Motoring into bowls

December 24, 2007 3:35 AM
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As 2007 draws to a close, we find ourselves smack in the middle of the bowls. You shouldn’t be bowled-out, either, as the bowls slowly build to the crescendo that is the LSU/Ohio State showdown, which I’ll look at next week.

Wednesday, Dec. 26

Motor City Bowl: The 11th Motor City Bowl features a rematch from the regular season. Purdue claimed a 45-22 victory when the teams met in West Lafayette on Sept. 15. Central Michigan (8-5 SU/8-4 ATS) has won the MAC title for two straight years and they did it this season for first-year coach Butch Jones. Sophomore QB Dan LeFevour (23 TDs, 13 INTs, 3,360 yards) leads this uptempo attack that is averaging 33.8 points, 185 yards rushing and 265 yards passing. LeFevour also leads the team in rushing with 1,008 yards, 17 TDs and 6.5 yards per carry!

This CM defense has holes, allowing 35.6 ppg (10-2 over the total). Joe Tiller’s Purdue (7-5 SU, 5-6 ATS) team didn’t exactly play with fire to reach a bowl game, losing its final three games. After a 5-0 start, the Boilermakers are 2-5 SU/3-4 ATS. Junior QB Curtis Painter (26 TDs, 9 INTs) has excellent wideouts as this offense averages 33 points and 287 yards passing. Like Central Michigan, the defense is lousy, especially away from home where the Boilermakers allow 31 points and over 210 yards rushing and passing per contest. Purdue is 0-3 SU/ATS the last three bowls, losing the last two as a favorite over Maryland and Arizona State.

Thursday, Dec. 27

Holiday Bowl: Interesting game pitting national championship coaches in Dennis Erickson and Mack Brown. The Texas offense is averaging 462.0 yards (13th NCAA) behind sophomore QB Colt McCoy (21 TDs, 18 INTs) and RB Jamaal Charles (1,458 yards, 6.3 ypc). They ended the season scoring 56, 31, 28, 38, 59 and 30 points the last six games (5-1 SU, 4-2 ATS run).

The pass defense has been a concern, something Arizona State will attack. First year head coach Dennis Erickson led Arizona State to a 10-2 record and a share of the Pac-10 title. The Sun Devils are 2-2 SU, 0-4 ATS after an 8-0 start. This offense averages 32 points, 150 yards rushing and 259 yards passing behind junior QB Rudy Carpenter (23 TDs, 8 INTs).

Friday, Dec. 28 

Citrus Bowl: Michigan State (7-5 SU/ATS) found its way to a bowl under new coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans won their final two games, 48-31 over Purdue and 35-31 over Penn State. Junior QB Brian Hoyer (18 TDs, 7 INTs) leads a strong offense that averages 34 points, 200 yards rushing and 235 passing. Other key players include WR Devin Thomas (1,226 yards) and RB J.R. Ringer (1,346 yards, 6.0 ypc). Four opponents rushed for over 200 yards. Michigan State is 9-3 over the total.

Boston College (10-3 SU/7-5 ATS) had a strong season under new coach Jeff Jagodzinski. The defense has been terrific, allowing 68 yards rushing per game and just 2.2 yards per carry. The offense is strong and balanced (28 points, 106 rushing, 329 yards passing), led by senior QB Matt Ryan (28 TDs, 18 INTs, 4,258 yards) and senior running backs Andre Callender (956) and L.V. Whitworth. Ryan has nine games with 300 yards or better this season.

Saturday, Dec. 29 

Alamo Bowl: One team has a coach, Joe Paterno, who will be coaching his 500th game for the Nittany Lions. The other team has NO coach, with Dennis Franchione gone from Texas A&M. Penn State (8-4 SU/6-6 ATS) has a tough defense and balanced offense behind senior QB Anthony Morelli (18 TDs, 9 INTs. The Nittany Lions defense is ranked in the Top 10 nationally in rushing (6th, 87.9 ypg), scoring (7th, 17.6 ppg) and total defense (10th, 396.5 ypg), led by senior All-America LB Dan Connor and junior LB Sean Lee. Paterno is the all-time leader in bowl wins (22-10-1) and appearances. State is 4-1 SU, 3-2 ATS in its last five bowl games, including a 20-10 win over Tennessee a year ago as a +4 dog.

Texas A&M hired new coach Mike Sherman, but defensive coordinator Gary Darnell is interim coach for this game. A&M (7-5 SU/6-5 ATS) has a powerful ground game behind junior QB Stephen McGee (12 TDs, 7 INTs, 858 rushing yards) and power RB Javorskie Lane (746 yards, 4.7 ypc). The run defense (151 yds per game allowed) has been poor while the secondary (246 yds passing allowed pg) has been weak all season. Texas A&M is 1-4 SU, 2-3 ATS on the road giving up 33 ppg, and 1-4 SU/ATS its last 5 bowls.

Sunday, Dec. 30

Independence Bowl: Both teams started hot and finished up slumping. Colorado (6-6 SU/ATS) really wanted a bowl for second year coach Dan Hawkins, after a 2-10 season. The Buffaloes are on a 2-4 SU/ATS run, with the defense giving up 55, 31 and 51 points the last three games! Freshman QB Cody Hawkins (19 TDs, 15 INTs) has impressed and the ground game is solid behind junior tailback Hugh Charles (989 yards, 5.3 ypc). CU is on a 5-2 run OVER the total with a sagging defense.

Alabama (6-6 SU/3-8 ATS) has been up and down under first-year coach Nick Saban, but they come into this bowl on a terrible 0-4 SU/ATS run. Saban’s team lost 21-14 to UL Monroe, a 24½-point underdog from the Sun Belt Conference, followed by their sixth straight Iron Bowl loss to rival Auburn. The offense (26.8 points, 150 yds rushing, 221 passing pg) is led by senior QB John Parker Wilson (15 TDs, 11 INTs). Alabama is just 2-3 SU, 1-4 ATS on the road and 2-8 SU, 4-5-1 ATS its last 10 away.