Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oregon State holds off Panthers 3-0 in windy Sun Bowl

Game played Dec. 31, 2008

The No. 24 Oregon State Beavers, without their top running back tandem in brothers Jacquizz and James Rodgers and playing in windy conditions, scored the only points of the game on a second-quarter Justin Kahut field goal for a 3-0 win over 18th-ranked Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl.

Oregon State scored what would turn out to be the only points of the afternoon on a late-second-quarter drive. Jeremy Francis ran for 19 yards and quarterback Lyle Moevao hit Shane Morales for 18 to set up Kahut’s 44-yard boot with 3:57 remaining in the half.

Pitt quarterback Pat Bostick came on for Bill Stull, who appeared to suffer a wrist injury, and led a Panthers drive to try to tie the game. However, Conor Lee’s 58-yard effort had the distance but was just barely wide right with 2:08 to go.

Oregon State punter Johnny Hekker pinned Pitt at its own 11-yard line on the ensuing drive, leaving the Panthers 1:04 to reach scoring position. Dorin Dickerson made 17- and 20-yard receptions during the last-ditch drive, but Bostick was sacked by the Beavers’ Victor Butler and Slade Norris to end the game.

Both teams punted 10 times during the game, with Hekker lifting all 10 efforts for the Beavers for an average of over 44 yards. Dave Brytus punted nine times for Pitt, for an average of 44 yards, before leaving due to injury, and Dan Hutchins booted the final punt for the Panthers.

The only other serious scoring threat was Kahut’s missed 37-yard attempt in the third period.

Moevao completed 19 of 42 passes for 193 yards ad two interceptions. Francis ran 15 times for 76 yards, while Sammie Stroughter caught six passes for 88 yards and Morales made five receptions for 79 yards.

For Pitt, Stull hit 7 of 24 attempts for 52 yards and a pick, while Bostick completed 2 of 3 throws for 37 yards. LeSean McCoy carried 24 times for 85 yards.

Pitt only gained 182 net yards, while Oregon State was penalized 10 times for 90 yards.

NOTES: The Beavers have won five straight bowl games under coach Mike Riley … The Panthers were shut out for the first time since a 45-0 loss at Miami Sept. 28, 1996 … The game was the lowest-scoring Sun Bowl since the 1940 edition featuring Catholic and Arizona State ended scoreless … Both teams end the season with 9-4 records.

Video credit – CBS

Masoli, No. 15 Ducks beat Oklahoma State in Holiday

Game played Dec. 30, 2008

Jeremiah Masoli threw for one touchdown and ran for three more to lead the 15-ranked Oregon Ducks to a 42-31 come-from-behind win over No. 13 Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl.

Trailing 31-28, the Ducks took the lead for good on their first possession of the fourth quarter. Masoli ran for 16 yards on the option to begin the drive. Jeremiah Johnson ran for a gain of 12 yards. Then, Masoli hit Jaison Williams for 31 yards before completing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Williams. Morgan Flint booted the extra point to give Oregon a 35-31 lead.

Oklahoma State was forced to punt on its next possession, but the Cowboys still had hope after stuffing the Ducks’ LeGarrette Blount for a loss of a yard on fourth-and-goal from the Oklahoma State 1-yard line.

However, the Oregon defense forced a punt, and the Duck offense put the game away with a final score. On third-and-6, Masoli picked up 10 yards on the read option, and Blount ran for a 29-yard score, hurdling one Cowboy tackler and stiff-arming another, with 3:01 to go. Flint’s kick made the score 42-31, Oregon.

The Cowboys drew first blood on their first possession. Quarterback Zac Robinson hit Dez Bryant for successive gains of 12 and 11 yards, and Kendall Hunter ran for 13. Bryant caught a pass for five yards and another first down before Dan Bailey hit a 45-yard field goal to give Oklahoma State a 3-0 edge.

Oklahoma State began its next drive in a deep hole after the Ducks’ Josh Syria’s 35-yard punt was downed by Jeff Maehl at the Cowboy 1. Robinson hit Brandon Pettigrew for 11 yards to begin the drive. Keith Toston ran for 16 yards and Pettigrew pulled in another pass for 15. Robinson and Bryant hooked up again for nine yards on third-and-6 before Robinson ran for four yards and a first down. Bryant then hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass to cap off a 12-play, 99-yard drive, and Bailey’s boot made it 10-0, Cowboys.

Oregon answered immediately as Johnson took off down the sideline on the first play for a 76-yard touchdown. Flint cut the Duck deficit to 10-7.

The Cowboys came right back to re-take a double-digit lead. Perrish Cox returned the kickoff 43 yards, and Robinson hit Bryant for 15. Bo Bowling caught a 27-yard pass before Hunter ran for a 3-yard score on third-and-goal. Bailey hit the extra point.

No points were scored in the second quarter, after Flint missed a field goal for Oregon and had another blocked, the Cowboys’ Bailey missed a boot, both teams failed to convert a fourth-down attempt and the Ducks’ Walter Thurmond intercepted Robinson with 14 seconds to go in the half.

However, the third-quarter fireworks made up for the offenses’ failures in the second period. Thurmond returned the kick 91 yards to open the half, and Masoli finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown. Flint’s point-after cut the Oklahoma State lead to 17-14.

After the teams traded interceptions and three punts, Oregon took its first lead. Masoli ran for a 41-yard touchdown on the read option on the first play of the drive, running over an Oklahoma State tackler en route, and Flint’s boot made the score 21-17, Ducks.

The Cowboys took the lead right back. Bryant caught a pass for nine yards and a first down, and Robinson ran for 16 yards on the option on third-and-7. Damian Davis caught a pass for 25 yards before Hunter ran for a 4-yard touchdown. The kick gave Oklahoma State a 24-21 lead.

The Ducks ended the third period by scoring to go back ahead. Masoli hit Terence Scott for 21 yards. Ed Dickson hauled in a pass for 19 yards, and Masoli ran for the final 17 yards of the drive. Flint made the score 28-24, Oregon.

Oklahoma State then kept pace by scoring the first points of the final period. Bryant caught a pass for 31 yards. Robinson hauled in a pass from Bowling on a trick play for 21. Hunter ran for four yards and a first down to set up Robinson’s 1-yard touchdown plunge, and Bailey hit the point-after to make the score 31-28.

Trailing by 11, the Cowboys’ last-ditch possession ended when Robinson’s fourth-and-10 throw for Bryant, who sustained a left-knee injury during the game, fell to the turf well ahead of a limping Bryant.

Masoli completed 18 of 32 passes for 258 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while running for 106 yards and three scores on 16 carries. Johnson ran 12 times for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Scott caught eight passes for 125 yards, Williams had three receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown and Jamere Holland made two catches for 45 yards. Blount racked up 74 yards rushing on seven carries, with a score.

Robinson hit 27 of 50 attempts for 329 yards, a touchdown and two picks. Bryant caught 13 passes for 167 yards, both Holiday Bowl records, and a touchdown. Robinson also ran 16 times for 54 yards and a score, Davis caught three passes for 66 yards and Pettigrew hauled in six balls for 51.

NOTES: Robinson passed former Cowboys quarterback and current coach Mike Gundy for the Oklahoma State career total offense record during the game … Gundy became the first person to play and coach in the Holiday Bowl after quarterbacking the Cowboys to a 62-14 win over Wyoming in the 1988 game … Oregon dedicated the win to Todd Doxey, a redshirt freshman from San Diego who drowned this summer in an Oregon river … The Ducks finished the season 10-3, while Oklahoma State ends the year 9-4.

Video credit – ESPN

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Maclin leads Mizzou to OT win over Northwestern

Game played Dec. 29, 2008

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel seemed to be just a little bit off his game all night in the Alamo Bowl against Northwestern.

Fortunately for the Tigers, Daniel, a senior playing his final college game, was able to find Jeremy Maclin when it mattered most – in overtime – for the game-winning score in No. 25 Mizzou’s 30-23 victory over the 22nd-ranked Wildcats. Maclin also returned a second-quarter punt for a touchdown.

Trailing 23-20, the Tigers marched to a tying field goal late in the fourth quarter. After beginning the drive at the Missouri 48-yard line, Maclin ran for seven yards on an end-around on third-and-6. Chase Coffman made a leaping catch for 16 yards on third-and-10. Jeff Wolfert then booted a 37-yard field goal to knot the score at 23 with 2:49 to play.

After Northwestern was forced to punt, Missouri had a chance to win in regulation, but Wolfert missed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide right as time expired, forcing overtime.

The Wildcats won the toss and elected to force the Tigers to go on offense first. Mizzou obliged with a quick 4-play touchdown drive. Maclin ran for 11 yards before catching a 7-yard touchdown pass from Daniel on third-and-3, and Wolfert’s extra point gave Missouri a 30-23 edge.

Northwestern, driving for the tying score, had reached the Missouri 8 when, on third-and-goal, quarterback C.J. Bacher was sacked by the Tigers’ Sean Weatherspoon and William Moore and fumbled, which offensive lineman Al Netter recovered at the 31-yard line. Then, Bacher’s fourth-down desperation pass was broken up in the end zone by Moore to end the game.

The Wildcats scored first after Daniel’s throw was deflected and intercepted by Brian Peters when Maclin and Jared Perry collided during their routes. Bacher hit Rasheed Ward for six yards and a first down. After Tyrell Sutton ran for three yards on third-and-1, Eric Peterman beat the Missouri coverage for a 35-yard touchdown catch. Amado Villarreal hit the extra point for a 7-0 Northwestern lead.

Missouri scored its first points early in the second quarter on a 14-play drive. After beginning at his own 15, Daniel hit Danario Alexander for 14 yards. Daniel scrambled for 14 yards on third-and-1, then completed a throw to Tommy Saunders for 12 yards on third-and-2. Derrick Washington ran for two yards and a first down before Wolfert’s 31-yard field goal made the score 7-3, Northwestern.

The Wildcats got those points back on their next drive. Sutton ran for five yards on third-and-1. Ross Lane caught a pass for 31 yards after breaking a tackle on third-and-2. Missouri’s Kenji Jackson committed pass interference on third-and-1, and Villarreal hit a 21-yard field goal to take a 10-3 lead.

Maclin, who had not had any opportunities to return kicks in the first half, got his first opportunity with 1 minute to play in the half and did not disappoint, taking Stefan Demos’ 36-yard driving punt 75 yards up the middle for a touchdown. Wolfert booted the point after to tie the score at 10.

Northwestern re-took the lead on its first possession of the third quarter. Lane caught a pass for nine yards, and Peterman made a reception for 10. Sutton rushed for four yards and a first down before Ward pulled in a 46-yard touchdown pass. Villarreal missed the extra point off the right upright, leaving the score 16-10.

Missouri then took its first lead of the night on the ensuing possession after beginning at its own 37-yard line. Maclin caught a pass for five yards on third-and-1, Coffman made a reception for 10 yards and Jerrell Jackson pulled in a pass for 15. Daniel ran for four yards on fourth-and-1 before hitting Alexander for an 11-yard score. Wolfert’s extra point gave Missouri a 17-16 advantage.

Bacher was intercepted by the Tigers’ Brock Christopher on Northwestern’s next drive, and Christopher ran 22 yards to give Daniel and company the ball at the Wildcats’ 30. Wolfert kicked a 43-yard field goal to extend the Missouri lead to 20-16.

