens.
You can read our complete Military Bowl preview here.