Wednesday, December 31, 2008

CFI Radio: Player Spotlights: Bowl Special


January 1, 2009 * 10:00 A.M.

CFI Co-Founder DANIEL MOGOLLON talks football and life with three of the top senior college football players in the America.

*** CLICK TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD **

Mississippi's MICHAEL OHER is an All-American Tackle who's off-field story is so compelling, he is the focus of "The Blind Side", a New York Times best seller written by Michael Lewis. Oher is playing the in the Cotton Bowl on January 2.

Georgia's MOHAMED MASSAQUOI is looking to break 1,0000 yards when his Dawgs take the field against the Michigan St. Spartans to break in the New Year. The son of Liberian immigrants talks about maturing as a leader during his time in Athens.

ECU's PATRICK PINKNEY has overcome two shoulder surgeries to earn the starting quarterback for the Pirates, leading East Carolina to a Conference USA Championship.

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media

Rose Bowl: Penn State at USC

By JOHN SEARS/BIG TEN INSIDER & ANDREW GARDA/PAC-10 INSIDER

January 1st 2009* 4:30pm EST * ABC


In this year’s New Years Day match-up, #5 USC welcomes #6 Penn State to Pasadena for the 2009 Rose Bowl. Penn State hasn’t been here since 1995 while USC has played in the "Granddaddy of Them All" five times in the last six years. Both teams had overall great seasons, but fell short due to a single disappointing loss on the road and the fact that neither the Pac-10 nor the Big Ten were perceived as top conferences.

Head Coach Joe Paterno, already brandishing a legendary post-season legacy, visits Pasadena for the second time in his 43rd season with his sights set on an unprecedented 24th bowl game victory. But Penn State’s (11-1) decorated regular season as Big Ten co-champions somehow feels tarnished after a heart-breaking loss at Iowa, which all but eliminated the Nittany Lions’ hopes for a National Championship. If a Rose Bowl bid could ever be considered a wounded season, USC’s camp is finding its way to bring a little salt to the table, citing their desires to face steeper competition in the bowl season (eg, not the Big Ten). So this bowl game pits the Nittany Lions against an 11-1 USC in a classic Big-Ten/Pac-10 showdown – with both teams steeped in the tradition of winning (especially the big game) and coached by two college greats. And for Penn State, a little additional pressure is slowly converting into the 800-pound elephant in the room, which the Trojans attempted to address already on their own – the Big Ten’s diminishing reputation.

When the Trojans Have the Ball

Led by junior quarterback Mark Sanchez, the USC passing offense was 32nd in the nation in passing yards. Rumors abound that Sanchez may throw his name into the ring for this April’s NFL Draft and a good performance on this nationally televised stage would make his decision to depart a bit easier, and a lot more lucrative. Sanchez has played well this year but will need to bring his ‘A’ game against the 22nd ranked Nittany Lions defense, which has 16 interceptions to date. The Trojan quarterback is 11th in the nation with 30 touchdowns. His leading target is sophomore Arkansas transfer Damian Williams, who has 48 receptions for 707 yards with eight touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Patrick Turner is not far behind him with 45 catches for 667 yards and ten touchdowns. When USC isn’t moving the ball through the air, they'll be just fine utilizing the 17th ranked rushing offense in the nation. Lacking one single stud back, USC rotates tailbacks, often rolling with the hot hand. Sophomores Joe McKnight, CJ Gable and junior Stafon Johnson-all of whom totaled over 600 yards—are a formidable trio of toters. Gable has made some remarks about leaving USC for the NFL (Gable is a red-shirt sophomore and can enter the draft as he has been out of high school for three years) and like Sanchez, his decision may hinge upon putting forth a solid performance on a national stage. But with so many backs, USC’s run game sometimes seems to slip out of rhythm since no single back gets the bulk of the carries. Still, they move the ball well enough on the ground that Penn State’s solid defense will be unable to focus solely on the pass game. Given enough time, Sanchez and the offense can cut an opposing secondary to pieces and have outscored their opponents 342-56. Penn State coach Joe Paterno will need to make sure he keeps the adjustments coming in order to slow this offense down.

This year’s lesson learned for Penn State can come from Ohio State’s early season devastating loss at the hands of the Trojans. It was evident that USC held a superior advantage in team speed, which seems to be concentrated in their backfield. To this end, Penn State boasts the 9th ranked rush defense (98 yards/game) in the FBS, coming out of the run-focused Big Ten conference. The Nittany Lions’ front seven is anchored by playmaking defensive end (and Chuck Bednarik Award finalist) Aaron Maybin. Maybin obviously terrorizes offenses with his pass-rushing abilities, but also notched 19 tackles-for-loss and three forced fumbles. The best depth certainly comes from the end position, as Maybin was backed up by Maurice Evans and complemented on the left side by senior Josh Gaines. But Penn State’s 4-3 style defense tactically funnels runners to their ball-hawking linebacking corps -- the top three tacklers are the starting linebackers. Linebacker Navorro Bowman held mop up duty well, leading Penn State in tackles with 98 while stopping runners in the backfield with 11.5 tackles-for-loss. The captain of the secondary is undoubtedly senior free safety Anthony Scirrotto, placing fourth in tackles, but senior Lydell Sargeant leads the defense with four interceptions. The Nittany Lions’ secondary plays second-fiddle to the line and linebackers, and in order for defense to take control of USCs balanced pro-style offense, the front seven must be successful bringing down the Trojans’ ball carriers close to the line of scrimmage and pressuring Mark Sanchez with their front four.

When the Nittany Lions have the Ball

Penn State’s perfect storm of player development and seniority has led to an offensive as explosive as their celebrated 1994 campaign. The Nittany Lions took home number one honors in the Big Ten in scoring (11th in FBS), rushing (13th in FBS) and total offense (14th in FBS). Any preseason quarterback uncertainty quickly converted into production and efficiency right from Daryll Clark’s week one start. Clark’s development from athlete to passer was timely, and he has more than proved his efficiency with 26 total touchdowns versus only four interceptions. His ally has certainly been the ability of Evan Royster and Stephon Green to churn out over 1,700 yards on the ground, keeping defenses off balance. Royster’s style is based on consistency and slippery running between the tackles whereas Green is the home-run, breakaway vertical speed back. When Clark is charged with passing, his targets are plenty: the senior receiving crew consists of all-time school leader in receptions Deon Butler, the dependable route-runner Jordan Norwood, and the do-it-all playmaker Derrick Williams. Williams lines up at every skill position on offense, and provides game-breaking ability returning kickoffs and punts. Notwithstanding the playmakers and passing ability, the offense is still founded on solid rushing – if they can win without making a pass, despite lining up in the spread, they probably would.

USC’s defense is no slouch however—they've had three shutouts and have allowed more than ten points only once in the last nine games. The linebacker corps is led by Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing who are both likely to be top picks in the NFL Draft this April, not to mention fellow senior Clay Matthews, one of the natino's most improved players. This trio will be a tough match-up for Royster and Clark. Not only does the USC defense smother the run, but they can also be tough on the pass game. However Clark’s ability to effectively run the ball as well as pass, might give USC some troubles and if they fail to adjust, could open things up for the Nittany Lions. Not many teams can throws safeties the ilk of junior free safety Taylor Mays, a Thorpe Award finalist and senior strong safety Kevin Ellison. Both check in at 230 pounds, can run and lay the lumber. Leading the line in the trenches is senior
Fili Moala, an immovable force who can also make plays with his ability to penetrate.

Final Analysis

These two teams will both come in with a chip on their shoulders as both feel they had a legitimate shot at the title game and have been hampered by the perception their conferences are nowhere near as good as the SEC and Big XII. In the end, though they are pretty evenly matched, USC has far more big game and major bowl experience and will likely find a way to stand up under pressure and come away with the win. Or... has USC is already pushing the snooze button before kickoff, the all-time winningest coach is ready to tally one more victory onto his already-brilliant legacy.