Northwestern struck back after Brad Phillips intercepted Daniel, setting up Bacher and the offense at Missouri’s 24. Lane made a spectacular leaping catch in the back of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown, and Villarreal’s kick gave the Wildcats a 23-20 advantage.

Daniel completed 27 of 44 passes for 200 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, tying his career high. Maclin caught seven passes for 39 yards and a touchdown and ran for 43 yards on five carries.

Coffman also caught seven passes for 67 yards, while Washington ran 15 times for 44 yards.

Bacher hit 27 of 43 attempts for 304 yards, three scores and one pick. Sutton, playing after surgery on a broken left wrist, which forced him to miss the last four regular season games, ran for 114 yards on 29 carries.

Ward caught seven passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, and Peterman also pulled down seven throws for 83 yards and a score. Lane made five receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown.

NOTES: Daniel’s third-quarter touchdown pass to Jackson was the 100th of his career … Northwestern falls to 1-6 all-time in bowl games; its only win was 59 years ago, in the 1949 Rose Bowl over California … Missouri reached a bowl for the fourth straight season, tying a school record … The win was Daniel’s 30th as the starting quarterback for the Tigers … Missouri finishes 10-4, ending the season with double-digit wins for the second straight year for the first time. The Wildcats end the year at 9-4.

Video credit – ESPN

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Eagles drill listless Dallas 44-6, seal final playoff berth

Game played Dec. 28, 2008

At the beginning of the day, the Philadelphia Eagles knew they would need to knock off Dallas and have significant help to clinch a playoff spot, with Chicago, Tampa Bay and the Cowboys, who just needed to win to seal the final berth, still in the postseason hunt.

Then, after the Bears fell 31-24 at Houston and the Buccaneers were shocked at home by Oakland by the same score in early-afternoon games, the Eagles knew the final piece of the NFC playoff puzzle was in their hands.

What followed was a stunning 44-6 demolition of the Dallas Cowboys at home, as the much-maligned Donovan McNabb threw for two touchdowns and the Eagles defense was responsible for two more touchdowns, clinching the conference’s last wild-card spot and leaving Dallas, a supposed preseason Super Bowl contender, home for the offseason.

With the score tied 3-3, the Eagles took the lead on their first possession of the second quarter and were never in danger again. McNabb hit Correll Buckhalter for 59 yards, a career-long reception, on third-and-7. Then, on third-and-goal, McNabb dove into the end zone for a 1-yard score, and David Akers booted the extra point to give Philadelphia a 10-3 lead.

Late in the period, the Eagles put together an 11-play, 71-yard drive to extend the lead. Kevin Curtis caught a pass for 15 yards on third-and-8. DeSean Jackson made a reception for 12 yards, then caught a pass for 34 on third-and-9. Buckhalter caught a 4-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal with 2:03 to go in the half, and Akers made the score 17-3.

Dallas reached the Philadelphia 48-yard line when quarterback Tony Romo’s pass for Roy E. Williams was intercepted by the Eagles’ Sheldon Brown, his first pick of the season, to give Philadelphia another shot after a 23-yard return to the Cowboys 42.

Then, on third-and-9, Reggie Brown caught a pass for 13 yards, and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Dallas’ Adam Jones was tacked onto the end of the play for flinging Brown to the ground out-of-bounds. On another third-and-9, McNabb’s throw for Jackson in the end zone fell incomplete, but Terence Newman was flagged for defensive pass interference, giving the Eagles another shot. On the next play, Brent Celek caught a 1-yard touchdown pass, his first of the season, with 13 seconds to go in the half, and Akers’ point-after gave Philadelphia a 24-3 lead.

Amazingly, Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff for Dallas, when the Eagles’ Quintin Demps stripped the ball and Omar Gaither recovered the ball for Philadelphia on the Dallas 31, with 3 seconds to go in the half. Akers then nailed a 50-yard field goal as time expired to give the Eagles a 27-3 lead at halftime.

The onslaught continued when Philadelphia scored defensive touchdowns on Dallas’ first two possessions of the third quarter. The Cowboys had driven to the Eagles’ 19-yard line, where a scrambling Romo was stripped from behind by Brian Dawkins, and Chris Clemons picked up the ball for Philadelphia and ran 73 yards for a touchdown. Akers’ boot made it a 34-3 score.

Then, on the Eagles’ 12, Romo hit Marion Barber, who ran to the Philadelphia 4 and was headed out-of-bounds when Dawkins forced another fumble, which Joselio Hanson picked up and took 96 yards to the end zone. The extra point gave the Eagles a 41-3 advantage.

Philadelphia scored its final points of the night after forcing still another Cowboys turnover. Romo was sacked and stripped of the ball by Clemons, and Trevor Laws pounced on the ball for the Eagles. Akers then hit a 41-yard field goal.

Midway through the final period, Dallas scored its final points of the season on a 10-play drive. Jason Witten pulled in a pass for eight yards, then caught a pass for five and another first down. Tashard Choice ran for successive gains of 18 and 10 yards. Nick Folk kicked a 42-yard field goal to close the scorebook at 44-6.

The Eagles took the game’s first lead on their second possession of the afternoon. Buckhalter ran for nine yards and Brian Westbrook ran for a gain of 16 to set up a 40-yard Akers field goal, giving Philadelphia a 3-0 lead.

Dallas evened the score on its next possession, putting together a 15-play drive. Choice ran for two yards on third-and-1, then picked up three on another third-and-1. Barber rushed for six yards and a first down. Witten caught a pass for 17 on third-and-7 before Folk’s 37-yard field goal knotted the count at 3.

McNabb completed 12 of 21 attempts for 175 yards before giving way to Kevin Kolb for the Eagles’ final two possessions. Buckhalter ran 10 times for 63 yards and caught three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown, while Westbrook had 13 carries for 50 yards and Jackson caught two balls for 46 yards.

Romo hit 21 of 39 passes for 183 yards and an interception. Terrell Owens caught six passes for 103 yards, while Witten made seven receptions for 50 yards. Choice ran 13 times for 56 yards.

NOTES: The Eagles, as the final wild-card team, will play at NFC North champion Minnesota in the wild-card round next weekend … Dallas and Philadelphia split the season series, after the Cowboys beat the Eagles 41-37 at home Sept. 15 … Owens eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the ninth season, finishing the year with 1,052 yards through the air … Dallas ends the season having lost three of four games … Romo is now 5-8 as a starter in December, while the Cowboys dropped to 11-18 in December and January play since 2003.

Video credit – FOX

Late Hurricane fumble helps Cal to 24-17 bowl victory

Game played Dec. 27, 2008

The California Golden Bears secured their fifth bowl win in their last six tries, scoring the winning touchdown on a Nate Longshore-to-Anthony Miller hookup with 2:41 to go after a Miami fumble as Cal knocked off the Hurricanes 24-17 in the Emerald Bowl.

With the score still tied at 17 late in the final period after Cal’s Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 34-yard field goal attempt wide right, Miami had the ball on its own 22-yard line in a third-and-8 situation. Quarterback Jacory Harris, a true freshman making his second career start after Robert Marve was suspended for missed classes, was stripped by the Bears’ Zack Follett, and Cameron Jordan picked up the ball for Cal and took it to the 2-yard line, a play confirmed by replay.

Then, two plays later, Longshore, who was playing his final game for Cal and had not been performing particularly well, hit Miller, a freshman, for his first career catch, a 2-yard score with 2:41 remaining. Tavecchio hit the extra point to give the Golden Bears a 24-17 lead.

Miami had one final shot, but managed the clock and its final timeout rather poorly and, on the Hurricanes’ final play on fourth-and-5 from their own 49, Harris could only muster a lateral to Graig Cooper, who was pushed out-of-bounds by Michael Mohamed at the Cal 37 to end the game.

California jumped out to a 14-0 lead early and looked as though it would win the game going away. On third-and-10, Longshore hit Verran Tucker for 74 yards, a play that was initially ruled a touchdown before Tucker was ruled to have been brought down at the Miami 2. Jahvid Best then punched in a 1-yard score from there, and Tavecchio’s boot gave the Bears a 7-0 lead.

Miami was forced to punt on its next possession, and Matt Bosher’s kick only traveled 19 yards. On the next play, Best ran 42 yards to the end zone, and Tavecchio made it 14-0.

The Hurricanes finally dented the scoreboard on their first possession of the second quarter. On third-and-2, Harris’ pass bounced off Richard Gordon to Javarris James, who caught the ball for three yards. Leonard Hankerson then came up with a 41-yard reception, and Harris scrambled for 11 yards on third-and-8. Laron Byrd made a leaping 9-yard touchdown catch on third-and-4 to cap the 10-play, 80-yard drive, and Bosher’s extra point cut the Miami deficit to 14-7, the halftime score.

Miami evened the score on its second possession of the third period. Byrd caught a pass for 21 yards and Aldarius Johnson made an 11-yard reception before Lee Chambers ran for 18 on third-and-4. On third-and-goal, Thearon Collier caught a 6-yard touchdown pass, and Bosher tied the game at 14.

The Bears retook the lead just before the period ended, completing a 12-play, 76-yard drive. Best ran for 28 yards before Nyan Boateng caught a pass for 15 on third-and-10. On fourth-and-1, Best ran for 25 yards. The drive bogged down due to penalties and Longshore’s slipping and falling for a loss of five yards on third-and-goal at the Miami 1, and Tavecchio hit a 23-yard field goal to give Cal a 17-14 lead.

Miami came right back to tie the game just as the final quarter got under way. On fourth-and-5, Bosher punted, but a running-into-the-kicker penalty gave the Hurricanes another shot. Travis Benjamin caught a pass for 13 yards and Chambers ran for successive gains of 11 and 17 yards. Byrd made a 14-yard reception to set up a 22-yard Bosher field goal to tie the count at 17.

The often-booed Longshore hit on 10 of 21 passing attempts for 121 yards and a touchdown. Best picked up an Emerald Bowl-record 186 yards on 20 carries, with two scores. Tucker caught one pass for 74 yards.

Harris, who had not lost a game as a starter since seventh grade, completed 25 of 41 throws for 194 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Cooper ran 12 times for 63 yards, while Chambers had nine carries for 60 yards.

Chris Zellner caught eight passes for 88 yards, while Byrd, Harris’ teammate at Miami Northwestern High School, made three receptions for 44 yards and a score. Hankerson caught one pass for 41.

California rushed for 217 yards, while Miami ran for 119 … Zellner started in place of Miami tight end Dedrick Epps, a late lineup scratch with a bruised leg … Best has 1,580 rushing yards on the season, currently the most in the Pac-10. Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers would need 328 yards in the Sun Bowl against Pittsburgh to pass Best for the conference rushing title … The game was played at AT&T Park, the home of baseball’s San Francisco Giants, located 12 miles from Cal’s campus … The Golden Bears finish the season 9-4, while Miami ends the year at 7-6.

Video credit – ESPN

Friday, December 26, 2008

Irish snap bowl losing streak with big win over Hawai’i

Game played Dec. 24, 2008

Notre Dame’s infamous record-long nine-game bowl losing streak is now a thing of the past, thanks to a dominating effort from Jimmy Clausen and the Fighting Irish in a 49-21 win over Hawai’i in the Hawai’i Bowl. Clausen threw for 401 yards and five touchdowns, both Irish bowl records, in the win.

