College Football Bowl Preview: Part 1

December 18, 2008

With the holidays upon us, it can only mean one thing: Bowl Season. With the first of the thirty-four bowl games kicking off this weekend, The Daily Sports Herald presents our own game-by-game preview and predictions provided by staff writer Kweku Turkson.

1. EAGLE BANK BOWL (December 20th ): Wake Forest (7-5) vs. Navy (8-4)

The inaugural Eagle Bank Bowl kicks off the college football bowl season this year on December 20, 2008. This game pits Wake Forest against Navy, and will mark the first-ever bowl game to be played in Washington, DC. It is also a rematch, as Navy defeated Wake 24-17 earlier this season.

Wake Forest finished tied for third place in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, and is led on defense by senior cornerback Alphonso Smith and linebacker Aaron Curry, this year’s Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker. Curry, Smith, and the rest of the Demon Deacons defense will be faced with the daunting task of stopping the formidable Midshipmen’s rushing offense, lead by diminutive senior running back Shun White and his scintillating 8.7 yard-per-carry average.

Prediction: Wake’s opportunistic defense comes up big, thwarting the Middie’s run game and causing turnovers when they elect to pass. Wake wins the rematch 28-10.

2. NEW MEXICO BOWL (December 20th): Colorado State (6-6) vs. Fresno State (7-5)

Led by their esteemed head coach Pat Hill, the Bulldogs will be playing in their ninth bowl game in the last 10 years, and are likely to be favored over a 6-6 Colorado State team. On offense, Fresno State senior quarterback Tom Brandstater will look to all-WAC tight end Bear Pascoe and junior wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, the team’s leader in touchdown receptions. Colorado State’s freshman All-America candidate Mychal Sisson, and the rest of the Rams defense will have their hands full.

Prediction: Showing his rookie coaching counterpart Steve Fairchild why he is no stranger to the post-season, the venerable Pat Hill leads his charges to a convincing 34-13 win in Albuquerque.

3. ST. PETERSBURG BOWL (December 20th): Memphis (6-6) vs. South Florida (7-5)

The first-ever St. Petersburg Bowl, to be played at St. Pete’s Tropicana Field, features a disappointing South Florida team. The Bulls started the year with promise, opening the season at 5-0. That start included an overtime victory over a Kansas team that at the time was ranked #13 in the nation. However, the Bulls were victimized by their own sloppy play as well as a difficult schedule, and ended up dropping 5 of their last 7 games.

Nevertheless, they should benefit from home-field advantage, as this game is literally being played right in their backyard. On offense the Bulls feature junior quarterback Matt Grothe, the team’s rushing and passing leader. Grothe also threw 14 interceptions on the year.

Meanwhile, their opponents, the Memphis Tigers, began the season at 0-3, before righting the ship and winning six of their last nine games. Memphis’ attack begins with junior running back Curtis Steele, a DeAngelo Williams clone

Prediction: My early bowl season favorite for game of the year. Steele rushes for 200+ yards in leading the Tigers to victory in a wild one, 52-45.

4. PIONEER LAS VEGAS BOWL (December 20th): BYU (11-2) vs. Arizona (7-5)

At first glance this game appears to be a mismatch -- BYU is looking to win its fourth straight Las Vegas Bowl, while Arizona is playing in its first bowl game since 1998. However, given the firepower possessed by both teams, it actually could be a close and exciting game. Each squad is quite proficient at both moving the ball and scoring points, as evidenced by their respective averages of 35 (BYU) and 37 (Arizona) points per game during the season. Both teams also averaged over 400 yards of total offense per contest.

Prediction: David Hasselhoff gets booed while singing the Star Spangled Banner, and despite the distractions, the ‘Cats from Tucson pull the upset, knocking off the Cougars 28-17.

5. NEW ORLEANS BOWL(December 21st): Southern Miss (6-6) vs. Troy (8-4)

One of those matchups where you wonder how one team (in this case, Southern Miss) even got invited to a bowl game. After going 0-for the month of October, the Golden Eagles were sitting at 2-6, but rallied late to “win” the month of November with four consecutive victories, making them bowl-eligible. They will be led in New Orleans by freshman QB Austin Davis, who broke Brett Favre’s freshman record for most TD passes by a frosh, with 21.

The Trojans of Troy, playing in the New Orleans Bowl for the second time in three years, have won 3 straight conference titles and are led by QB Levi Brown. His main target will likely be sophomore WR/ PR Jerrel Jernigan.

Prediction: Troy uses a stout defense and a balanced offense to best the Golden Eagles 24-7.

6. POINSETTIA BOWL (December 23rd) Boise State (12-0) vs TCU (10-2)

Arguably the most evenly matched non-BCS bowl game on this year’s post-season schedule. The outcome of this game will likely be determined by whether the 9th Ranked Boise State offense, led by freshman QB and all-WAC performer Kellen Moore, can move the ball against TCU’s ferocious defense.

The Horned Frog’s 4-2-5 defense, ranked first in the nation against the run, and second in overall defense, will be led by junior defensive end and all-conference performer Jerry Hughes. Hughes, first in the nation with 14 sacks and 18.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, will look to slow the undefeated Bronco’s best ballcarrier, senior tailback Ian Johnson, while also preventing Moore from finding his play-making wide receivers Austin Pettis and Vinny Perretta.

Prediction: Despite moving the ball and establishing an early lead, the Broncos are victimized by an opportunistic Horned Frog’s defense, which turns 4 second half takeaways into big points. TCU rallies from behind for the 38-31 victory in a spectacular action-packed thriller.

7. HAWAII BOWL (December 24th): Notre Dame (6-6) vs Hawaii (7-6)
Coming off a heartbreaking loss to number 12 Cincinnati, the Warriors look to add a signature win over a once-storied Notre Dame program. The Fighting Irish head to Hawaii having lost 4 of their last 5 games. The Irish carry a nine-game bowl losing streak, and are by far the least-deserving 6-6 team to receive a bowl bid this year.

Hawaii quarterback Greg Alexander will look to get the ball into the hands of wideout Malcolm Lane, who leads the team with six touchdown receptions and handles kick return duties as well. For Notre Dame, seniors Maurice Crum Jr. and David Bruton are the lone bright spots on a defense hoping to slow down Hawaii’s run-and-shoot.

Prediction: The Warriors put on a show for their fans, while the Irish players, coaches, support staff, fans, and boosters, simply enjoy the cool trade winds and the beach. Hawaii rolls 52-10.

8. MOTOR CITY BOWL (December 26th): Florida Atlantic (6-6 ) vs. Central Michigan (8-4)

Here’s hoping that this game is a financial success, as the struggling Motor City economy needs all the help it can get. After starting the season 1-5, the Owls rallied to win 5 of their last 6 games in order to qualify for bowl contention. Head coach Howard Schnellenberger -- sporting an undefeated 5-0 record in bowl games -- will utilize the chemistry between lefty quarterback Rusty Smith and receiver Cortez Gent to get things going offensively.

For the Chippewas, junior signal-caller Dan LeFevour helms their attacking, spread offense. LeFevour led the team this year in passing and rushing.

Prediction: LeFevour and CMU give the home state fans something to cheer about in a game bereft of defense 52-38.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald

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