Penn State Nittany Lions (11-1, 7-1)
Pass: Daryll Clark – 2,319 yards, 17 TDs
Run: Evan Royster – 1,202 yards, 12 TDs
Catch: Deon Butler – 713 yards, 7 TDs

USC Trojans (11-1, 8-1)
Pass: Mark Sanchez – 2,794 yards, 30 TDs
Run: Joe McKnight – 646 yards, 2 TDs / Stafon Johnnson 642 yards, 9TDs
Catch: Damian Williams – 707 yards, 8 TDs

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Penn St. University, USC), Kirby Lee

Gator Bowl: Clemson vs. Nebraska

By JOSH BUCHANAN
January 1, 2009 * 1:00 PM * CBS


Clemson and Nebraska enter the Gator Bowl in an unexpected match-up as most felt Clemson would be in a BCS bowl before the season started. Clemson finished 7-5 overall and 4-4 in league play while Nebraska comes in 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big 12. After rollercoaster regular seasons, both schools need strong finishes to boost their programs heading into next season. Clemson enters this game unranked in both polls but is 19th in the Sagarin Rankings, while Nebraska is unranked and ranked 29th in the Sagarin.

When the Cornhuskers Have the Ball


The Cornhusker offense has been solid, led by senior QB Joe Ganz (3,332 yards, 23-10 ratio) and HM All-Big 12 RB Roy Helu (804 yards, seven touchdowns). While the offense has been fairly well-balanced, they are still a run first team anchored by 2nd team All-Big 12 RG Matt Slauson (6-5, 320) and HM All-Big 12 C Jacob Hickman (6-4, 290). Perhaps the biggest playmaker is senior WR Nate Swift (909 yards, nine touchdowns) who led the team in receiving. Senior WR Todd Peterson (690 yards, three touchdowns) was the #2 receiver and gave Ganz another solid target. Don’t be surprised to see Ganz, Slauson, Swift, Peterson, and backup RB Marlon Lucky (550 yards, seven touchdowns) in NFL training camps next fall. The Tiger defense has been a strong point giving up just 16.6 points, and less than 295 total yards per game. With two safeties likely to get drafted and two junior corners who have inquired about their draft status, it is no wonder that they have given up just 167.2 ypg passing this season. 1st team All-ACC SS Michael Hamlin (91 tackles, 6 INT, 7 PBU) brings great leadership and ball skills to the secondary. He is joined by FS Chris Clemons (2 INT, 3 PBU) and a pair of shutdown junior cover corners in Chris Chancellor (32 tackles, 4 INT, 3 PBU) and Crezdon Butler (40 tackles, 3 INT, 3 PBU). The defensive front has been a disappointment due to injuries to DE Ricky Sapp (25 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks) who is out for the bowl game, DT Rashaad Jackson (8 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks), and Jamie Cumbie. Their linebackers are young but could have a couple of potential stars in junior WLB Kavell Conner (91 tackles, 5.5 TFL) and freshman MLB Brandon Maye (66 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks). Conner led the team in tackles and Maye has been mentioned as one of the top freshmen in the nation.

When Clemson Has the Ball

Clemson’s rushing attack is led by thunder and lightning. Second team All-ACC running back C.J. Spiller finished with 612 yards rushing and seven touchdowns in 11 games and James Davis (725 yards, 11 touchdowns) enters the postseason with a solid, but somewhat disappointing season compared to pre-season projections. Quarterback Cullen Harper has been bothered by injuries all season and finished with just 2,395 yards, 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His top target, 2nd team All-ACC wide out Aaron Kelly (61 catches, 648 yards, three touchdowns), didn’t quite live up to his preseason billing, but still had a solid season for the Tigers. Speedy slot wideout Jacoby Ford (50 catches, 598 yards, three scores) provides Harper with a secondary threat as he is able to take it to the house at any time. The offensive line is anchored by 2nd team All-ACC center Thomas Austin who, like Ford and Spiller, has sent his name to the NFL Advisory Board to inquire about his draft prospects. For the Nebraska defense, the strength is on the line where the Huskers boast three All-Big 12 performers in NT Ndamukong Suh (68 tackles, 15 TFL, 5.5 sacks), DE Zach Potter (43 tackles, 14 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 6 hurries), and DT Ty Steinkuhler (6 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 3 hurries). One of the underrated performers is sophomore DE Pierre Allen (50 tackles, 9 TFL, 4 sacks), who played just 10 games. The linebackers are considered the weak link on paper and must step up in order to help keep Spiller and Davis in check. Honorable Mention All-Big 12 SS Larry Asante (64 tackles, 1 INT, 4 PBU) headlines a secondary that finished #2 in the Big 12 (235.7) in pass defense in a year where the Cornhuskers finished in the middle of the pack in almost every other category.

Final Analysis

Something has to give in this game as Nebraska enters averaging 36.2 ppg while Clemson leads the ACC in scoring defense (16.6). Nebraska also boasts a solid run defense (125.8) and while you would think Clemson would expose it on paper, the Tigers only put up 120.5 ypg this year. Since the firing of Tommy Bowden, Dabo Swinney has led the Tigers to a 4-2 record, including three straight wins and a romping of rival South Carolina. Nebraska won their last three games after a loss to Oklahoma on November 1st. With two hot teams, this is an intriguing Gator Bowl that you just shouldn’t miss.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-4, 5-3)
Pass: Joe Ganz – 3,332 yards, 23 TDs
Run: Roy Helu Jr. – 804 yards, 7 TDs
Catch: Nate Swift – 909 yards, 9 TDs

Clemson Tigers (7-5, 4-4)
Pass: Cullen Harper – 2,395 yards, 11 TDs
Run: James Davis – 725 yards, 11 TDs
Catch: Aaron Kelly – 648 yards, 3 TDs

Photo Credit: Collegiate Images

Capital One Bowl: Georgia vs. Michigan State

By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER

January 1, 2008 * 1:00 * ABC


Both teams were impressive in their own right this year, but both fell short against elite competition. The Spartans’ were impressive, starting off with six wins in their first seven games, but Ohio State dominated them in East Lansing 45-7. Still, the Spartans had a chance to win the Big Ten title heading into the contest against Penn State to close the season. Destiny was dashed as the Nittany Lions rolled 49-18. Georgia failed to live up to lofty expectations and pre-season hype. Despite their strong start (4-0), the Bulldogs looked completely outmatched in a lopsided 41-30 (31-0 at half-time) loss to Alabama and were squashed 49-10 by Florida. Which of these teams seeking redemption will take home a quality win to polish up their tarnished season?

When the Bulldogs have the ball

Georgia finished 21st in the FBS in total offense, relying on the one-two punch of Matthew Stafford's passing and Knowshon Moreno's rushing. The Bulldogs are averaging 280 yards/game passing, yet Stafford only managed to find the end zone 22 times through the air. This speaks perhaps to the quarterback’s efficiency as he was near the top of the nation in passer rating (15th, 153.2). Stafford’s efficiency can be attributed to his ability to locate his tall receivers slicing through the opposing secondary – Georgia’s receivers average 6’2”. Mohamed Massaquoi and A.J. Green are Stafford’s top targets, and have combined for 112 receptions, 1,861 yards and 16 touchdowns in a pro-style offense. Both are athletic, gifted play-makers once they break into the secondary. Georgia is likewise blessed with play-making ability on the ground with sophomore star Moreno. He has demonstrated prototypical traits of a big-time running back, combining explosiveness, toughness, speed and agility to carve up defenses for 1,338 yards and 16 touchdowns this year.