Notre Dame led this game from the first quarter on, beginning with an 87-yard drive for a touchdown. Clausen hit Robert Hughes for six yards on third-and-4 and Kyle Rudolph for 28. Hughes ran for 12 yards before a 28-yard completion to Golden Tate and a Warriors personal foul tacked onto the end of the play. Hughes ran for a 2-yard touchdown, and Brandon Walker kicked the extra point for a 7-0 Irish lead.

The Irish doubled their lead early in the second period. Armando Allen rushed for 11 yards before Tate caught a pass for five and a first down and another for 18. David Grimes made a 14-yard touchdown catch, and Walker hit the point-after for a 14-0 lead.

Hawai’i got on the board on its next possession. Quarterback Greg Alexander hit Greg Salas on a screen for eight yards on third-and-6. Aaron Bain caught a pass for 19 yards and Alexander scrambled for 15. Bain then hauled in a 10-yard touchdown catch, which was upheld by review, and Dan Kelly’s extra point made it a 14-7 ballgame.

From there, however, Notre Dame scored 28 unanswered points to blow the game open. Hughes ran for two yards and a first down before Tate made a 69-yard touchdown catch, and Walker’s boot gave the Irish a 21-7 lead.

Alexander threw an interception to Notre Dame’s David Bruton on the Warriors’ next possession, setting up another Irish score. Rudolph caught a pass for 24 yards. Then, on fourth-and-1, Clausen hit Rudolph again on play-action for 29 down the sideline. Finally, on third-and-goal with 1 second to play in the half, Tate caught an 18-yard touchdown pass, which replay also confirmed. Walker’s kick gave Notre Dame a 28-7 halftime advantage.

After a Hawai’i punt, Notre Dame was situated at its own 12-yard line to begin its first third-period possession. Hughes then ran for successive gains of 13 and 15 yards. Allen caught a screen pass and took it 41 yards down the sideline. Allen then pulled in an 18-yard touchdown catch down the sideline, and Walker made the score 35-7.

A Warriors turnover set up the next Notre Dame score. Bain caught a pass for 19 yards on third-and-7 for Hawai’i but fumbled, and Bruton recovered for the Irish at the 50. After a personal foul for a late hit out-of-bounds on the Warriors’ Brashton Satele, Tate caught a 40-yard touchdown on third-and-20. Walker’s extra point gave the Irish a 42-7 lead.

Hawai’i scored its first points of the second half on its next drive, covering 91 yards after a holding penalty to begin the drive. Michael Washington caught a pass for 42 yards on third-and-18. After Daniel Libre ran for 12 yards, Salas caught a pass for 14 before Bain’s 21-yard touchdown reception, and Kelly’s boot made it 42-14, Irish.

Notre Dame answered immediately and emphatically, when Allen returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, the first scoring return of his career. Walker’s boot gave the Irish a 49-14 advantage at the end of three quarters of play.

The only points of the final period came on Hawai’i’s final possession. Inoke Funaki came on at quarterback and hit Salas for 10 yards. After a scramble for 15 yards, Funaki hit Salas again for 13. Washington made a reception for six yards and a first down before catching a 27-yard touchdown pass, and Kelly’ extra point set the final margin at 49-21.

Clausen completed 22 of 26 throws, with zero interceptions, before senior Evan Sharpley came on to finish the game and his college career in the final period, completing both of his passes.

Tate hauled in six passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns, both also Notre Dame bowl records. Rudolph caught four passes for 78 yards, and Allen made two receptions for 59 yards and a score. Hughes ran 17 times for 55 yards and a touchdown.

For the Warriors, Alexander completed 23 of 39 attempts for 261 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Funaki hit 5 of 5 for 65 yards and a score.

Bain caught eight passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Salas pulled in seven balls for 76 yards, while Washington caught six for 96 yards and a touchdown.

NOTES: The game was the first bowl win for the Irish since defeating Texas A&M in the 1994 Cotton Bowl … Notre Dame set a bowl record for points in a game. Its previous high was 38 points in a win over Florida in the 1992 Sugar Bowl … Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis coached in the press box for the first time as the Irish head man, due to injuries in both knees … Notre Dame finishes the year 7-6, while Hawai’i comes in at 7-7.

Video credit – ESPN

No. 11 TCU comes back to knock off unbeaten Boise

Game played Dec. 23, 2008

The No. 11 Texas Christian Horned Frogs came back from a 13-0 first-half deficit to hand previously-undefeated No. 9 Boise State its first loss of the season, 17-16, in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Trailing 13-10, TCU took its first lead of the night on its first possession of the fourth quarter. After a Broncos punt, Aaron Brown ran for 18 yards and quarterback Andy Dalton hit Walter Bryant for 14. Dalton ran for six yards on the option on third-and-4, and Joseph Turner picked up eight on third-and-2. Turner then ran for a 17-yard touchdown, and Ross Evans hit the extra point to give the Horned Frogs a 17-13 lead.

Boise State came right back to cut its deficit to one. Quarterback Kellen Moore hit Austin Pettis for 19 yards, then Vinny Perretta made a reception for 13. TCU’s Steven Coleman then was penalized for pass interference to set up a Kyle Brotzman 33-yard field goal with 4:47 to go to cut the deficit to 17-16.

The Broncos defense then forced a Horned Frogs punt and took possession with 1:53 left on the Boise State 17-yard line. However, Moore was intercepted by Stephen Hodge on the first play of the drive, Hodge’s first pick of the season.

TCU proceeded to turn the ball over on downs with six seconds remaining, giving the Broncos one final shot to complete a perfect season. Moore completed a pass to Jeremy Childs, who then tried a lateral, which was picked out of the air by the Horned Frogs' Matt Panfil to end the game.

Boise State drew first blood on its first possession, with help from some of its customary trickery. Perretta fielded the opening kickoff and lateraled it to Ian Johnson, who ran 25 yards to the Broncos 49-yard line. Julian Hawkins caught a pass for three yards and a first down, Jeremy Avery pulled in a ball for six on third-and-5 and TCU was flagged for pass interference on third-and-13 before Brotzman kicked a 30-yard field goal.

The Broncos added to their lead the next time they had the ball. On third-and-6, Pettis caught a pass for 19 yards before making another catch for 19. The drive culminated when Johnson ran for a 20-yard touchdown, his 58th career rushing score, the most in WAC history. Brotzman’s boot gave Boise State a 10-0 lead.

TCU was driving on its ensuing possession when Jeremy Kerley took a direct snap and threw an interception to Boise State’s Jeron Johnson to end the threat.

The Frogs were foiled again on their first possession of the second period, when Kerley was stuffed on fourth-and-2.

Boise State took advantage of another TCU miscue to add to its lead. On third down, the Broncos’ Byron Hout intercepted a Dalton dump pass, spun and returned it 62 yards to set up a 24-yard Brotzman field goal to give the Broncos a 13-0 lead.

TCU finally got on the board on its final possession of the first half. After the defense forced a Broncos punt, Kerley caught a pass for five yards, and Bryant made a reception for 15. After a 17-yard completion to Jimmy Young, Brown ran for a 16-yard score on the option, and Evans’ point-after made the score 13-7, Boise State, at halftime.

TCU was forced to punt on its first possession of the third quarter, and after a 65-yard completion to Perretta, it looked as though Boise State was prepared to seize the momentum back. However, the Frogs held the Broncos to a 38-yard field goal attempt, which Brotzman missed wide left.

The Frogs then swept down the field to cut their deficit in half. After hitting Young for 28 yards, Dalton ran down the sideline for 24 on the option. Turner picked up three yards on fourth-and-1 before Evans hit a 32-yard field goal to cut the Boise State lead to 13-10.

Dalton completed 22 of 35 passes for 197 yards, with one interception. Brown ran for 102 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and Turner picked up 83 yards on 16 carries, with one score. Dalton ran for 74 yards on 16 carries. Bryant caught six passes for 67 yards, while Ryan Christian caught six passes for 53 yards. Young made five receptions for 62 yards.

Moore hit 22 of 35 attempts for 222 yards and an interception. Childs caught seven passes for 61 yards, while Pettis made four receptions for 65 and Perretta caught two balls for 78.

NOTES: TCU out-gained Boise State, 472 yards to 250. The Horned Frogs gained 188 second-quarter yards, while the Broncos were held to -7 yards … TCU out-rushed the Broncos, 275 yards to 28 … This marks the first time in school history TCU has won four straight bowls … The win was the 41st in the past four years for the Horned Frogs, a school record … TCU finishes the season 11-2, while Boise State put up a 12-1 mark.

Video credit – ESPN

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Giants seal NFC top seed with OT win over Carolina

Game played Dec. 21, 2008

The New York Giants’ two-man rushing attack, Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs, topped the efforts of DeAngelo Williams and Carolina’s offense, locking up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Ward ran for a career-high 215 yards and Jacobs punched in the game-winning touchdown, his third of the game, in overtime as New York defeated the Panthers, 34-28, and Williams, who ran for 108 yards and four touchdowns in frigid, windy conditions.

The Giants, trialing 28-20, took possession late in regulation at Carolina’s 44-yard line after an earlier Jeff Feagles punt was downed by Terrell Thomas at the Panthers 1. Eli Manning completed a pass to Domenick Hixon for 13 yards. On third-and-3, Manning hit Amani Toomer for 15. Kevin Boss caught a pass for 12 on third-and-5. After pass interference was called on the Panthers’ Ken Lucas, Carolina’s first interference penalty of the season, Jacobs ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 3:21 to go to make it a 28-26 game. New York elected to go for two to tie the game, and Manning hit Hixon on play-action to knot the score at 28.

Carolina made a last-ditch effort to win the game in regulation, but John Kasay’s 50-yard field goal attempt missed wide left with four seconds to go, forcing overtime.

The Giants won the coin toss but were forced into a 3-and-out. Carolina then suffered the same fate, giving New York another chance.

R.W. McQuarters muffed the punt for New York but fell on it at his own 13-yard line. Ward immediately dug the Giants out of the hole, running for 51 yards on the first play of the drive. Ward ran again for 14 yards on third-and-7, then picked up 17 for another first down before Jacobs capped it off with a 2-yard plunge, giving New York the 34-28 win.

The Giants took the lead the first time they had the ball. Jacobs ran for four yards and a first down and Hixon pulled in a pass for 40 before John Carney booted a 32-yard field goal to take a 3-0 advantage.

Carolina seized the lead on the ensuing possession. Steve Smith took a backwards pass and ran 23 yards on third-and-3, and quarterback Jake Delhomme hit Smith for 35 yards. Williams then ran for a 13-yard touchdown, and Kasay hit the extra point to give the Panthers a 7-3 lead.

New York embarked on a 13-play drive to reclaim the lead. The Giants’ Steve Smith caught a pass for 10 yards, and Jacobs ran for 10 more before Smith caught a pass for seven and a first down. Ward ran for nine yards on third-and-3, and Smith caught a pass for seven on third-and-2. Jacobs ran for a 2-yard touchdown, and Carney’s point-after made the score 10-7, Giants.

