Preview of a crowded bowl schedule continues

Dec 12, 2000 7:08 AM

We continue to preview the bowl games. Bowl Week really kicks into high gear two days after Christmas, with the Motor City Bowl and Bowl on Dec. 27. Those two games are the first of 21 games in a little over a week. Dec. 28 is one of the busiest days of Bowl Week, with four games — the Humanitarian Bowl, Music City Bowl, Bowl and the Bowl. With about two weeks until these games, it’s a great time to take a quick look at these match-ups.

The Motor City Bowl annually pits the winner of the underrated MAC Conference against an at-large squad. In past years, pro players like Randy Moss and Chad Pennington represented the MAC in this bowl. Marshall has won, and covered, in the last two Motor City Bowls.

Marshall is back again this season, but with a much different Thundering Herd than in the past. They’re led by sophomore quarterback Byron Leftwich, who led the MAC in passing, but also turned the ball over too much. Marshall went just 7-5 this season, and 3-8 ATS.

Most observers feel more deserving teams like Western Michigan and Toledo deserved to go to the Motor City Bowl. Marshall benefited from playing the league’s championship game on their home field, but the Herd is still a dangerous team with plenty of offensive talent. They will take on Cincinnati, who seemed to win their games with mirrors. Their stats aren’t impressive, except for their turnover ratio and kicking numbers, but they were able to win seven games. The two Bearcats’ field goal kickers, Jonathon Ruffin and Jason Mammarelli, connected on 29 of 32 field goal attempts, an incredible number for a college team.

The Bowl is a solid match-up between Texas Tech and East Carolina. Both teams go as their quarterbacks go. The Red Raiders’ signal-caller is sophomore Kliff Kingsbury, who had a fine season throwing the ball, with over 3,000 yards passing and 21 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to force the ball, which led to his 17 interceptions.

Texas Tech doesn’t like to run the ball very much, which plays right into the hands of the East Carolina defense. They’re a better team against the pass than the run, and do a good job forcing the opposition into turnovers. East Carolina quarterback Dave Garrard is big and very physically talented, but the junior makes bad decisions at times and tries to do too much.

On Dec. 28, the Humanitarian Bowl kicks off the festivities with a Boise State- UTEP match up. This is basically a home game for Boise State. The game is played on their home, blue turf, a very hard place to play for opponents.

The Broncos have scored 30 or more points in every game this season and 17 straight games overall. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in senior Bart Hendricks, the Offensive Player of the Year in the Big West Conference. The Broncos led the nation in scoring, averaging 44.9 points per game. Boise State lost just two games this season, 38-31 at Arkansas, and 42-35 at Washington State. UTEP had its first winning season since the other Bush was in the White House. This is the Miners’ first bowl trip in 12 years. At 8-3, they certainly deserved it.

UTEP’s three losses were all on the road, and all to quality teams, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and TCU. The Miners’ had one of the top passing attacks in the WAC, led by quarterback Rocky Perez, who completed 59% of his passes for 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions. UTEP scored 37 or more points in seven of their 11 games this season. Don’t be surprised to see a very high-scoring game in this one.

The Music City Bowl, between Ole Miss and West Virginia, will be the last time on the sideline for longtime Mountaineer coach Don Nehlen. He’ll be retiring after the game. West Virginia didn’t play in a bowl last season, but they played in three straight from 1996-1998 — losing all three, covering just once.

West Virginia was plagued by injuries, especially to their offense, throughout the season, but should be as healthy as they’ve been all year for this one. Defensively, West Virginia was the worst in the Big East against the pass. Ole Miss is a running team first, with Deuce McAllister, but quarterback Romaro Miller has the arm and size to throw the ball well against West Virginia.

Minnesota and North Carolina State go at it in the Bowl in another high-scoring game. Both have talented quarterbacks that make good decisions. Travis Cole leads Minnesota. Freshman Phillip Rivers heads the NC State offense. Both have plenty of weapons to go to. Minnesota running back Tellis Redmond is a player to watch, as is Wolfpack wideout Koren Robinson.

The last bowl game on Dec. 28 is the Bowl, between Pittsburgh and Iowa State. The Panthers had their first winning season since 1991, led by solid defense and a fine corps of wide receivers. Iowa State, incredibly, is going to its first post-season game ever. Pittsburgh is led by quarterback John Turman and All-American wideout Antonio Bryant. Iowa State rode their balanced offense to wins in three of their last four games. They averaged over 200 yards rushing per game, led by feature back Ennis Haywood.

These games should be fun to watch and present some great angles for handicappers to consider. The best part is, there are even more games on the way.