When the Spartans have the ball


The outcome of any given contest for the Spartans weighs on the shoulders of running back Javon Ringer. He accounted for over 92% of the team’s rushing offense, which also accounted for nearly 65% of Michigan State’s total yards from scrimmage. Despite being undersized in frame (5’9”, 202 lbs), Ringer proved his durability as the focal point of the offense – he rushed an FBS leading 370 times, mostly between the tackles, while tallying 1,590 yards and a conference-best 21 touchdowns. Senior signal caller Brian Hoyer’s was disappointing (51% completion, 2,235 yards, nine touchdowns, eight interceptions) compared to his junior campaign. But the Spartans will not be out to fool Georgia in this one – Ringer and the rushing attack will remain the focal point right to the final whistle.

Final analysis

Georgia’s road to the Capital One Bowl seems much more impressive with victories over five bowl teams, and coming out of the tougher SEC. Michigan State does hold quality wins (Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin), but statistically shows neither the offensive nor defensive firepower to keep up with the Bulldogs. With Ringer and Moreno potentially canceling each other out on the ground, victory may simply come down whose quarterback plays better. Stafford gets the vote in the beauty contest, but is also favored heavily going against a mediocre Spartan pass defense which has given up 210 yards/game through the air so far this season.

Georgia Bulldogs (9-3, 5-3)
Pass: Mathew Stafford – 3,209 yards, 22 TDs
Run: Knowshon Moreno – 1,338 yards, 16 TDs
Catch: A.J Green – 951 yards, 8 TDs,
Mohamed Massaquoi – 910 yards, 8 TDs

Michigan State Spartans (9-3, 6-2)

Pass: Brian Hoyer – 2,235 yards, 9 TDs
Run: Javon Ringer – 1,590 yards, 21 TDs
Catch: Blair White – 628 yards, 1 TD

CFI Prediction: Georgia 36, Michigan State 20

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Michigan St.), SEC Sports Media

Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. South Carolina


By J.J. PESAVENTO

JANUARY 1, 2009 * 11:00 A.M. * ESPN


Iowa and South Carolina took different paths to the Outback Bowl after missing the post-season a year ago. South Carolina was an impressive 7-3 before they dropped their final two games while Iowa was a mediocre 3-3 before winning five of their last six games.

When the Hawkeyes have the ball

Don't expect anything flashy from the Iowa offense, just a heavy dose of the running game. Running back Shonn Greene took home several honors, including the Doak Walker Award, after rushing for over 100 yards in all 12 games this season. Greene is a physical runner with deceptive speed and the Gamecocks will undoubtedly key on him by loading up in the box. However, they will be without leading tackler safety Emmanuel Cook, who has been declared academically ineligible for the game. That will put added pressure on spur-backer Darian Stewart, who will move into the strong safety position, as well as Dion LeCom, who will take over for Stewart at Spur. When Iowa does pass, Ricky Stanzi will target wide receivers Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Andy Brodell or tight end Brandon Myers. Iowa will roll Stanzi out a lot since he is more comfortable on the move. Considering South Carolina ranks third in the nation vs. the pass, that may be the best way to protect him from linebacker Eric Norwood, who tied for the SEC lead in sacks this season with nine.

When the Gamecocks have the Ball


The Gamecocks are the exact opposite of the Hawkeyes as their offense relies heavily on the passing attack. Stephen Garcia will get the start over Chris Smelley at quarterback. Garica has seen action in seven games, throwing for 753 yards with six touchdowns and five picks. He's also contributed on the ground with two rushing touchdowns. His primary targets will be Ken McKinley and Jared Cook. Cook is a tight end with wide receiver talent who will be a challenge for the Iowa defense in coverage. South Carolina will have to stop an Iowa defense led by All-American tackle Mitch King. Garcia will have to beware of linebacker Pat Angerer and defensive back Amari Spievey, both of whom were among the conference leaders in picks. When they do run, Mike Davis will get the call but he will be running up against a defense that ranks 10th in the nation against the run. Led by King, the front seven--including Matt Kroul, Adrian Clayborn and Angerer--are almost impossible to run on.

Analysis


Iowa lives and dies by the running game and with Emmanuel Cook out for the Gamecocks, the Hawkeyes may have even more success than originally expected. Look for them to pound the ball with Greene and be fairly conservative in the passing game. The games they lost during the regular season were due mainly to costly turnovers by Stanzi. South Carolina will have no success running the ball and they give up an alarming amount of sacks. They also had 33 giveaways in 2008, worst in the SEC. Against an aggressive Iowa front; they will have to find a way to protect Garcia and the ball if they plan on winning. Iowa has the edge on offense and the Gamecocks do not have the firepower to dent the Iowa defense. Iowa comes in the hotter team and gets the win.

Prediction: Iowa 27, South Carolina 17

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Iowa Hawkeyes

Pass--Ricky Stanzi (1,809 yards, 13 TDs)
Run--Shonn Greene (1,729 yards, 17 TDs)
Catch--Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (43-621 yards, 3 TDs)

South Carolina Gamecocks
Pass--Chris Smelley (1,743 yards, 13 TDs)
Run--Mike Davis (571 yards, 3 TDs)
Catch--Kenny McKinley (48-556 yards, 4 TDs)

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media, College Press Box (Iowa University)

Champs Sports Bowl: Florida St. 42, Wisconsin 13

They’re Back…

Since winning the National Championship in 1999, Bobby Bowden’s team has finished the season ranked lower than they began every year but one – in 2003 they started at #13 and finished at #11. The benefit of the doubt the second all-time winningest coach in FBC history built throughout the decade of the 90’s has run out – this year was the first time since 1982 that his ‘Noles were not in the pre-season AP poll.

However, for the first time in three years Florida St. should finish the season ranked. They were ranked 28th in the final poll leading into the bowls, and with their impressive showing they should crack the top 25 after opening up 31st in the nation.


Year-AP Pre-Season Ranking-AP Final Ranking

2007-#19-NR
2006-#11-NR
2005-#14-#23
2004-#5-#15
2003-#13-#11
2002-#3-#21
2001-#6-#15
2000-#2-#5

Here’s Why They Will Be Even Better in 2009:


* Quarterback: At quarterback, Christian Ponder did not put up spectacular numbers in the Champs Sports Bowl, but the sophomore did show moxie, toughness and playmaking ability, something the ‘Noles have lacked throughout most of the last decade. He probably saw the field a year too soon – 2008 was supposed to see either Drew Weatherford or Xavier Lee leading the way – but unlike previous FSU quarterbacks (read Weatherford/Chris Nix), Ponder may end up being better for being thrown into the fire early. Ponder is a playmaker and could leave Tallahassee a winner.

* Running Back: He will no longer have Antone Smith in the backfield, however with freshmen Jermaine Thomas and Carlton Jones returning, as well as fullback Marcus Sims, Florida St. should feature their best running game in years in 2009. Thomas, who only touched the ball three times in the Champs Sports Bowl, averaged 7.0 yards per carry on the season and could be a special back. Jones led Florida St. with his 55 rushing yards on just four carries against Wisconsin, displaying good strength bouncing off would-be tacklers and the burst to break off a big run. Sims came through with a solid block on Jones’ 14-yard touchdown run which put Florida St. ahead, 28-6, in the third quarter.

* Offensive Line:
Maybe the biggest reason Florida St. could be a top-10 team a year from now is their offensive line. All five starters against the Badgers were either freshmen or sophomores. Center Ryan McMahon and left guard Rodney Hudson – the best of the bunch – were freshmen All-Americans in 2007, an honor bestowed upon left tackle Andrew Datko this season. The right side featured two true freshmen in guard David Spurlock and tackle Zebrie Sanders. None of the five weighs even 290 pounds, so another off-season of strength and conditioning should make this bunch one of the strongest, most experienced units in college football next season. As much as any other part of the game, a porous offensive line has played a significant role in Florida St.’s down seasons. Now it will be a major reason for their return to prominence.