The Panthers came right back to take the lead. Jonathan Stewart caught a pass for 15 yards on third-and-7. Jeff King made a reception for 11. Williams rushed for 16, and Delhomme hit the Panthers’ Smith for 10. Williams then ran left for a 5-yard score, and Kasay’s boot gave Carolina the lead back.

After a Giants punt, Carolina supplemented its lead. A Delhomme pass went just through New York’s Aaron Ross’ hands to Muhsin Muhammad for 60 yards, and Williams ran for a 1-yard score. Kasay hit the point after to make it 21-10, Panthers.

New York drew to within a possession on its final drive of the half. Ward rushed for 34 yards to set up a 35-yard Carney field goal, making the halftime score 21-13, Panthers.

The Giants drew to within one point in the third quarter after a 12-play, 84-yard drive. On third-and-10, Boss caught a pass for 11 yards. Hixon made a reception for nine yards, Ward ran for 22 and Toomer caught a pass for 12. After a 13-yard completion to Madison Hedgecock, Manning hit Boss for a 4-yard score on third-and-goal to finish 6-for-6 on the drive, and Carney hit the point-after to cut the Carolina lead to 21-20.

Carolina seized momentum back by scoring to open the fourth quarter. On third-and-4, Delhomme hit Muhammad for seven. Dwayne Jarrett caught a ball for 19 on third-and-9, and Williams ran for his fourth touchdown on the night from 30 yards out. The Kasay extra point made it 28-20, Carolina.

For the Giants, Manning completed 17 of 27 attempts for 181 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Jacobs racked up 87 yards on 24 carries, while Boss caught five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown and Hixon made four receptions for 71.

Carolina’s Delhomme hit 11 of 19 passes for 185 yards. Muhammad made four receptions for 80 yards, while the Panthers’ Smith caught three balls for 47 yards.

NOTES: The Giants rushed for 301 yards as a team, the most in a game since 1959 … The first penalty of the game was a Giants delay of game with just over eight minutes remaining in the third period … Williams has set a Panthers franchise record for touchdowns in a season, with 20 … New York, at 12-3, has already clinched the NFC East, while the Cowboys are in second place at 9-6. The 11-4 Panthers, who have clinched a playoff spot, lead the 10-5 Falcons in the NFC South … The Giants travel to Minnesota Sunday afternoon, while Carolina will play in New Orleans Sunday afternoon.

Video credit – NBC

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The annual BCS mess notwithstanding, the best part of the college football season has arrived. Some excellent matchups are on tap, as undefeated No. 9 Boise State faces No. 11 TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl, 13th-ranked Oklahoma State takes on No. 15 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl, BCS near-misses No. 18 Pitt and 24th-ranked Oregon State face off in the Sun Bowl, No. 16 Georgia and No. 19 Michigan State do battle in the Capital One Bowl and erstwhile BCS busters No. 23 Ball State and Tulsa play in the GMAC Bowl.

In the biggest matchups, No. 5 USC and No. 6 Penn State, both one tough loss away from undefeated records, play in the Rose Bowl, surprising No. 12 Cincinnati faces return visitor No. 21 Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, one-loss No. 4 Alabama and undefeated BCS party-crashing No. 7 Utah play in the Sugar Bowl and No. 3 Texas, which is still scratching its head at being left out of Miami, and 10th-ranked, originally-left-for-dead Ohio State meet in the Fiesta Bowl, all before the real fun starts.

No one’s exactly sure how No. 2 Oklahoma ended up in the BCS title game over Texas, which beat the Sooners head-to-head in Dallas Oct. 11, and Texas Tech, which finished with an identical regular-season record with its Big 12 South brethren and beat the Longhorns, though the Red Raiders fell, hard, in Norman, Okla. However, the Sooners have scored 60-plus points in five straight contests and should be a worthy adversary to No. 1 Florida, which dropped a home contest to Ole Miss Sept. 27 but has not lost since, steamrolling everything in its path until a hard-earned win over Alabama in the SEC title tilt.

The festivities get underway with four bowls today. Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Dec. 20 – EagleBank Bowl – Navy (8-4) – Wake Forest (7-5, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) – This contest is a rematch of the teams’ meeting Sept. 27 at then-No. 16 Wake Forest, when the Midshipmen pulled out a 24-17 victory to win their first game over a ranked team in 23 seasons. The Mids come into the game on a high note after their seventh straight win over Army and, as always, are paced by their running attack, which leads the nation in yards per game at just under 300. Shun White has run for over 1,020 yards and eight touchdowns, while Eric Kettani has chipped in over 930 yards rushing. Ricky Dobbs has run for eight scores. Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada and Jarod Bryant have split time under center, mostly because of lingering injury troubles for Kaheaku-Enhada. Navy has won four of five, including two straight shutouts, and also has wins over fellow bowl teams Rutgers, Air Force and Northern Illinois.

The Demon Deacons rely heavily on their defense, which is the 19th-best in the nation and only allows just over 115 rushing yards a game. Quarterback Riley Skinner is at his best when minimizing mistakes, something he did not do effectively in the first meeting with Navy. However, he possesses a 12-to-7 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio and has thrown for over 2,100 yards this year. The Deacs lost two of three to end the season, but possess wins over Ole Miss, Clemson, Vanderbilt and at Florida State. In the teams’ first meeting, Navy rolled up 292 yards on the ground; look for Wake Forest to hold the Midshipmen under that total and minimize mistakes offensively to pull out a win. Prediction: Wake Forest

Dec. 20 – New Mexico Bowl – Fresno State (7-5, 4-4 Western Athletic Conference) – Colorado State (6-6, 4-4 Mountain West Conference) – This contest matches two teams headed in very opposite directions at the end of the season. The Bulldogs were widely considered a potential BCS buster in August and knocked off Rutgers to begin the year. However, Fresno fell 13-10 at home to then-No. 10 Wisconsin and have battled injuries ever since, losing close contests to Hawai’i (in overtime), Louisiana Tech and Nevada and falling 61-10 to No. 9 Boise in the regular-season finale. Quarterback Tom Brandstater has thrown for just under 2,500 yards, with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to his name.

Meanwhile, the Rams, led by first-year coach Steve Fairchild, were picked to finish eighth in the Mountain West in the preseason coaches’ poll, but won their final two games to finish with six wins, making Fairchild the first Colorado State coach to take the Rams to a bowl in his first season. Colorado State defeated Houston for its most prestigious win and only fell 13-7 to TCU and 45-42 to BYU, also losing to California, Utah and Air Force. Billy Farris has thrown for nearly 2,700 yards with 17 touchdowns and 12 picks, while Rashaun Greer has over 1,000 yards receiving with 62 catches. Gartrell Johnson toted the ball over 250 times for nearly 1,200 yards and 10 scores. Fresno State undoubtedly has the talent to subdue the Rams; the question is, how motivated will they be in Albuquerque, N.M.? Prediction: Colorado State

Dec. 20 – St. Petersburg Bowl – South Florida (7-5, 2-5 Big East) – Memphis (6-6, 4-4 Conference USA) – The inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl matches South Florida, which began the year 5-0 and No. 10 in the nation, and Memphis, who lost three quarterbacks in October and had to win its final game just to clinch a bowl bid. The Bulls, who have lost five of seven, defeated then-No. 13 Kansas, North Carolina State and UConn this season, falling to Pitt, Cincinnati, Rutgers and West Virginia, falling in Morgantown, W.Va., in their season finale. Matt Grothe piloted the offense, throwing for nearly 2,700 yards, but with a less-than-spectacular 15-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The Tigers, back in their fifth bowl in six seasons, started the year 0-3, falling to Ole Miss and Rice and losing 17-16 at Marshall. They later found themselves 3-5 after back-to-back losses to Louisville and at East Carolina. However, Memphis defeated rival Southern Miss and drilled Tulane 45-6 in its season finale, piling up 379 yards on the ground, to finish with six victories. Arkelon Hall, who broke his thumb Oct. 18, is back in action and has thrown for over 2,100 yards, with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Curtis Steele has run for nearly 1,200 yards and seven scores. Memphis is 18th in the nation in rushing, with just over 205 yards per game, while USF boasts the ninth-best rushing defense in the country, yielding just under 98 yards per contest. The Bulls’ strong, fast D should be able to neutralize the Memphis spread, but Grothe and company, which will play about 30 miles from home, need to step it up offensively. Prediction: South Florida

Dec. 20 – Las Vegas Bowl – No. 17 Brigham Young (10-2, 6-2 MWC) – Arizona (7-5, 5-4 Pac-10) – The Cougars will attempt to win their fourth straight Las Vegas Bowl in what should turn out to be quite the offensive shootout. BYU was another trendy pick to go undefeated and earn a BCS bid, and through six games, including a controversial 28-27 escape at Washington and a 59-0 thrashing of UCLA, it looked as though the Cougars could do just that. However, after a surprising (though not shocking) 32-7 loss at TCU and a 48-24 defeat at the hands of bitter rival Utah in the season finale, BYU finds itself bowling in Las Vegas yet again. The Cougars also defeated fellow bowl teams Colorado State and Air Force. Max Hall quarterbacks an explosive offense, throwing for over 3,600 yards with 34 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Austin Collie has 95 catches for over 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Dennis Pitta has 78 receptions for over 1,000 yards and six scores. Harvey Unga has run for over 1,000 yards on 23 carries, with 10 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats, back in bowl play for the first time since 1998, began the year 4-1. They fell at New Mexico and Stanford, but boast wins over then-No. 25 California and rival Arizona State in the last game of the year. Arizona also lost to USC, by seven, and Oregon and Oregon State. Willie Tuitama has thrown for over 2,700 yards, with 21 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Nic Grigsby ran for nearly 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Keola Antolin ran for 10 scores and Rob Gronkowski hauled in 10 scoring passes. Neither defense is particularly formidable, meaning the scoreboard operator will likely be quite busy. Look for the Cougars to win going away, posting their third consecutive 11-win season. Prediction: BYU

Dec. 21 – New Orleans Bowl – Troy (8-4, 6-1 Sun Belt) – Southern Miss (6-6, 4-4 C-USA) – The Trojans return to bowl play having won six of eight, the only losses a one-point defeat at Louisiana-Monroe and a 40-31 loss at LSU, where the Tigers posted their biggest comeback in school history. Along the way, Troy defeated Florida Atlantic and throttled fellow Sun Belt contenders Louisiana-Lafayette 48-3 and Arkansas State 35-9. The Trojans are led under center by Levi Brown, who has thrown for nearly 1,800 yards and 14 touchdowns against three interceptions, after relieving Jamie Hampton, who threw for over 1,000 yards himself, after Hampton’s ACL injury. DuJuan Harris ran for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Southern Miss began the year 2-6 in Larry Fedora’s first year in Hattiesburg, Miss., losing at Auburn, Rice and Memphis and dropping home contests to Marshall, UTEP and Boise State. However, the Golden Eagles arrive in New Orleans having won four straight, including a 70-14 defeat of UAB and a win over East Carolina. Southern Miss is 20th in the nation in total offense, with nearly 435 yards per game. Austin Davis has thrown for over 2,800 yards, with 21 scores and eight picks, running for nine touchdowns. Damion Fletcher has run for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns of his own. Freshman DeAndre Brown has over 1,100 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. This should be a rather even matchup, with both offenses flashy, both defenses stout and both overall units playing stellar ball. If the Golden Eagles’ sense of urgency continues in New Orleans, look for them to have a slight edge. Prediction: Southern Miss

Dec. 23 – Poinsettia Bowl – No. 9 Boise State (12-0, 8-0 WAC) – No. 11 Texas Christian (10-2, 7-1 MWC) – Perhaps the best non-BCS matchup, undefeated Boise State and two-loss TCU will do battle in San Diego. The Broncos will look to finish off their second undefeated season in three years and have wins at Oregon, Southern Miss and Nevada and home conquests of Louisiana Tech and Hawai’i before a 61-10 win over Fresno State in the regular-season finale. Kellen Moore has thrown for nearly 3,300 yards, with 25 scores against nine interceptions. Former Fiesta Bowl darling Ian Johnson has run for 12 touchdowns.

