Welcome to Round Two of the Bowl Preview and we have some studs and duds. The Little Caesars and Independence bowls could be snores while the Hawaii, Champs, and Poinsettia should have some nice fireworks. Most of these games will be opportunities to see players that you will never see play on television so take advantage of it. We start off with an interesting matchup in San Diego, a shootout in Hawaii, a snore fest in Detroit, a throwback game in Louisiana, and finish up with a mini-BCS game in Orlando. These games will get you from gift wrapping and annoying in-laws all the way to enjoying your gifts and fighting return lines at the nearest Target.
The Bowl: Poinsettia
The Matchup: San Diego State vs. Navy
The Date: December 23rd
This is the eighth straight bowl game for Navy and the first one for the Aztecs since 1998. Navy gets an automatic invite to the Poinsettia Bowl as long as they reach six wins, and there is a huge naval base there so this is almost a home game for the Middies. As for the Aztecs, this is literally a home game and they will be led by their head coach Brady Hoke, who decided to stay with the program after being courted for several coaching vacancies.
SDSU: Ryan Lindley, Ronnie Hillman, Vincent Brown, DeMarco Sampson
Navy: Ricky Dobbs, Alexander Teich
A Stat that Matters: Navy is 81st against the pass while Lindley and Co. have the 11th best passing offense.
Navy has an offense that is tough to defend but the Aztecs will have a couple of weeks to get ready for it. However, with Dobbs under center, you can never totally contain the option attack. Navy will play the ball control game as they grind down the Aztecs’ 49th ranked rush defense. The key for San Diego State is to establish the run with Hillman because when he goes over 100 yards rushing, the Aztecs are 4-1. Lindley can take the team on his shoulders but when he is forced to throw a ton he also can make some mistakes as witnessed by his 14 interceptions this season.
This is an interesting game and will be a rare opportunity to actually see Hillman play. Your game plan should be to see Dobbs on a possession, Hillman on another, and then move on to wrapping presents.
The Bowl: Hawaii
The Matchup: Hawaii vs. Tulsa
The Date: December 24th
This should be an offensive gun fight with Tulsa coming off the mainland with the 5th ranked total offense in the country while Hawaii is not far behind at 8th in the nation. Hawaii is playing at home which will give them an edge but Tulsa can move the ball on anyone and has stepped up lately on the other side of the ball too.
Hawaii: Bryant Moniz, Alex Green, Greg Salas, Kealoha Pilares
Tulsa: G.J. Kinne, Willie Carter, Damaris Johnson, Charles Clay
A Stat that Matters: Tulsa is 119th against the pass. Hawaii passes the ball… a lot.
Hawaii is playing at home which will certainly help, but they will have their hands full with a potent Tulsa offense. Tulsa is adept at getting the ball in the hands of several playmakers which forces a defense to account for absolutely everyone. The moment you do not watch the second string fullback, he is gone for a 60-yard touchdown. Hawaii does not field an amazing defense but they make their living forcing turnovers. Hawaii leads the nation in turnovers gained with 36 and passes intercepted with 23. If Tulsa gets behind, the Warriors are opportunistic and can make the most of the slightest mistake. Offensively, Hawaii does what Hawaii does and that is wing the ball around with great efficiency. Like the Golden Hurricane, Hawaii likes to spread the ball around but they do have established playmakers in Salas, Pilares, and most recently Green who set a Hawaii single game rushing record against New Mexico State with 327 yards on the ground.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, the presents are under the tree, now turn on the TV to watch Kinne and Moniz light up the scoreboard with glee.
The Bowl: Little Caesars Bowl
The Matchup: Florida International vs. Toledo
The Date: December 26th
This game features two teams that were not expected to do much this season but outplayed all their doubters. Toledo lost their starting quarterback after week eight but finished their conference schedule 7-1. Florida International had gone 9-39 in the past four seasons but head coach Mario Cristobal finally righted the ship and took the Golden Panthers to near wins over Rutgers and Texas A&M while finishing with 6-2 conference record.