* Wide Receiver: Gregg Carr, like Smith, has used up all his eligibility, but that does not mean Ponder will have to search for a big target to throw the ball to. Enter 6’6” freshman Cameron Wade who made his second and third career receptions against Wisconsin. Another seldom-used wide out who had an impact on their bowl win was sophomore Louis Givens, who did a great job picking up yards after the catch to set his team up in the red zone. Neither will be guaranteed any playing time in 2009, as junior Preston Parker and the freshman duo of Taiwan Easterling and Bert Reed are all scheduled to return.

* Defense:
Defensively, even with junior Everette Brown expected to declare for the NFL draft, Florida St. should have six starters returning from a strong unit, with youngsters such as freshman linebacker Nigel Bradham ready to step up into bigger roles.

Besides, defense hasn’t been the problem over the last five years. They have averaged a 17.8 ranking in total defense during that span, including 16th this year. Last season’s 34th ranking was the only time they were outside the top 20 in total defense over the last five campaigns.

It’s Graham Gano Don’t Ya Know


The Seminoles’ offense did not put up any points until the final minute of the first half – a defensive score gave them a 7-0 lead – with kicker/punter Graham Gano as the pre-intermission MVP.

The senior’s first punt sailed 46 yards, leaving the Wisconsin Badgers at their three-yard line. On his second effort, Gano’s punt was a little bit shorter, 44 yards. However, that’s because he only had 45 yards to work with--the football was downed at the one-yard line. His third punt went out of bounds – at the one-yard line! Are you kidding me?

That’s three punts with a gross of 45 yards, a NET of 45 yards, and the Badgers starting drives at an average of their own 2-yard line after the first stanza.

Ironically, Gano won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s best place kicker, but fell short when it came to being named the best punter in the land. With apologies to Oklahoma St.’s Matt Fodge, maybe the people at the Ray Guy Award selection committee should rethink their choice.

With a little more room to work with, his last two punts went for 48 yards (fair catch) and 58 yards (three-yard return to the Wisconsin seven-yard line) respectively, leaving him with 48.2 yard average on the day and four of five punts dropped inside the 10-yard line. That’s simply outstanding work by Gano.

Photo Credit: College Press Box; Florida St. University

Q & A: Charles Scott, LSU

CFI: Following a National Championship, how disappointing is going 7-5?

SCOTT:
Of course in the past seasons we have been ranked top five, in the BCS and all the good things. We came out this year and weren't as consistent as we should have been and it showed. Teams made us pay when we made mistakes. That's why we are here now. That's why we are in the position were in at 7-5. It's pretty disappointing but we'll take it and we'll live with it.

CFI: Tells us why LSU will be up for this game.

SCOTT: We are coming to play. We had a pretty disappointing season but we still have pride and we still think we're a pretty good football team. We're not going to show up flat at all. It's going to be a challenge, everyone knows it's going to be a challenge and we are going to be ready to step up to the plate and face that challenge. Georgia Tech has a great offense, a good defense and a good team. Like I said, we're going to step up to the plate.

CFI: Being a big back do you crave contact?

SCOTT: Oh yeah. I love contact…I love it. I am a power back, (but) I have a little speed too…I'm not the slowest guy in the world but definitely not the fastest.

CFI: How good is your fullback, Quinn Johnson?

SCOTT: He is one of the key pieces. I can't even explain how important he is. I love him to death. Between him and the offensive linemen I don't know who to congratulate first because Johnson devastates linebackers. I don't think linebackers want to play by the end of the second quarter, not the third, but the second. Every yard I gain and every accomplishment I give credit to him and my offensive line because they played phenomenal this season. Every game I had holes, all I had to do was find them. They made it easy for me.

CFI:
You've seen some of the top defenses in the country, which one stood out the most?

SCOTT:
I would have to say Florida. Florida's defense just stood out to me the most because they were flying around. I would say they were the only defense that just killed us. I mean, they had our number…there was nothing we could do. I think they are the best defense in that nation and that's why they’re in the championship.

CFI: Which player?

SCOTT: I would say Jermaine Cunningham, defensive end…of course B-Spikes. I would say those are the two that stand out the most.

CFI: Will you root for SEC schools in the bowl?

SCOTT: Oh yeah. Especially Florida, I'm going to be pulling for Florida, Georgia, Alabama, I'm going to be pulling for all of them. I wish them well. I know a few guys on the team so of course I'm going to wish them well.

CFI:
What can you tell us about Georgia Tech?

SCOTT: We have pretty much broken them down. I would say their strength is the D-Line. They got a solid front. Those guys go all out, they play hard and they’ve got motors. We're going to have to come up and take the line of scrimmage with our big offensive line and see if we can get it in the secondary a little bit.

Player Anatomy: DE Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech

By MATT MILLER

Johnson is quickly rising up 2009 NFL draft boards. His combination of size, strength and speed are the perfect mix for NFL defensive coordinators. Although there are questions about his consistency and tendency to cramp-up, Johnson has the look of a potential top-5 pick.

Character / Leadership Ability: Because of Johnson’s limited playing time, he has been unable to be a team leader. However, he has stepped up greatly in 2008 and is asserting himself better on and off the field.

Competitive Nature / Work Ethic:
He’s very coachable; he has a great motor and is anxious to play well and please the coaches.

Football Intelligence:
Until 2008, Johnson was only used as a situational pass rusher. The early results in '08 show that he is a complete player, capable of stopping the run and rushing the passer.

Size: With his tremendous size, Johnson is an intimidating player at first glance.

Athletic Ability: He was recruited as a tight end out of high school. He has very big hands, long legs and is a great overall athlete, still growing into his body.

Toughness / Durability: He has experienced issues with cramping and fatigue but has no real injury history.

Quickness: Possesses a great initial burst. He’ll always be the first man off the line.

Strength: Has the strength to drive his blocker in to the backfield—a good bull rusher.

Instincts / Recognition: Johsnon needs to gain some experience here. He needs more reps in run situations to better understand blocking schemes and play-actions. He will go all out to get to the passer on every play. He has dropped into coverage some as a LE and showed good ability there.

Pass Rush: Plays right end for the Yellow Jackets and has a quick first move. He will go over, around, and through a blocker. He has natural speed and strength but needs to develop a counter move. Johnson is so quick that he causes tackles to constantly back pedal. Can easily counter to the

Pursuit: Shows good ability to pursue away from his side but will occasionally get caught in traffic if the play is to his side. Johnson does a good job of getting around outside contain and will come down the line in to pursue the ball when it’s run away from him. He’s too fast for quarterbacks to run away from and he takes great angles.

Run Defending: He’ll get in trouble coming off the ball too hard and running himself out of a play. He reads the draw play well and can find the rushing lane and attack it.

Tackling: Johnson falls on a lot of piles and isn't the force you'd expect. He comes off his blocks well and uses his hands to good effect.

Technique / Leverage:
Johnson aims for outside contain when he notices the ball is coming his way. He does a good job of keeping his outside arm free and driving the blocker but tends to come out high and flat-footed.

Photo Credit: Georgia Tech Sports Information

Chik-fil-A Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. LSU

By J.J. PESAVENTO

December 31, 2008 * 7:30 * ESPN
Georgia Dome * Atlanta, Georgia


LSU and Georgia Tech enter the Chick-Fil-A-Bowl after vastly different regular seasons. The Yellow Jackets, behind one of the best running attacks in the country, rolled up a lofty 9-3 record and a No. 15 ranking. The Tigers, who have been a powerhouse in recent years, lost five regular season games for the first time since 1993 and will likely finish out of the top 25 for the first time since 2002.