The Horned Frogs also have put together an outstanding season, with losses to only BCS participants Oklahoma and at Utah, 13-10. Along the way, TCU has knocked off Colorado State, BYU and Air Force. The Horned Frogs will try to combat Boise’s nation’s-13th-best offense with the country’s second-best defense. Also, quarterback Andy Dalton has put up over 2,000 yards through the air, with 11 scores and four picks, and Joseph Turner has run for 10 touchdowns. Look for Boise State to realize the significance of the game and not come out flat, but TCU may legitimately have what it takes to defeat the Broncos straight-up. Prediction: TCU

Dec. 24 – Hawai’i Bowl – Notre Dame (6-6) – Hawai’i (7-6, 5-3 WAC) – The Fighting Irish travel to Hawai’i looking to avoid an unprecedented second straight losing season, and with once-heralded coach Charlie Weis looking less-than-comfortable in terms of job security. Notre Dame lost to fellow bowlers Michigan State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Boston College and USC, in a rivalry that has recently been anything but competitive, and knocked off Navy, but the one game everyone will remember from this season is the Irish’ 24-23 home loss to a Syracuse team it led by 13 points in the fourth quarter, and which finished with nine losses. As far as positives are concerned, Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen has thrown for nearly 2,800 yards, and 20 touchdowns, while tossing 17 picks. Golden Tate and Michael Floyd each caught seven touchdown passes.

Meanwhile, the Warriors have won four of six. Hawai’i lost its opener 56-10 at Florida, then lost two of three, to Oregon State and San Jose State, and looked to be well on its way to a rebuilding season, one year after a Cinderella season culminated in a Sugar Bowl bid. However, the Warriors posted victories over Fresno State, Louisiana Tech and Nevada, losing to Boise State and Cincinnati. Hawai’i had two 1,000-yard-plus passers in Greg Alexander, who threw for over 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns, with four interceptions, and Inoke Funaki, whose touchdown-to-interception ratio was an atrocious six-to-12. A glaring weakness is their offensive line, which has not played particularly well in the running or passing games. Hawai’i has a reputation of taking care of business against elite-level teams at home in “trap” games; the Irish will have some work to do just to avoid being blown out, much less ending their nine-game losing streak in bowl games. Prediction: Hawai’i

Dec. 26 – Motor City Bowl – Central Michigan (8-4, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) – Florida Atlantic (6-6, 4-3 SBC) – This game matches two teams that expected to challenge for more at the beginning of the season, and two teams headed in opposite directions at the end of the season. The Chippewas started 2-2, with losses to BCS-conference opponents Georgia and Purdue, and ended the season on a two-game losing streak, dropping tilts to then-undefeated Ball State and 3-9 Eastern Michigan. In between, they knocked off Buffalo, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois. Dan LeFevour threw for over 2,500 yards, with 19 touchdowns against five interceptions. He also led the team in rushing, with over 530 yards and six touchdowns.

The Owls began the season at 1-5, with losses to Texas, Michigan State, Minnesota, Middle Tennessee State and Troy, and looked like a lost cause. However, they won five of their final six games to reach bowl eligibility, including a 57-50 overtime win over rival Florida International in the season finale. Rusty Smith led the Sun Belt in passing for the second consecutive season, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards, with 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Charles Pierre ran for just under 950 yards, with eight touchdowns. Both of these teams have strong offenses and are pedestrian defensively, but Central Michigan has a stronger overall résumé, giving it a slight edge. Prediction: Central Michigan

Dec. 27 – Meineke Bowl – North Carolina (8-4, 4-4 ACC) – West Virginia (8-4 5-2 Big East) – This contest matches two squads who led their respective conferences early in the year before faltering late. The Tar Heels started the year 7-2, including a thrilling win at Miami (Fla.), a blowout win at Rutgers and victories over UConn, Notre Dame, Boston College and Georgia Tech, with losses to Virginia Tech and Virginia. Carolina then lost two straight, falling by two points at Maryland and by 31 to NC State. Cameron Sexton led the offense, throwing for over 1,200 yards. Sexton and T.J. Yates each threw for nine scores. Hakeem Nicks had over 1,000 yards receiving and caught nine touchdown passes.

The Mountaineers, who had played in five straight New Year’s Day bowls, fell early in the season to surprising East Carolina and lost in overtime at Colorado before reeling off five consecutive victories, including wins over Rutgers, Auburn and at Connecticut. They then split their final four contests, losing to Cincinnati in overtime and at bitter rival Pitt and knocking off Louisville and South Florida. Quarterback Pat White threw for over 1,500 yards, with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions, and ran for over 900 yards with eight scores. Noel Devine rushed for over 1,200 yards. Look for the motivated Tar Heels, playing in their home state and in a bowl for the first time since 2004, to pull a minor upset over a West Virginia squad that will come to play. Prediction: North Carolina

Dec. 27 – Champs Sports Bowl – Florida State (8-4, 5-3 ACC) – Wisconsin (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) – The Seminoles rode a 6-1 start to another bowl bid despite losing three of five down the stretch. Florida State fell to Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Florida and defeated Miami (Fla.), NC State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Maryland. Quarterback Christian Ponder supplanted three-year starter Drew Weatherford and has thrown for over 1,800 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Antone Smith paced the running game with 14 scores.

The Badgers, expected to contend for the conference title and a Rose Bowl berth in August, started the year 3-0, including a three-point win at Fresno State, before losing four straight, to Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa. Wisconsin fell again at Michigan State before winning three straight to close the season, including a win over Minnesota and a one-point overtime escape in the season finale against Cal Poly. Allan Evridge began the season as the starter but lost the job to Dustin Sherer, who has thrown for over 1,200 yards, with five scores and five picks. P.J. Hill has run for over 1,000 yards, with 13 touchdowns. These teams are very similar, with ground-based attacks and shaky quarterback play; the Seminoles have more speed and a better defense, giving them an edge coming in. Prediction: Florida State

Dec. 27 – Emerald Bowl – California (8-4, 6-3 Pac-10) – Miami (Fla.) (7-5, 4-4 ACC) – This showdown matches a team in the Golden Bears who would rather be elsewhere and a Hurricanes club who is back in postseason play after missing the bowl season last year. Cal knocked off Michigan State in its season opener and also owns wins over Colorado State and Oregon, with losses to Maryland, Arizona, USC and Oregon State. Kevin Riley has accumulated nearly 80 more passing attempts than Nate Longshore and has over 1,300 yards passing, with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Jahvid Best ran for nearly 1,400 yards and has 13 rushing scores.

Miami began the season 2-3, with losses at Florida and to North Carolina and Florida State, but then won five straight, including victories over Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, before dropping its final two games to Georgia Tech and NC State. Robert Marve and Jacory Harris split time under center this season, but Harris will run the show in San Francisco after Marve was suspended for the game due to an academic issue. Harris threw for just over 1,000 yards, with 10 scores and six picks, during the regular season. If Harris continues to effectively minimize mistakes, Miami’s young, talented team might have a chance to blow out a Cal unit likely to come out a little flat. Prediction: Miami (Fla.)

Dec. 28 – Independence Bowl – Louisiana Tech (7-5, 5-3 WAC) – Northern Illinois (6-6, 5-3 MAC) – This contest matches two teams which needed a strong finish just to reach bowl play. The Bulldogs, who hail from less than 100 miles from Shreveport, La., opened the season 2-3, with a win over Mississippi State and losses to Kansas, Boise State and Hawai’i, then lost 14-7 at Army. Tech then won four of five to close the season, knocking off Fresno State along the way and falling to Nevada in the season finale. Ross Jenkins took over the quarterback gig from Taylor Bennett and threw for over 1,000 yards, with seven scores and three interceptions. Daniel Porter ran for nearly 1,100 yards, with eight touchdowns, while Patrick Jackson also chipped in eight scores.

The Huskies reached bowl play with a four-win turnaround under first-year head coach Jerry Kill after going 2-10 last season. Northern Illinois dropped close contests at Minnesota, Western Michigan, Tennessee and to Central Michigan in overtime, and also fell at Ball State and to Navy. The Huskies clinched a six-win season with a Nov. 18 blowout win at Kent State. Chandler Harnish threw for over 1,300 yards, with seven scores and seven picks. Both teams will be psyched to play in front of a national television audience after recent sub-par campaigns; Louisiana Tech looks like a slight favorite coming in thanks in large part to a significant home-field advantage. Prediction: Louisiana Tech

Dec. 29 – Bowl – Rutgers (7-5, 5-2 Big East) – North Carolina State (6-6, 4-4 ACC) – The Scarlet Knights began the year 1-5, with losses to Fresno State, North Carolina, Navy, West Virginia and Cincinnati. However, they are riding a six-game winning streak, including a victory over UConn and blowouts of Pitt and South Florida, culminating in a 63-14 win over Louisville in the season finale. Mike Teel threw for just under 3,100 yards, with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Kenny Britt posted over 1,200 receiving yards on 81 receptions, with six touchdown catches.

The Wolfpack started off with a 2-6 record, including rough losses to South Carolina, Clemson and South Florida and defeats to Boston College, Florida State and Maryland, with an impressive overtime win over then-No. 15 East Carolina in the mix. NC State won four straight to end the season, including back-to-back-to-back wins over Wake Forest, North Carolina and Miami (Fla.) just to reach six wins. Russell Wilson threw for over 1,700 yards and has a sparkling 16-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In this meeting of gutsy teams that are both playing far better than their records would indicate, Rutgers appears to have an edge, as the Wolfpack’s pass defense is rated 94th in the country. Prediction: Rutgers

Dec. 29 – Alamo Bowl – No. 25 Missouri (9-4, 5-3 Big 12) – No. 22 Northwestern (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) – Mildly-disappointing Missouri and surprising Northwestern meet in San Antonio in a game expected to feature lots of offense. The Tigers were expected to challenge for a national championship this season and began the year 5-0, including wins over then-No. 20 Illinois, Nevada, Buffalo and Nebraska, rising to No. 3 in the nation. They then dropped a heartbreaker at home to Oklahoma State and fell hard at then-No. 1 Texas. Mizzou won four straight games but lost its final two in Kansas City, Mo., to Kansas and No. 2 Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Chase Daniel, a preseason Heisman candidate, threw for over 4,100 yards, with 37 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Jeremy Maclin had 95 catches and over 1,200 yards receiving, for 12 scores, while Derrick Washington ran for just under 1,000 yards and 17 scores. Chase Coffman also caught 10 scoring passes.