Florida International: T.Y. Hilton, Darriet Perry
Toledo: Terrence Owens, Eric Page, Adonis Thomas
A Stat that Matters: Toledo is third in the country in turnovers gained with 33 and fifth in passes intercepted with 19.
Florida International will always play second fiddle to big brother Miami, but under Cristobal they have started to put together a pretty athletic team and have a better defense than one might think. The Golden Panthers have a next level playmaker in Hilton and will be sure to feed him the ball steadily. Toledo has gone toe-to-toe with some big teams this year like Boise State and Arizona while stealing a win away from Purdue. All this is to say that Toledo has seen quality teams all year and will not be afraid of the skill level of the Golden Panthers. Toledo fields a playmaking offense but also an opportunistic, ball-hawking defense which should feast on Wesley Carroll and his penchant for throwing to the wrong colored jersey.
If you want to see Hilton play, it is worth tuning in for a bit but other than that, this game has as much quality as a Hot-and-Ready pizza.
The Bowl: Independence
The Matchup: Georgia Tech vs. Air Force
The Date: December 27th
This game goes old school with two of the only four teams in the FBS who run the triple option. Head coach Paul Johnson has had Air Force’s number as he beat the Falcons six times while at Navy. This will be all about the ground attack as Georgia Tech is first in the nation in rushing with Air Force coming in right behind them in second. Look for a combined pass total of around 12.
Georgia Tech: Tevin Washington, Anthony Allen
Air Force: Tim Jefferson, Nathan Walker, Asher Clark
A Stat that Matters: Air Force is allowing opponents to convert third downs 47% of the time which ranks 112th in the nation.
Both teams will know exactly how to stop one another in this one. However, each team has a decided advantage over the other. Air Force has a real passing threat in Jefferson who has thrown for 1,342 yards this season with 10 touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets’ advantage is their superior athleticism. What this game will come down to is who can show the most discipline on defense and who will come up with the most effective wrinkles in the offense.
If you like the option, this is the game for you. This is worth watching as there is bound to be the occasional big play and if nothing else, the game should only last two hours.
The Bowl: Champs Sports
The Matchup: West Virginia vs. North Carolina State
The Date: December 28th.
Both teams finished near the top of their conferences but just could not get over the hump to seal the conference championship so they wound up it a pretty nice consolation game.
West Virginia: Geno Smith, Noel Devine, Tavon Austin, Jock Sanders
North Carolina State: Russell Wilson, Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams
A Stat that Matters: West Virginia is 2nd in the nation in scoring defense and is third in total defense.
This is going to be one of the better bowls of the season as you have a matchup with good quarterbacks, explosive playmakers, and stout defenses. West Virginia quietly stifled opponents as they are the only team in the country to not give up more than 21 points in a game. Offensively, they are led by Smith who has been pretty spectacular in his first year as a starter finishing with nearly 2,600 yards passing, 23 touchdowns, and just six picks. It is no mystery that Smith’s job is to get the ball into the hands of diminutive speedsters Devine, Austin, and Sanders and he has done his job well. The tiny trio have accounted for 61% of the team’s total offense and 21 of 41 touchdowns. As for the Wolfpack, Wilson has looked like Superman at times but has had his Clark Kent moments. When dawning the red cape, Wilson can knife apart the best of secondaries while also hurting defenses with his legs. When he is at work for the Daily Planet, Wilson sometimes rifles the ball to the other team which he has done 14 times this year. One of the shining stars for the Wolfpack defense is linebacker Nate Irving who overcame a bad car crash in the offseason to go on to finish fourth in the country in tackles for loss with 20.5.
This is one worth watching until the scoreboard shows double zeros. There is plenty of star power in this game with Smith, Devine, and Wilson on offense but with Irving and Bruce Irvin worth watching on the other side of the ball. Also, keep in mind that this is Devine’s last game as a Mountaineer so he could go out with a bang.