When Tech Has the Ball

Don't look for anything fancy from head coach Paul Johnson and his troops. The Yellow Jackets rank third in the nation rushing the ball and considering their success this year, there is no chance they will change anything. Sophomore Jonathan Dwyer has been the leader in the ground attack for Georgia Tech this season. He rushed for 1,328 yards with 12 touchdowns during the regular season. While Dwyer was the leader, freshman Roddy Jones also had a solid campaign (658 yards, four touchdowns). Sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt rushed for nearly as many yards (631) as he threw for (658) in 2008. He only threw two touchdown passes but scored seven times rushing the ball. When Tech has thrown the ball, sophomore Demaryius Thomas (36 receptions, 595 yards, three touchdowns) has been the primary receiver. For the LSU defense that ranks 17th in the nation against the run, it begins up front as senior Tyson Jackson (8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and junior Rahim Alem (11 TFL, 8 sacks) will lead the charge. And expect defensive backs Harry Coleman (LSU's leading tackler), Danny McCray and Patrick Peterson to help in run support. Linebackers Darry Beckwith and Perry Riley were both Butkus Award finalists this season.

When the Bayou Bengals Have the Ball

LSU has more of a balanced attack on offense than Georgia Tech and junior Charles Scott is the Tigers answer to Jonathan Dwyer. He rushed for 1,109 yards with 15 touchdowns behind an offensive line anchored by All-American guard Herman Johnson. Freshman Jordan Jefferson (277 yards, three touchdowns) has been named the starter for the bowl game but the team's leading passer, freshman Jarrett Lee (1,873, 14 touchdowns, 16 interceptions) will be available. Whoever is under center, junior Brandon LaFell (61 receptions, 903 yards, eight touchdowns) will be their top target. Senior Demetrius Byrd (34 receptions, 503 yards) and junior tight end Richard Dickson (27 receptions, 274 yards) will also factor into the air attack. Georgia Tech is no slouch on defense. Led by seniors Michael Johnson (15 TFLs, seven sacks) and Daryl Richard (10 TFLs, four sacks) and sophomore Derrick Morgan (9.5 TFLs, seven sacks), Tech ranks 12th in tackles for loss and 18th in sacks in the country. Sophomore defensive back Morgan Burnett leads the nation in interceptions (seven) and will be a concern for LSU when they throw.

Final Analysis

Georgia Tech finished the season by dropping 40-plus points on both Miami (FL) and Georgia of the SEC. LSU lost three of their final four games and allowed over 30 points in three of them. You never want to count the Tigers out, but their defense has been an issue all season and the inexperience at quarterback has to be a concern as they are facing a Georgia Tech defense that ranks in the top 25 nationally.

LSU Tigers (7-5, 3-5)

Pass: Jarrett Lee – 1.873 yards, 14 TDs
Run: Charles Scott – 1,109 yards, 15 TDs
Catch: Brandon LaFell – 903 yards, 8 TDs

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-3, 5-3)

Pass: Josh Nesbitt – 658 yards, 2 TDs
Run: Jonathan Dwyer – 1,328 yards, 12 TDs
Catch: Demaryius Thomas – 595 yards, 3 TDs

The CFI Prediction: Georgia Tech 21, LSU 17

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media, Georgia Tech Sports Information

Insight Bowl: Kansas vs. Minnesota


By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER

December 31, 2008 * 5:30 * NFL Network
Sun Devil Stadium * Tempe, Arizona


The Jayhawks kicked off the season 5-1, but soon stumbled across a murderer’s row of Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Nebraska and Texas in a five-week stretch (all losses). As fast as the Gophers (7-5) went from instant overachievers (4-0) to January 1st bowl contenders (7-1), they became a team in a tail-spin after losing their last four. Nevertheless, posting a 7-5 record was a significant achievement after their abysmal 1-11 2007 campaign.

When the Gophers Have the Ball


Minnesota’s run under Coach Tim Brewster this year certainly drifted towards disappointment with their November woes. The struggles can be attributed to the loss of, junior receiver Eric Decker. Decker was the fulcrum of the Minnesota offense leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, yards from scrimmage and receiving touchdowns. Crisp route running and soft hands provided him the tools to be almost more productive than the next three receivers combined. Rushing has not been a particular strong suit, but the Gophers piece-meal ground game gained just under 1,000 yards (11 touchdowns) between a freshman DeLeon Eskridge and quarterback Adam Weber. “Quick strike” won’t be the descriptor for the Gophers’ offense – it will be more of a ball control offense in this one.

When the Jayhawks Have the Ball

Contrary to their opponents, Kansas has had little trouble scoring often, averaging 33 points per game. It comes as little surprise that another Big 12 team churned out massive yards and scoring behind the arm of their gunslinger, two-year starter Todd Reesing. Quite simply, when Reesing is on, the Jayhawks have a good chance of winning – in six of their seven victories he has averaged 330 yards and 2.67 touchdowns per contest. Reesing’s two main targets are Kerry Meier (hauling in 87 receptions, seven touchdowns) and big-play receiver Dezmon Briscoe (15.5 yards/catch, 12 touchdowns). When they are not throwing the ball all over the field, which has accounted for 70 percent of their total yards from scrimmage, Jake Sharp and Angus Quigley moved the ball on the ground at five yards per carry and combined for 14 scores.

Final Analysis

Minnesota has shown they can contend in the Big Ten conference, especially when their defense hands the ball over to the offense. Weber to Decker has been the catalyst for the Gophers’ success on offense, but if Decker played for Kansas, he would have finished third on the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Kansas’ Reesing finished eighth in the FBS in yards, 12th in touchdowns (28) and 21st in rating (146). The ability of the Jayhawks to pass the ball coupled with Minnesota’s anemic passing defense (in a rush-oriented Big Ten conference no less) ranked 88th in the FBS (232 yards/game) it seems unfair to think this game will be close. Furthermore, the Gophers’ bread-and-butter is winning the turnover battle, but Kansas is good at protecting it. Not much is leaning in Minnesota’s favor. The Gophers must hope Reesing continues to be interception-prone (7th worst in quarterbacks with at least 15 attempts/game with 12 interceptions) to have any hope.

Kansas Jayhawks (7-5, 4-4)
Pass: Todd Reesing – 3,575 yards, 28 TDs
Run: Jake Sharp – 796 yards, 11 TDs
Catch: Dezmon Briscoe – 1,206 yards, 12 TDs

Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-5, 3-5)

Pass: Adam Weber – 2,585 yards, 14 TDs
Run: DeLeon Eskridge – 652 yards, 7 TDs
Catch: Eric Decker – 925 yards, 6 TDs

The CFI Prediction: Kansas 46, Minnesota 27

Photo Credit: Jeff Jacobsen/Kansas Athletics, University of Minnesota Athletic Communications

This Date in College Football History


Dec. 31, 1984: Virginia celebrates their first bowl invitation with a 27- 24 victory over Purdue with a trip to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Ga. Trailing 24-14 at the half, Cavaliers quarterback Don Majkowski runs the ball for the tying touchdown while Kenny Stadlin adds a field goal to take the lead. Late in the fourth quarter Ray Daly intercepts Boilermakers Jim Everett's pass to seal the win.