The Wildcats also won five straight to open the season against a much softer early schedule, including a win at Iowa, before falling to Michigan State. They also won at Minnesota and lost badly to Ohio State. C.J. Bacher threw for over 2,100 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Missouri has proven it is susceptible to playing uninspired football, as it did in its loss to the rival Jayhawks in the regular-season finale after having already clinched a berth in the Big 12 championship game. However, Daniel and Co. should have more than enough firepower to take care of business, despite Mizzou’s awful pass defense, which is ranked 117th in the nation. Prediction: Missouri

Dec. 30 – Humanitarian Bowl – Nevada (7-5, 5-3 WAC) – Maryland (7-5, 4-4 ACC) – The Wolf Pack, who own the country’s second-best running attack, and the Terrapins, who have been among the best and the worst of teams in the nation at times, will face off on the blue turf in Boise, Idaho. Nevada has won three of four, beating Fresno State and knocking off Louisiana Tech in the season finale. The Wolf Pack lost to Texas Tech, Missouri, Hawai’i and Boise State, with a bad shootout loss to New Mexico State thrown in. Colin Kaepernick threw for over 2,400 yards, with 19 scores and five interceptions. He also ran for over 1,100 yards, with 16 touchdowns, while Vai Taua ran for over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Marko Mitchell posted over 1,000 yards receiving, with nine touchdown receptions.

Maryland has truly been a head-scratcher this season. The Terrapins played terrible football in a close win over FCS opponent Delaware and losses to Middle Tennessee State, Virginia and Florida State, with other losses to Virginia Tech and Boston College. The same Maryland club has beaten Cal, Clemson, NC State and North Carolina, and dominated Wake Forest, 26-0. Chris Turner threw for over 2,300 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 10 picks. So, who will Maryland see when it looks in its collective mirror on the morning of Dec. 30? Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. With that said, will the Terrapins be motivated to play in Boise? It doesn’t seem likely. Prediction: Nevada

Dec. 30 – Texas Bowl – Western Michigan (9-3, 6-2 MAC) – Rice (9-3, 7-1 C-USA) – This contest matches a team in the Broncos seeking their first-ever bowl win and an Owls unit looking for its first bowl victory since 1954. Western Michigan lost its season opener at Nebraska before winning six straight, including wins over Northern Illinois and at Buffalo. They also lost to Central Michigan and Ball State, while knocking off Illinois. Tim Hiller has thrown for over 3,500 yards, with 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Jamarko Simmons posted nearly 1,200 yards receiving, with seven touchdown catches.

The Owls, who will be playing in their home city of Houston, have wins over Memphis, Southern Miss and Houston, with losses only to Vanderbilt, Texas and Tulsa. Chase Clement threw for over 3,800 yards, with 41 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Jarett Dillard and James Casey each have over 1,200 yards receiving, while Dillard has 19 touchdown catches and Casey 12. These evenly-matched teams should put up a lot of points; Rice played slightly better competition, has a slightly better defense and will have a bit of a home-field edge, making them a narrow favorite. Prediction: Rice

Dec. 30 – Holiday Bowl – No. 13 Oklahoma State (9-3, 5-3 Big 12) – No. 15 Oregon (9-3, 7-2 Pac-10) – This looks like yet another offensive feast, as Oklahoma State and Oregon each average over 40 points per game with balanced attacks, and neither defense has played well over the course of the season. The Cowboys began 7-0, including wins over Houston, Troy and Missouri, before dropping a heartbreaker at then-No. 1 Texas. They also fell to Texas Tech and bitter rival Oklahoma in the regular-season finale. Zac Robinson posted over 2,700 passing yards, with 24 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Kendall Hunter ran for over 1,500 yards, with 14 touchdowns, while Dez Bryant had over 1,300 yards receiving, with 18 touchdown catches.

The Ducks have won five of six, knocking off Arizona and Oregon State along the way, while losing to Boise State and USC earlier in the year. Jeremiah Masoli leads the Quack Attack with nearly 1,500 yards through the air, with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Jeremiah Johnson has run for nearly 1,100 yards, with 12 touchdown runs, and LeGarrette Blount ran for over 900 yards with 16 scores. This game is nearly too close to call; the Cowboys are the early pick here. Prediction: Oklahoma State

Dec. 31 – Armed Forces Bowl – Air Force (8-4, 5-3 MWC) – Houston (7-5, 6-2 C-USA) – This contest is a rematch of the Falcons’ Sept. 13 31-28 win, an odd game that was moved to Dallas because of Hurricane Ike, started at 11 a.m., was played in wet and windy conditions and did not feature a single completed pass for Air Force. The Falcons also own a win over Colorado State, with losses to Utah, Navy, BYU and TCU. Air Force, one of the youngest teams in the country, has the fifth-best rushing attack in the country, an option attack piloted by freshman signal-caller Tim Jefferson.

Meanwhile, the Cougars, who lead the nation in total offense, started 1-3, losing also to Oklahoma State and Colorado State, before beating East Carolina and hammering Tulsa 70-30, with losses to Marshall and cross-town rival Rice. Case Keenum has thrown for nearly 4,800 yards, with 43 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Bryce Beall ran for over 1,100 yards, with 12 touchdowns, while Mark Hafner has 85 catches and 11 scoring receptions. Air Force should be able to stay competitive by controlling the clock and minimizing mistakes, but, assuming Fort Worth, Texas does not have to deal with a hurricane, look for the Cougars to get revenge and end an eight-game bowl losing skid with a win. Prediction: Houston

Dec. 31 – Sun Bowl – No. 18 Pittsburgh (9-3, 5-2 Big East) – No. 24 Oregon State (8-4, 7-2 Pac-10) – Pitt entered the year with high expectations that seemed shot after a season-opening home loss to Bowling Green. However, the Panthers rallied to win five straight and also won four of five down the stretch. Pitt defeated Buffalo, Iowa, South Florida, Navy, Notre Dame, West Virginia and UConn, losing to Rutgers and at Cincinnati. Bill Stull threw for over 2,300 yards, with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. LeSean McCoy ran for over 1,400 yards, with 21 touchdown runs.

The Beavers began the season 0-2, with losses at Stanford and Penn State, before reeling off eight of nine, including USC’s lone defeat of the season and other wins over Hawai’i, Cal and Arizona and a three-point loss at Utah. However, with a conference title and Rose Bowl berth on the line in the season finale, Oregon State laid an egg in a 65-38 home loss to rival Oregon, allowing the Trojans to sneak back to Pasadena, Calif. Lyle Moevao threw for over 2,300 yards, with 19 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, while Jacquizz Rodgers ran for over 1,200 yards, with 11 touchdowns. Both teams have solid résumés with strong running games; look for Pitt and McCoy to out-duel the Beavers and McCoy. Prediction: Pittsburgh

Dec. 31 – Music City Bowl – Boston College (9-4, 5-3 ACC) – Vanderbilt (6-6, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) – The Eagles will look to extend the country’s longest active bowl winning streak to nine games, while the hometown Commodores will try to post their first bowl win since 1955. BC has wins over NC State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Florida State, Wake Forest and Maryland, and lost to Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Clemson, and fell to Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. Chris Crane threw for over 1,700 yards, with 10 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Vanderbilt began the season 5-0, with wins over South Carolina, Rice, Ole Miss and then-No. 13 Auburn. However, since then, the ‘Dores have lost six of seven, with losses to Georgia, Florida and Wake Forest, and bad losses to Mississippi State, Duke and Tennessee, defeating Kentucky to earn bowl eligibility. Quarterbacks Mackenzi Adams and Chris Nickson have split time, as Adams has a 5-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio, while Nickson has an 8-to-3 mark. The Commodores will be fired up to play in their first bowl game in 26 years in Nashville, Tenn., giving them a shot to pull off a minor upset. Prediction: Vanderbilt

Dec. 31 – Insight Bowl – Minnesota (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) – Kansas (7-5, 4-4 Big 12) – The surprising Golden Gophers and surprisingly bad Jayhawks, both after slow ends to the season. Minnesota started the year 7-1, with wins over Northern Illinois and Florida Atlantic. However, the Gophers then lost four straight, beginning with a late loss to Northwestern and subsequent defeats at the hands of Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, including a 55-0 loss to the Hawkeyes in the regular-season finale. Adam Weber threw for nearly 2,600 yards, with 14 touchdown passes and eight interceptions.

Kansas began the year 5-1 and climbed to No. 13 before Sept. 12 loss to South Florida, knocking off Louisiana Tech. However, the Jayhawks then lost four of five, dropping consecutive games to Oklahoma and Texas Tech, defeating rival Kansas State and falling to Nebraska and Texas before beating Missouri in its last game of the year. Todd Reesing threw for nearly 3,600 yards, 28 scores and 12 picks. Dezmon Briscoe had over 1,200 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns, while Kerry Meier caught 87 passes and Jake Sharp ran for 11 scores. Kansas is the more talented team, giving it the edge for now. Prediction: Kansas

Dec. 31 – Chick-fil-A Bowl – No. 14 Georgia Tech (9-3, 5-3 ACC) – Louisiana State (7-5, 3-5 SEC) – The Yellow Jackets’ strong finish was rewarded with a berth in their hometown bowl in Atlanta. Georgia Tech knocked off Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Miami (Fla.) and Georgia, losing to Virginia Tech, Virginia and North Carolina in Paul Johnson’s first season as the head coach. Jonathan Dwyer has run for over 1,300 yards, with 12 touchdowns, while quarterback Josh Nesbitt pilots the Jackets’ triple-option attack.

The Tigers, meanwhile, played nothing like the national championship squad of a year ago, losing four of six to end the season and falling to Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss and Arkansas, while defeating South Carolina and needing the biggest comeback in school history to beat Troy at home. Jarrett Lee has thrown for nearly 1,900 yards, with 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Charles Scott ran for over 1,100 yards, with 15 touchdowns runs. Look for Georgia Tech’s triple-option to give an LSU defense that has not played particularly well trouble. Prediction: Georgia Tech

Jan. 1 – Outback Bowl – Iowa (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) – South Carolina (7-5, 4-4 SEC) – A strong defensive matchup should be in store in this contest, as the Hawkeyes and the Gamecocks own the nation’s 12th- and 11th-best total defenses, respectively. Iowa was 3-3 after close losses to Pitt, Northwestern and Michigan State before winning five of six, including victories over Wisconsin, then-undefeated Penn State and Minnesota, losing to Illinois and defeating the Gophers 55-zip in the regular-season finale. Ricky Stanzi took over at quarterback and threw for over 1,800 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Shonn Greene ran for over 1,700 yards, with 17 touchdowns.