Credit: The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Music City Bowl: Boston College vs. Vanderbilt

By JOHN GARRETT

December 31 * 3:30 PM * ESPN


The possibility of a low-scoring game looks high as these two solid defenses go head-to-head in Nashville, Tennessee with defensive stars D.J. Moore of Vanderbilt and Mark Herzlich of BC leading the way. Vanderbilt is making its first trip to a bowl in 26 years, although the trip will not be very far. The Commodores lost six of their last seven games and hope to prove that starting 5-0 wasn’t a fluke. Their offense has been the problem down the stretch, with Chris Nickson and Mackenzi Adams splitting time at the quarterback position. Vanderbilt’s defensive line, which tied for third in the SEC with 30 sacks, should also play a huge role in trying to nullify the Eagle running game, putting the pressure on freshman quarterback Dominique Davis. Boston College also has a very good defense, which ranked 6th overall, allowing just 273.4 yards per game. The Eagles will be looking to get back on track after losing the ACC championship game and the defense will hope to capitalize on the Commodores’ passing inefficiency – they ranked last in the SEC. Giving Davis time to make reads and establishing a ground game should be a priority, and should be possible with an offensive line that allowed just 16 sacks – tops in the ACC.

Inside the Numbers
Pass, Run & Catch

Boston College Eagles (9-4, 5-3)

Pass: Dominique Davis – 551 yards, 4 TDs
Run: Montel Harris – 832 yards, 5 TDs
Catch: Brandon Robinson – 39-606-3 TDs

Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6, 4-4)
Pass: Mackenzi Adams – 882 yards, 5 TDs
Run: Jared Hawkins – 580 yards, 4 TDs
Catch: Sean Walker – 34-452-3 TDs\

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Boston College)

Sun Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Oregon St.

By CHRISTOPHER MOGOLLON - BIG EAST INSIDER

December 31, 2008 * 2:00 * CBS
Sun Bowl * El Paso, Texas


The hope was this year’s Sun Bowl would feature two of the youngest and brightest running backs in the country. LeSean McCoy followed up his outstanding freshman season with an even better sophomore year by gaining more yards, scoring more touchdowns and leading Pittsburgh – at long last – to a bowl game. Unfortunately, Oregon St. freshman Jacquizz Rodgers, who became a household name after his 186-yard performance led the Beavers to an upset win over USC will not be available. A late season injury kept him out of the Civil War and might have cost his team a trip to the Rose Bowl.

When the Panthers Have the Ball

The Panther offense relies heavily on the success of their star running back McCoy. He was unanimously named first team All Big East, ranked 10th in the nation in rushing with 1,403 yards, and was the nation’s second leading scorer with 21 touchdowns. Oregon State's rush defense, ranked 46th in the country, will have trouble keeping McCoy, who has scored a touchdown in every game this season, from reaching the end zone. The problem with the Pittsburgh offense is their pass protection and the decision making of their quarterback, Bill Stull. The junior has had a solid season throwing for 2,304 yards and has improved his completion percentage. However, Stull throws far too many interceptions and takes unnecessary chances. Senior wide out Derek Kinder can be the go-to guy at times catching a team leading 35 balls, but he’s struggled against better competition. Keep an eye out for freshman Jonathan Baldwin and junior Oderick Turner, they haven't put up superb numbers but are deep threats. The big mismatch in this game is the Oregon State defensive line versus the Pittsburgh offensive line. The Panthers have had trouble protecting the quarterback all year and are ranked 81st in the nation in allowing sacks while the Beavers have put up the 10th most sacks in the nation. Their senior ends Slade Norris and Victor Butler are strong pass rushers. Norris leads the team with nine total sacks. Linebacker Keaton Kristick, who finished the season with 14.5 tackles for loss, may also play a significant role. He could be the key to containing the Pittsburgh rushing attack.

When the Beavers Have the Ball

It was obvious how important Rodgers is to the Oregon State offense when he was out in their loss to Oregon and only touched the ball four times in their near loss against Arizona. What makes the freshman so valuable is his ability to gain yards in bunches (averaging 4.8 yards per carry). The game could come down to the play of quarterback Lyle Moevao. The junior missed some action, including two games down the stretch, but looked healthy in his five-touchdown performance against Oregon. Moevao keeps his completion percentage fairly high and is always a threat to beat the defense deep. Senior receiver Sammie Stroughter – 64 catches for 952 yards – will be tough to stop. The all-conference wide out finished the season strong posting 116 yards at Arizona and 145 yards versus Oregon, turning in four games this season with 100-plus receiving yards. He is a deadly threat averaging 14.9 yards per catch. The Panthers have had trouble defending the big pass play and lost games against passing teams Cincinnati and Rutgers. The secondary wasn't able to handle the depth Rutgers had at receiver and may have trouble containing Stroughter and Shane Morales. The speedy James Rodgers, Quizz’s big brother, is also out for this contest. Freshman tailback Ryan McCants and senior wide out Chris Johnson could end up playing big roles. The key to the Pitt defense is Scott McKillop – if the linebacker can make OSU a passing team, the Panthers will have a fighting chance.

Final Analysis

With a more balanced offensive attack and a ferocious pass rush – not to mention Coach Mike Riley’s perfect 4-0 bowl record – the Beavers are the team beat in the 2008 Sun Bowl.

Oregon St. Beavers (8-4, 7-2)
Pass: Lyle Moevao – 2,341 yards, 19 TDs
Run: Jacquizz Rogers – 1,253 yards, 11 TDs
Catch: Sammie Stroughter – 952 yards, 7 TDs

Pittsburgh Panthers (9-3, 5-2)
Pass: Bill Stull – 2,304 yards, 9 TDs
Run: LeSean McCoy – 1,403 yards, 21 TDs
Catch: Derek Kinder – 410 yards, 3 TDs

The CFI Prediction: Oregon St. 23, Pittsburgh 20

Armed Forces Bowl: Houston vs. Air Force

By ANDREW GARDA

For a 7-5 team, Houston has some eye-popping stats. They are first in the nation in total yards per game (590.7), first in passing yards per game (429.7) and tenth in points scored (41.2 per game). Cougar quarterback Case Keenum has thrown for a phenomenal 4,768 yards and 43 touchdowns — that’s only five less than Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford. That’s some rarified air and he’s only a sophomore. Needless to say, if a quarterback is putting those kind of numbers up, you know he has weapons. For Keenum, that would be Tyrone Carrier and Mark Hafner, each of which has more than 70 catches to their credit this season. Add to that a thousand-yard back in freshman Bryce Beall and you should have a formula for winning. Air Force goes about scoring a different way. It relies on its fifth ranked run game and a spread offense to get the job done. They have three different backs with over 100 carries this season and two of those – senior Todd Newell and freshman Asher Clark – have topped 500 yards rushing on the season. Overall, the Falcons are a very young team, and they have yet to round out their offensive attack. Their 81.2 passing yards per game makes them vulnerable – if they fall behind by more than a touchdown, it could be incredibly difficult for them to come back.

Inside the Numbers – Pass, Run & Catch

Houston Cougars (7-5, 6-2)

Pass: Case Keenum – 4,768 yards, 43 TDs
Run: Bryce Beall – 1,112 yards, 12 TDs
Catch: Tyron Carrier – 75-977-9 TDs

Air Force Falcons (8-4, 5-3)
Pass: Tim Jefferson – 557 yards, 5 TDs
Run: Todd Newell – 594 yards, 4 TDs
Catch: Kyle Halderman – 11-256-3 TDs

Photo Credit: University of Houston

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL NOTES: WEST VIRGINIA 31, UNC 30

I Believe I Can Fly

Pat White
has glided on the gridiron throughout his career as a Mountaineer, but he never took to the air they way he did Saturday versus North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. We knew he was fleet of foot – White is the all-time leading rushing quarterback in FBS Football – but no one saw his first career 300-yard passing game on the horizon in his finale.

White showed off his newly-found rifle on the opening drive, connecting with Jock Sanders on a 22-yard frozen rope – a pass with some giddy-up on it – on a sideline route. The southpaw completed all four of his passes on the drive for 37 yards, setting up an 18-yard scoring scamper by Noel Devine and a 7-0 Mountaineer lead. On West Virginia’s next two possessions, White found Alric Arnett in the end zone from 44 yards out, then tossed his second touchdown pass of the first quarter, a 35-yard strike to Bradley Starks.