South Carolina began the season 1-2 after a blowout win over NC State and narrow defeats to Vanderbilt and Georgia before ripping off wins in six of their next seven games, including victories over Ole Miss and Kentucky, losing to LSU. The Gamecocks did lose their final two, falling at Florida and Clemson. Chris Smelley threw for over 1,700 yards, with 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Iowa appears to have a slight edge in this one, having played better in close games late in the year. Prediction: Iowa

Jan. 1 – Capital One Bowl – No. 16 Georgia (9-3, 6-2 SEC) – No. 19 Michigan State (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) – This contest matches two teams led by stud running backs – Knowshon Moreno and a preseason No. 1 in Georgia and a Spartans squad, led by Javon Ringer, which has played better than preseason expectations. The Bulldogs started 4-0, with wins over Central Michigan, South Carolina and Arizona State, before falling hard to Alabama. They later defeated Vanderbilt, LSU and Kentucky, losing to their biggest rivals in Florida, 49-10, and Georgia Tech, 45-42. Matthew Stafford threw for over 3,200 yards, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while Moreno ran for over 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Michigan State lost its season opener at Cal before reeling off six consecutive wins, beating Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame, Iowa and Northwestern. The Spartans lost 45-7 to Ohio State, beat Wisconsin and lost 49-18 at Penn State in the season finale. Brian Hoyer threw for over 2,200 yards, with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Ringer ran for nearly 1,600 yards, with 21 touchdown runs. If Georgia bothers to show up, look for the Bulldogs to show glimpses of what everyone expected from them in August. Prediction: Georgia

Jan. 1 – Gator Bowl – Nebraska (8-4, 5-3 Big 12) – Clemson (7-5, 4-4 ACC) – The Cornhuskers find themselves back in bowl play under first-year coach Bo Pelini after closing the season on a tear. Nebraska was 3-3 after a win over Western Michigan and losses to Virginia Tech, Missouri and at Texas Tech in overtime. However, the Huskers won five of six to end the year, beating Kansas and rival Colorado and losing at Oklahoma. Joe Ganz threw for over 3,300 yards, with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

The Tigers were 3-4 with then-interim coach Dabo Swinney taking over in midseason after Tommy Bowden’s departure, after losing to Alabama, Maryland, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech and a win over NC State. They then won four of five to end the season, losing at Florida State and beating Boston College and rival South Carolina, as Swinney was named the official head coach. Cullen Harper threw for just under 2,400 yards, with 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. James Davis ran for 11 touchdowns. With a load of talented playmakers starting to come together and be better utilized, Clemson looks to have an edge against a very average Husker defense. Prediction: Clemson

Jan. 1 – Rose Bowl – No. 5 Southern California (11-1, 8-1 Pac-10) – No. 6 Penn State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) – The first BCS game features two one-loss teams that narrowly missed reaching the title game. The Trojans are playing in their fifth Rose Bowl in six years and have an eight-game winning streak against Big Ten teams. Among USC’s 11 wins are conquests of Ohio State, Oregon, Arizona, Cal and Notre Dame, with a Sept. 25 hiccup at Oregon State the only blemish on USC’s ledger. Mark Sanchez threw for nearly 2,800 yards, with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Patrick Turner pulled in 10 touchdown catches.

The Nittany Lions are back in the Rose Bowl for the first time since Jan. 1, 1995, and could be playing for more if not a Nov. 8 24-23 loss at Iowa. Penn State does have wins over Oregon State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State. Daryll Clark threw for over 2,300 yards, with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. Evan Royster ran for over 1,200 yards, with 12 touchdown runs. This game will be closer than some experts seem to think, but USC has a talent and speed edge on just about every school in the country, and it will show. Prediction: Southern California

Jan. 1 – Orange Bowl – No. 12 Cincinnati (11-2, 6-1 Big East) – No. 21 Virginia Tech (9-4, 5-3 ACC) – The Bearcats will make their first-ever BCS bowl appearance, while the Hokies are in South Florida for the second straight year. Cincinnati beat Rutgers, South Florida, West Virginia, Pitt and Hawai’i, losing to Oklahoma and UConn along the way. Five quarterbacks saw time for the Bearcats this season due to various injury troubles, with Tony Pike, who has thrown for over 2,100 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven picks, the man under center for now. Marshwan Gilyard has over 1,100 receiving yards with 10 touchdown catches.

Virginia Tech lost its season opener to East Carolina before winning five straight, including wins over Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Nebraska. The Hokies then dropped three of four, losing to Boston College, Florida State and Miami (Fla.) while defeating Maryland. They have finished the season on a three-game winning streak, including another win over BC in the conference championship game. Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon rotate at quarterback, combining together for five touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Darren Evans has run for over 1,100 yards, with 10 scoring dashes. Virginia Tech’s shaky quarterback play gives Cincinnati a good shot to complete its dream season with a BCS win. Prediction: Cincinnati

Jan. 2 – Cotton Bowl – No. 8 Texas Tech (11-1, 7-1 Big 12) – No. 20 Mississippi (8-4, 5-3 SEC) – The Red Raiders, who probably have a legitimate beef with the system after finishing tied with BCS participants Oklahoma and Texas atop the Big 12 South but getting left out in the cold, should have their hands full with a hot Ole Miss club. Texas Tech is looking to cap off its winningest season in school history after wins over Nevada, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma State, with an instant-classic victory over the then-No. 1 Longhorns. However, the only game anyone remembers is the 65-21 loss Nov. 22 at the Sooners’ place. Graham Harrell, who is expected to be fully recovered from minor surgery, threw for over 4,700 yards, 41 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. Michael Crabtree has over 1,100 yards receiving, with 18 touchdown receptions, while Shannon Woods ran for 12 scores.

Ole Miss and first-year coach Houston Nutt, who came from fellow SEC West school Arkansas last offseason, is the most surprising SEC team of the season, after finishing winless in conference play last year. Ole Miss has won five straight after a 3-4 start. The Rebels handed Florida its only loss of the season, blocking an extra point in their 31-30 win in The Swamp Sept. 27. They also defeated Memphis and LSU, while falling to Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Alabama. Texas transfer Jevon Snead has thrown for nearly 2,500 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Look for Texas Tech to come out a bit flat but take care of business and knock off the Rebels in Dallas. Prediction: Texas Tech

Jan. 2 – Liberty Bowl – East Carolina (9-4, 6-2 C-USA) – Kentucky (6-6, 2-6 SEC) – Surprising East Carolina and Kentucky, which has struggled of late, are set to do battle in Memphis, Tenn. The Pirates began the year as an early-season darling, climbing to No. 14 after season-opening wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia. The injury-riddled club came back to earth, losing three straight – at NC State in overtime, to Houston and at Virginia. Since then, the Pirates have won six of seven, beating Memphis, losing at Southern Miss and winning at Tulsa in the C-USA title game. Patrick Pinkney threw for nearly 2,400 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven picks.

The Wildcats are in their third consecutive bowl for the first time since the Bear Bryant era in Lexington, Ky., having won two straight Music City Bowls. Kentucky began 4-0 but has since lost six of eight and did not beat a bowl-bound team, losing to Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Tennessee. They beat rival Louisville by 25 in the season opener, in a game that was closer than the final score would indicate, and knocked off Arkansas and Mississippi State by one point each. Mike Hartline and Randall Cobb have shared time under center, with Hartline throwing for nearly 1,500 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. Kentucky’s defense is strong, but the offense is anemic, and the Pirates, who are on fire, could recapture some of their early-season magic with a win. Prediction: East Carolina

Jan. 2 – Sugar Bowl – No. 4 Alabama (12-1, 8-0 SEC) – No. 7 Utah (12-0, 8-0 MWC) – The Crimson Tide, who finished the regular season 12-0 before falling to Florida in the SEC championship game, and undefeated Utah will go at it in New Orleans. Alabama owns wins over Clemson, Georgia, Kentucky, Ole Miss and LSU before their 31-20 loss to the Gators in Atlanta Dec. 6. John Parker Wilson threw for nearly 2,100 yards, with nine touchdown tosses and six picks. Glen Coffee ran for over 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Mark Ingram punched in 12 touchdown runs.

Meanwhile, the Utes polished off their second undefeated regular season in five years and crash the BCS party again out of the Mountain West. Utah knocked off Michigan in its season opener and also beat Air Force, Oregon State, Colorado State, TCU and bitter rival BYU in the finale. Brian Johnson threw for over 2,600 yards, 24 scores and nine interceptions, while Matt Asiata ran for 11 scores. Look for the Tide to shut down a Utes offense that sputtered at times and make just enough plays offensively to win. Prediction: Alabama

Jan. 3 – International Bowl – Connecticut (7-5, 3-4 Big East) – Buffalo (8-5, 5-3 MAC) – The Huskies will be playing in back-to-back bowls for the first time since moving to college football’s top level in 2002, while the Bulls, fresh off a huge upset in the MAC title game, will play in their first bowl ever. UConn began the season 5-0 but has lost five of seven since then, drilling Cincinnati but losing to North Carolina, Rutgers, West Virginia, South Florida and Pitt. Three quarterbacks have seen extensive time for the Huskies, with starter Tyler Lorenzen only throwing two touchdown passes against eight interceptions. Donald Brown, the nation’s leading rusher, ran for over 1,800 yards, with 17 touchdowns.

Buffalo began the season 2-4, with losses at Pitt, Missouri and Central Michigan and an overtime defeat at the hands of Western Michigan, before winning six of seven, culminating with a 42-24 win over previously-undefeated Ball State in the MAC championship in Detroit. Drew Willy threw for over 3,000 yards, with 25 scores and five picks. James Starks ran for over 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Naaman Roosevelt has over 1,300 yards receiving and 13 scores. UConn’s stout defense should be able to handle a balanced Buffalo offense, letting Brown do the heavy lifting offensively. Prediction: Connecticut

Jan. 5 – Fiesta Bowl – No. 3 Texas (11-1, 7-1 Big 12) – No. 10 Ohio State (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) – The Longhorns are also not thrilled at playing in this contest after not only finishing with the same record as Oklahoma and Texas Tech, but having defeated the Sooners 45-35 in Dallas Oct. 11, while Ohio State should be happy just to have reached the BCS, despite being considered a title contender before the season. Texas defeated Florida Atlantic, Rice, Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State en route to a No. 1 ranking before losing 39-33 to the Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas. Colt McCoy threw for over 3,400 yards, 32 scores and seven interceptions, and also led the team in rushing with over 500 yards and 10 touchdowns. Cody Johnson also ran for 12 scores, while Jordan Shipley caught 11 touchdown passes.

The Buckeyes came into the season a year after falling to LSU in the national title game with championship aspirations of their own. However, they fell at USC 35-3 Sept. 13 and lost again Oct. 25 to Penn State. Ohio State defeated Troy, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Northwestern before beating hated Michigan 42-7 in the finale. Terrelle Pryor has taken over the quarterback job from Todd Boeckman and threw for over 1,200 yards, with 12 scores and four interceptions. Chris Wells ran for just under 1,100 yards despite missing significant time early in the year due to injury. Ohio State’s offense has gotten better since Pryor’s insertion into the starting lineup, but that unit does not have what it takes to stick with McCoy and his boys in a good old-fashioned shoot-out – especially if they’re angry, which is likely to be the case. Prediction: Texas

Jan. 6 – GMAC Bowl – No. 23 Ball State (12-1, 8-0 MAC) – Tulsa (10-3, 7-1 C-USA) – The final non-BCS matchup features two top-15 offenses in the Cardinals, which finished the regular season unscathed before a loss in the conference title tilt, and Tulsa, which was also considered a potential BCS buster before a few late-season losses. Ball State posted wins over Navy, Indiana, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Western Michigan along the way to finishing 12-0 in the regular season before a stunning 42-24 loss to Buffalo in the MAC title game in Detroit Dec. 5. Nate Davis threw for over 3,400 yards and 26 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. MiQuale Lewis ran for over 1,700 yards, with 22 touchdowns, to balance the offense.