Was this the same Pat White we’ve seen for four years? Good pass protection led to time in the pocket, which led to good footwork and stronger throws. Not only did White complete passes of 22, 35 and 44 yards in the first quarter, but that’s how far his completions went through the air – there were no yards after the catch.

Even with White’s spectacular opening stanza, the Big East school trailed heading into intermission. White came out of the locker room as he went in – slinging the football. He completed all five of his pass attempts for 54 yards as WVU regained the lead on a 25-yard Pat McAfee field goal.

Midway through the fourth quarter, with North Carolina back in front 30-24, White was sacked on fourth down, turning the ball over to the Heels in Mountaineer territory. After a 10-yard run by Shaun Draughn to the West Virginia 30, it appeared UNC was going to extend their lead and make it a two-possession game…until Draughn fumbled on the ensuing play.

White wasn’t going to wait to take advantage of this golden opportunity and he immediately connected with Sanders for a 40-yard pass play. After White used his legs for a nine-yard run to the UNC 20-yard line, it was back to the air as the senior signal caller hit Arnett for his third scoring pass of the day and the game-winning touchdown.

The Mountaineer star, already the all-time leading rushing quarterback, became the first FBC quarterback to start and win four bowl games. White topped 300 passing yards for the first time in his career – 332 yards to be exact – while completing an impressive 26-of-32 attempts.

Does this mean White will play quarterback at the next level?

I don’t think so. However, he may have earned himself a chance to take some snaps under center at the Senior Bowl. His best chance to play for pay is a move to wide receiver or as a return man. He can also be one of the more dangerous “wildcat” weapons or resurrect the role of “slash”. The second, third and fourth quarterbacks on that all-time rushing list are Brad Smith, Antwaan Randle El and Josh Cribbs – all three play wide receiver in the NFL.

Others like Don McPherson and more recently Eric Crouch weren’t been able to take the quarterback out of the player in order to play on Sundays. You can’t blame White if he still fancies himself a quarterback. You would too if you’ve been as successful as he has.

Which way White will go, only he knows…

Noel…Noel…

Noel Devine is magical in the open field – he used a little shake & bake to get by linebacker Quan Sturdivant – he of 87 solo tackles (122 total) – and then powered his way to break free from another would be tackler for an 18-yard touchdown run.

Devin possesses great speed, which allows him turn the corner. He has a low center of gravity when he runs the ball – meaning more than an arm tackle is required to bring down this 5’ 8” dynamo. Once he hits the pile, the sophomore tailback keeps his legs going to pick up extra yards. He’s not your typical “scat-back”.

Two other “stars of tomorrow” for the Mountaineers are center Eric Jobe and wide out Bradley Starks. Jobe, a sophomore, is an impressive athlete for a center, while Bradley showed good hands versus the Tar Heels. The freshman has good length at 6’ 3”, but needs to bulk up some in the off-season.

In the Nick of Time

If not for White, the game MVP would surely have been North Carolina junior pass catcher Hakeem Nicks. The Tar Heel caught eight balls for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Nicks displayed big, strong reliable hands. He is also a precise route runner who is physical after the catch, making him dangerous with the ball in hands.

Before people get carried away with the numbers and anoint him a first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, let’s not forget that on his 73-yard touchdown reception, the ball bounced off of West Virginia defensive back Ellis Lankster. The cornerback was running stride for stride with Nicks, had excellent timing in making his leap, and should have come up with the interception. Instead he deflected the pass to Nicks and showed the world why he belongs on the defensive side of the ball. Nicks’ second scoring snag came from a trick play with wide out Cooter Arnold doing the passing honors. Nicks did run away from Quinton Andrews, but that was more about the West Virginia safety’s lack of make-up speed than Nicks’ breakaway speed.

Lankster, WVU’s best coverman, did have trouble staying with Nicks when he had to cover him one-on-one. Nicks made a circus catch that would make P.T. Barnum proud. On a pass thrown behind him, Nicks held on by the tip of the football and switched hands behind his back, much to the shock of Mountaineer defenders.

Building Blocks

Butch Davis
was handed his first ever bowl loss, but can be proud of his bunch. After all, the Heels were 4-8 last season and were one of the youngest teams in the country this season. They featured some of the nation’s best underclassmen and should be better for it in 2009 as Davis is building something special in Chapel Hill.

Freshman defensive end Robert Quinn (6’ 5”/260) is an impressive athlete for a man of his size and was able to use his speed and quickness to get into the backfield more than once. Junior defensive tackle Cam Thomas (6’ 4”/330) was very active with sophomore Marvin Austin (6’ 3”/300) and freshman Tydreke Powell (6’ 3”/300) possessing oodles of potential at the position. Freshman ends Michael McAdoo (6’ 7”/245) and Quinton Coples (6’ 6”/245) saw the field as well.

Sophomore linebacker Quan Sturdivant led the way with 11 tackles, as he usually does, and looked comfortable when asked to drop back in pass coverage. Making several nice stops was Bruce Carter, another athletic second year linebacker, who even displayed the speed to run wide with Pat White. Carter recorded two sacks among his seven tackles.

Getting extra playing time was sophomore Da’Norris Searcy, a natural strong safety, who played a hybrid-defensive back/linebacker position with starting MIKE Mark Paschal out with an injury. Searcy flourished playing near the line of scrimmage, recording 10 tackles including a pair of sacks of White. He showed athleticism that not only rivaled White’s in the open field, but Noel Devine’s as well. He also made a good read on a third down screen pass. Searcy was very effective coming in as a blitzer, possibly creating a role for himself in 2009.

In the secondary, sophomore free safety Deunta Williams was their top playmaker. Williams did it all, stuffing Devine in the end zone for safety and later picking off a Pat White pass in the end zone as the Mountaineers were going in for the score. Those were significant plays that directly impacted the scoreboard. At the corner position, sophomore Kendric Burney can tackle with the best of them, using sound technique to make plays in the open field. Two of his seven stops were for a loss.

Other than Paschal, UNC only loses strong safety Trimane Goddard from their defense, as there was only one other senior even on the depth chart for the bowl game. Expect big things from the Heels in 2009.

Photo Credit: UNC Athletic Communications, WVU Sports Communication

CFI Radio - Bowl Week

BOWL WEEK SCHEDULE - ALL TIMES EASTERN

December 30 - 2:00 PM - Dec. 30th Preview (30 Minutes)

*** CLICK TO LISTEN ***


Listen as CFI Co-Founder DANIEL MOGOLLON breaks down today's games - HUMANITARIAN BOWL (Maryland vs. Nevada), HOLIDAY BOWL (Oklahoma State vs. No. 17 Oregon) and the TEXAS BOWL (Western Michigan vs. Rice). Special Guest: WMU Quarterback TIM HILLER. 30 Minutes.

December 30 - 3:00 PM - Dec. 31st Preview (60 Minutes)

*** CLICK TO LISTEN ***


CFI-Co- Founder DANIEL MOGOLLON previews the December 31st bowl games: ARMED FORCES BOWL (Houston vs. Air Force), SUN BOWL (Oregon State vs. No. 20 Pittsburgh), MUSIC CITY BOWL (Oregon State vs. No. 20 Pittsburgh), INSIGHT BOWL (Kansas vs. Minnesota) and CHICK-FIL-A BOWL (LSU vs. No. 14 Georgia Tech). Special Guest: LSU RB CHARLES SCOTT, as well as CFI INSIDERS CHRISTOPHER MOGOLLON (Big EAST) AND JOHN SEARS (Big Ten).