The Golden Hurricane began the season 8-0, with a win over Rice, before falling 30-23 at Arkansas Nov. 1. Tulsa then lost two of four after that game, dropping contests to Houston, 70-30, and East Carolina, 27-24, in the C-USA title game. David Johnson has passed for nearly 3,900 yards, 43 scores and 18 picks. Tarrion Adams ran for over 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Brennan Marion has over 1,100 yards receiving. Tulsa should have an edge in a game expected to feature a lot of points. Prediction: Tulsa

Jan. 8 – BCS National Championship Game – No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1, 7-1 Big 12) – No. 1 Florida (12-1, 7-1 SEC) – The Sooners find themselves in Miami for the national title game after emerging from the slugfest that was the Big 12 South. Oklahoma began the year 5-0, with wins over Cincinnati and TCU, before falling to Texas, 45-35, in Dallas Oct. 11, seemingly knocking them out of the national title hunt. However, they did not lose again, defeating Kansas, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Missouri in the Big 12 title game along the way, and managed to squeeze into the BCS top two to gain entry into the conference championship and the national title game. Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford threw for over 4,400 yards, a nation-leading 48 touchdowns and six interceptions. Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray, who will not play in the title game due to a left hamstring injury, each ran for over 1,000 yards, with Brown scoring 20 touchdowns on the ground and Murray punching in 14. Juaquin Iglesias had nearly 1,100 yards receiving and 10 touchdown catches, while Jermaine Gresham pulled in 12 touchdown tosses.

The Gators beat Hawai’i and Miami (Fla.) in their first two games and climbed to 3-0 before dropping a shocker at home to Ole Miss Sept. 27 on a blocked extra point. Since that time, Florida has reeled off nine consecutive wins, including victories over LSU, Kentucky, Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Florida State and Alabama in the SEC title game in Atlanta. Tim Tebow threw for over 2,500 yards, 28 touchdowns and two interceptions, while rushing for 12 scores, despite spending the second half of several games handing off or standing on the sideline. Oklahoma has scored 60-plus points in five consecutive games, becoming the first team in NCAA history to do so, while Florida has averaged nearly 50 points during its winning streak. Florida’s defense is far superior to anything the Sooners have seen this year, giving the Gators a significant edge in their quest to win their second national title in three seasons. Prediction: Florida

Some information used in this report from

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Minn.-Duluth wins first title over Northwest Mo. State

Game played Dec. 13, 2008

Going from a 4-6 2007 campaign to their first national championship, the No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs completed the biggest single-season turnaround in NCAA Division II history with a 21-14 win over third-ranked Northwest Missouri State in the national championship game.

Minnesota-Duluth scored the game’s first points with 14 seconds to play in the first half. The Bulldogs took over after the Bearcats’ Tommy Frevert missed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide left. Quarterback Ted Schlafke ran for eight yards and a first down, completed a pass to Tony Doherty for 11 and scrambled for 10 more yards. Doherty then caught a 38-yard touchdown pass, and David Nadeau hit the extra point to make the game 7-0.

The Bulldogs doubled their lead in the third quarter. Minnesota-Duluth’s Cole Strilzuk intercepted Bearcats quarterback Joel Osborn and returned it 42 yards to Northwest Missouri State’s 31-yard line. Faced with a fourth-and-2 situation, D.J. Winfield caught a pass for seven yards. Winfield then carried for nine yards and a first down, and on third-and-goal, Schlafke scrambled and hit Isaac Odim for a 5-yard score. Nadeau’s point-after gave the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.

In the fourth period, Minnesota-Duluth extended its advantage with another score. Winfield caught a pass for nine yards and a first down. On third-and-2, Brad Foss ran for three yards. The Bearcats’ Tyler Roach committed a personal foul face-mask penalty. Then, Odim ran for 10 yards before reeling off a 4-yard touchdown run. Nadeau’s kick made the score a surprising 21-0.

Northwest Missouri State began its comeback with a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown by Aldwin Foster-Rettig. Frevert kicked the extra point to cut the Bearcats’ deficit to 21-7.

After forcing a punt, the Bearcats embarked on an 85-yard drive to advance within a score of tying the game. Josh Gannan caught a pass for 22 yards. Nick Rhodes caught a pass for 30 before Abe Qaoud made a reception for eight and a first down. On third-and-1, LaRon Council ran for two yards before a 1-yard scoring reception by Raphael Robinson. Frevert’s boot made the score 21-14, Bulldogs, with 1:39 to go in the game.

However, Minnesota-Duluth was able to clinch the victory when Frevert’s onside kick on the ensuing kickoff was recovered by the Bulldogs’ Luke Schalekamp.

For the Bulldogs, Schlafke completed 14 of 22 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions.

Odim carried 21 times for 73 yards and a touchdown. Doherty caught four passes for 61 yards and one score.

Northwest Missouri State’s Osborn hit on 17 of 28 attempts, for 182 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and was sacked six times.

Council ran 19 times for 99 yards, while Rhodes made four receptions for 61 yards.

NOTES: Northwest Missouri State was participating in its fourth straight championship game, and has lost all four, by a combined 19 points … The Bearcats became the second team in Division II history to play in four straight title tilts, after North Dakota State did so from 1983-86 … This was the Bearcats’ sixth title game appearance, the second-most ever; the Bison, now in Division I’s Football Championship Subdivision, played in seven D-II championships … Northwest Missouri State’s 13-game winning streak, which began after a loss to Abilene Christian in the season opener, was snapped … Minnesota-Duluth finishes the year 15-0, while the Bearcats end the season at 13-2.

Video credit – ESPN2

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tebow, No. 2 Florida knock off No. 1 Alabama, 31-20

Game played Dec. 6, 2008

Florida’s Tim Tebow threw for three touchdowns, and the No. 2 Gators likely sealed another berth in the national championship game with a hard-fought 31-20 win over top-ranked, undefeated Alabama in the SEC title game at the Georgia Dome. Florida, currently ranked fourth in the BCS standings, won its second SEC title in three seasons and eighth overall and is expected to jump into the top two in the BCS standings.

Trailing 20-17, the Gators took the lead for good on their first possession of the fourth quarter, with some help from Alabama. Brandon James returned a kickoff 38 yards to begin the drive. Emmanuel Moody ran for two yards and a first down. Then, on third-and-3, the Tide’s Dont’a Hightower tackled Jeffery Demps short of the first down, but was flagged for a face-mask penalty, giving Florida 15 yards and a first down. David Nelson pulled in a pass for 13 yards, and Aaron Hernandez caught a Tebow shovel pass on third-and-5 for seven. Demps ran for a 1-yard touchdown on the option, and Jonathan Phillips kicked the extra point to give Florida a 24-20 lead.

Then, after an Alabama punt, Florida scored its final points of the night to seal it. On third-and-1, Tebow ran for a first down. Louis Murphy caught a pass for 33 yards, and Hernandez made a reception for 15. After an odd sideline interference penalty on Florida cost the Gators five yards, Riley Cooper caught a 6-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal, and Phillips’ extra point set the final margin at 31-20.

Florida drew first blood on its first possession of the game, after taking possession at its own 41-yard line following a 36-yard punt from Alabama’s P.J. Fitzgerald. Tebow hit Murphy for 13 yards, and Demps ran for 12 on the option. Tebow carried the ball on the option for 14 yards before rushing for four and another first down. On third-and-goal, Carl Moore caught a 3-yard touchdown, his first of the season, and Phillips kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

The Crimson Tide evened the score immediately. Quarterback John Parker Wilson completed a pass for 64 yards to Julio Jones, who broke a tackle and ran away from two more Gators on Alabama’s longest completion of the season. Glen Coffee rushed for an 18-yard touchdown on the next play to cap the 2-play drive, and Leigh Tiffin’s extra point made it 7-7.

Alabama took control of field position to set up its next points. The Tide’s Prince Hall led the charge to snow under James on the kickoff, and Chas Henry’s 36-yard punt was returned 19 yards by Javier Arenas. Nick Walker caught a pass for 12 yards before Tiffin kicked a 30-yard field goal to give Alabama a 10-7 lead.

Florida tied the game after taking possession on a failed fake field goal attempt by Alabama. Tebow ran for 12 yards on third-and-8, and Cooper caught a pass for 51. Phillips kicked a 19-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10.

The Gators took the lead after swinging field position in its own favor, when Alabama’s Arenas stepped out-of-bounds on a kickoff return at his own 4-yard line. Florida then took possession at its own 43 after a Crimson Tide punt. Alabama all-American Rashad Johnson committed a personal foul after horse-collaring James. On third-and-4, Tebow ran for five yards. Hernandez caught a pass for 22 yards before Nelson caught a 5-yard touchdown, and Phillips kicked the point-after to take a 17-10 halftime lead.

Alabama forced a Florida punt to open the second half, then tied the game again with a long drive. On third-and-7, Wilson hit Jones for 18 yards. Coffee ran for 10 yards and picked up seven and another first down. Jones caught another pass for 14, and on third-and-5, Coffee ran for six yards. Mark Ingram ran for two yards on third-and-1 before punching in a 3-yard score to cap a 15-play, 91-yard drive. Tiffin hit the point-after to knot the score at 17.

After Phillips pushed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide right, the Tide took the lead. Walker caught a pass for 17 yards before Coffee ran for successive gains of two and 10 yards to pick up two more first downs. Jones made a 23-yard reception to set up a 27-yard Tiffin field goal, giving Alabama a 20-17 advantage.

Leading 31-20, Florida sealed it when Joe Haden intercepted Wilson with just under 2 minutes to play, and the Gators ran out the clock.

For Florida, Tebow, the game’s MVP and the defending Heisman Trophy winner, made a statement to win another by completing 14 of 22 passes for 216 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, while running a team-high 17 times for 56 yards.

The come-from-behind win was Tebow’s first of his career, as he entered the game with a 0-5 all-time record when trailing in the second half.

Murphy caught four passes for 86 yards, while Cooper pulled in two catches for 56 yards and a touchdown and Hernandez caught three balls for 43 yards.

Demps posted 54 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

Wilson hit on 12 of 25 attempts for 187 yards and an interception.

Jones caught five passes for 124 yards. Coffee ran 21 times for 112 yards and a score.

Florida all-American Percy Harvin did not play after spraining his right ankle Nov. 29 against Florida State … Until today, the Gators had not trailed during their 9-game winning streak, which dates back to their Sept. 27 home loss to Ole Miss … Alabama’s 13-game winning streak, which began with its Dec. 30 Independence Bowl win over Colorado, was snapped … This game was the 40th time the Associated Press poll’s top two teams had met, and the first time in a conference championship game … This was the sixth time Alabama and Florida met in the SEC title game, with the Gators having won four of those meetings. The Tide, who have 21 conference titles, lead the all-time series 21-14 … Florida (12-1, 8-1 SEC) will likely land in the top two in Sunday’s final BCS standings, which would guarantee it a spot in the BCS National Championship Game in Miami Jan. 8 for its second title in three years. Alabama (12-1, 8-1) will probably also play in a BCS game, most likely the Sugar Bowl.

Video credit – CBS