December 31 - 10:30 AM - Jan. 1st Preview (90 Minutes)

*** CLICK TO LISTEN ***


CFI-Co- Founder DANIEL MOGOLLON previews the New Year's Day bowl games: OUTBACK BOWL (South Carolina vs. Iowa), CAPITAL ONE BOWL (No. 15 Georgia vs. No. 18 Michigan), GATOR BOWL (Nebraska vs. Clemson), THE ROSE BOWL (No. 8 Penn State vs. No. 5 USC) and ORANGE BOWL (No. 12 Cincinnati vs. No. 19 Virginia Tech): SPECIAL GUEST: WR MOHAMED MASSAQUOI, as well as CFI INSIDERS CHRISTOPHER MOGOLLON (Big EAST), JOHN SEARS (Big Ten), ANDREW GARDA (Pac-10) and JOSH BUCHANAN (South Carolina/Clemson).

January 2 - 12:00 PM - Jan. 1st Review/Jan. 2nd Preview (120 Minutes)

*** CLICK TO LISTEN ***


THE TAILGATE SHOW with SPECIAL GUEST CO-HOST RICHARD CIRMINIELLO joining DANIEL MOGOLLON to discuss the events of January 1st and preview January 2nd Bowls - COTTON BOWL (No. 25 Mississippi vs. No. 7 Texas Tech), AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL ( Kentucky vs. East Carolina) and SUGAR BOWL (No. 6 Utah vs. No. 4 Alabama). SPECIAL GUESTS: OT MICHAEL OHER of Mississippi and QB PATRICK PINKNEY of ECU.

Photo Credit: SEC Sports Media

Holiday Bowl: Oklahoma St. vs. Oregon


By ANDREW GARDA - PAC-10 INSIDER

December 30, 2008 * 8:00 * ESPN
Qualcomm Stadium * San Diego, California


This is an intriguing match-up between the second place Ducks from a mediocre Pac-10 conference, and the Cowboys, who finished fourth in the powerful Big 12 South. Oregon is looking to win back-to-back bowls after dropping four straight prior to last season’s win over USF, while Coach Mike Gundy of Oklahoma St. is looking to improve his bowl record to a perfect 3-0.

When the Ducks Have the Ball

Oregon has an incredibly prolific scoring offense, one which ranks seventh in the nation in overall scoring and fourth in the country in rushing. That rushing attack — led by a pair of studs in Jeremiah Johnson and LaGarrette Blount — is the engine that makes the offensive machine run by. Johnson, a senior, just completed his first 1,000-yard season while the junior Blount stands just 72 yards below that mark. Both have more than a dozen touchdowns to their name. They will face an equally talented run defense in the Cowboys. Oklahoma State can be stout, ranked 27th in the nation against the run. It’s the unstoppable force versus the immovable object. If the object starts winning, the Ducks will turn to sophomore quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. While Masoli doesn’t stack the yards up, he’s effective when he needs to be. While he was rarely called on to throw for more than 150 yards in a game, the last two games have required Masoli to show more and he responded, throwing for a total of 572 yards and five touchdowns. The Cowboys have a solid defensive squad but have given up more than 50 points twice in losses during the last three games. Both were to high-scoring offenses (Texas Tech and Oklahoma) and while the Ducks aren’t quite in that category, they can score and the Cowboys have shown that they can be scored on.

When the Pokes Have the Ball

As with the Ducks, the Cowboys are used to scoring at will, ranking eighth in the nation with 41.58 points per game and seventh in rushing with 256 yards per game. Sophomore Kendall Hunter has been their bell cow with 1,518 yards and 14 touchdowns to his credit this season, which put him atop the Big 12 in rushing. The Ducks could be up to the task of slowing him down as they rank 24th against the run. They will be tested though and Hunter has the talent to break a long run on occasion. When they aren’t running the ball, the Cowboys will turn to junior quarterback Zac Robinson. Robinson, like Masoli, can be called upon to throw the ball and be successful. He’s more consistent than Masoli and also capable of doing damage on the ground when called upon. Robinson’s most potent weapon is wide receiver Dez Bryant, a 6-2 210 beast who has totaled 200-plus yards twice this season. Robinson and Bryant give the Cowboys a slightly more dynamic overall offense than the Ducks. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is a force both as a pass catcher and a blocker.

Final Analysis

Oklahoma State has scored over 50 points in a game five times this season, all wins. Oregon averages just 28 points allowed though, and will do everything they can to stifle the Cowboy offense. The Ducks will be eager to show that the Beavers and the Trojans aren’t the only Pac-10 teams that can play defense.

Oklahoma St. Cowboys (9-3, 5-3)

Pass: Zac Robinson – 2,735 yards, 24 TDs
Run: Kendall Hunter – 1,518 yards, 14 TDs
Catch: Dez Bryant – 1,313 yards, 18 TDs

Oregon Ducks (9-3, 7-2)

Pass: Jeremiah Masoli – 1,486 yards, 12 TDs
Run: Jeremiah Johnson – 1,082 yards, 12 TDs
Catch: Terence Scott – 626 yards, 5 TDs

The CFI Prediction: Oregon 41, Oklahoma St. 36

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Oklahoma St. University)

Player Anatomy: S Louis Delmas, Western Michigan

By MATT MILLER

Delmas has been starting in Western Michigan’s secondary since the second he stepped on the field as a freshman. His experience matching up against pass-oriented teams throughout the Mid-American Conference cannot be understated. A do-it-all player, Delmas is a high character guy who could fly up draft boards.

Character / Leadership Ability:
Was named a team captain heading into the 2007 season. Is an outspoken leader who challenges his teammates to perform at their highest level. Delmas suffered through a tough childhood but has developed a rock-solid character over the years.

Competitive Nature / Work Ethic: He possesses a non-stop motor and rarely looks winded on the field. He works hard to help his teammates and to better himself as a player.

Football Intelligence: Delmas needs to do a better job when it comes to his pre-snap reads. He’s a smart player on the field and makes sure his teammates are in the correct position. He understands how to make in-game adjustments.

Size: Delmas possesses average size and needs to bulk up, but has the frame to do so relatively easily. He looks slender, especially in the legs.

Athletic Ability: He has a very good vertical leap and is in ideal physical condition. Delmas needs to add both upper and lower body strength but may be able to get by on athletic ability alone as he transitions to the pro game.

Toughness / Durability: Tougher than most other safeties at his size, Delmas could be prone to nagging injuries down the line, but has shown that he’ll fight through them on the field.

Speed: Should time fairly well but plays even faster on the field. Has excellent closing speed and covers ground in a hurry.

Agility:
Delmas possesses quick feet and a great change of direction ability. He gets low to the ground on his cuts and is hard to contain if he’s got the ball in his hands.

Body Control:
He looks very fluid in his back peddle but doesn’t always leave his feet when he should—he could stand to improve on going up and fighting for the ball at it’s highest point.

Instincts / Recognition: Seems to know where the ball is at all times, and is rarely out of position. Reacts well to running plays but has a tendency to over-pursue at times.

Pursuit: He takes very good angles and can catch up to ball carriers with ease. Is a reliable last line of defense, and rarely gets beat in a footrace.

Tackling: He’s a smart tackler who will usually go for the sure takedown rather than a big hit. He prefers to go low on ball carriers but is not afraid to get physical to make a play. Delmas was one of the most productive tacklers the MAC has seen in recent years.

Ball Skills: The WMU product has a nose for the ball that not many other safeties can match. He’s a playmaker in every sense of the word, regularly making game changing tackles, hauling in interceptions or forcing fumbles. He is a relentless ball seeker.

Pass Coverage:
Delmas can play zone- or a man-coverage, but has cover skills similar to a cornerback. He could flourish in man coverage at the next level due to his ability to cover the entire field.

Run Support:
Has all the tools but still doesn’t excel in this area. He adjusts to the run well and puts himself in a good position but needs to get stronger to stop the run at the next level.

Photo Credit: GS Photo