Are you ready for Big Ten Bowl Day...I mean New Year's Day? If so strap in we have what looks to be plenty of hard hitting football in our Bowl Preview Vol. VI.
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
The Matchup: Georgia vs. UCF
The Date: Dec. 31 3:30p.pm
The Storyline: Could this be Georgia receiver A.J. Green's last game? It seems highly likely that this will be the case.
Georgia: A.J. Green, Aaron Murray, Washaun Ealey
UCF:Jeffrey Godfrey, Latavius Murray
A Stat that Matters: UCF is 12th in the FBS in scoring defense at 18.0 points per game.
The freshman quarterback Godfrey has been on fire since the start of the C-USA season. Together with running back Murray -- who took over the starting running back duties from Ronnie Weaver against Tulane -- the Knights offense should not be overlooked. Besides TCU and Boise State, UCF has the top scoring defense of the non-AQ teams in the country. If Georgia thinks this game will be a cakewalk, they're in for a rude awakening.
I always worry about teams traveling North for their bowl game and motivation to spend New Year's Eve playing a C-USA squad in Memphis. But this only provides an opportunity for this game to be a hidden gem. In the end you throw UCF's scoring defense out the window. Once Georgia realizes they're in a dogfight I fully expect Murray and Green to put on a show. Don't overlook this game, it is one of the least talked about, but has potential to be a good one.
The Matchup: South Carolina vs. Florida St.
The Date: Dec. 31 7:30p.m.
The Storyline: Both teams limp into the New Year's Eve bowl following a loss in their conference championship game. Which one will be able to shake off the disappointment?
USC: Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery
FSU: Christian Ponder, Willie Haulstead
A Stat that Matters: South Carolina is ninth nationally at stopping the run; they'll make the Noles one-dimensional.
The big question is whether or not FSU quarterback Christian Ponder will be ready to play. Ponder had his second surgery on his right throwing arm in the last four weeks. The coaching staff and Ponder all seem to be of the opinion that he should be ready, but there is reason to be concerned if you're a Seminoles fan.
There is certainly enough offensive firepower in this one to make this an exciting New Year's Eve affair, but this game has the feel of a sloppy game with two quarterbacks that have a propensity to turn the ball over.
The Matchup: Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
The Date: Jan. 1 noon
The Storyline: Northwestern is the first of five Big Ten teams to play on New Year's Day. Brand marketing might not be Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's strong suit, but cutting sweetheart bowl deals certainly is.
Northwestern: Drake Dunsmore, Jeremy Ebert
Texas Tech: Taylor Potts, Lyle Leong, Detron Lewis, Baron Batch
A Stat that Matters: 559, the number of total yards Northwestern has given up in EACH of their last two games.
This game would be much more intriguing with Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa (Achilles) at the helm. In short Persa was the Wildacts' entire offense. Since his injury they've been in a tailspin. Defense isn't their strong suit either, making this game all that more challenging.
I would never count out a Pat Fitzgerald-led team and the Red Raiders offense hasn't exactly been the model of consistency; but without Persa this one looks like a mismatch. Load up on Red Raiders offensive players.
The Matchup: Penn St. vs. Florida
The Date: Jan. 1 1 p.m.
The Storyline: Florida coach Urban Meyer retires at the age of 46 due to health reason (allegedly) while Penn State coach Joe Paterno will be celebrating his 84th birthday on Dec. 21. Heck at the age of 46, coach Paterno was only in his sixth of 45 years as the head coach of the Nittany Lions.
Penn State: Evan Royster, Derek Moye
Florida: Jordan Reed, Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey
A Stat that Matters:
The Nittany Lions will go with former walk-on Matt McGloin at quarterback. But don't be surprised to see former starter Robert Bolden get some snaps as well. The Gators, on the other hand, will stick with the quarterback trio of John Brantley, Jordan Reed (TE) and Trey Burton. With seven touchdowns in the last four games, Reed is obviously the intriguing fantasy play of the bunch.
With both teams struggling in the passing department, this game will be spent on the ground and there will be no shortage of NFL talent at running back with Evan Royster (PSU) and Jeff Demps (Florida). Both have struggled to live up to expectations from the beginning of the year, and this will be a marquee game to show off their talents for scouts.
Largely due to injuries, defensively Penn State has struggled throughout most of the year. The Gators offense has been erratic this season, but ultimately the Gators have too much to throw at the Nittany Lion defense.
Capital One Bowl
The Matchup: Michigan State vs. Alabama
The Date: Jan. 1 1 p.m
The Storyline: The Cap One Bowl will feature three former or current Michigan State head coaches patrolling the sidelines in Mark Dantonio (MSU HC), Nick Saban (Alabama HC) and Bobby Williams (Alabama TE/ST). It will also feature a Heisman Trophy winner from the State of Michigan, but one wearing a crimson uniform. Want more Michigan connections? Mark Ingram Sr. (the aforementioned Heisman Trophy winner's father) was one the Spartans' all-time great receivers in the mid-80s.
Michigan State: Edwin Baker, B.J. Cunningham, Mark Dell
Alabama: Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Julio Jones
A Stat that Matters: The Tide is 6th in total defense and only the Gamecocks went over 30 against them.
A conference champ and last year's National Champion, this game has the feel of a BCS game. The question is will it live up to one?
Michigan State has not fared well in bowl games under Mark Dantonio. But nothing about the past season matches the Spartans' typical MO with comeback victories, recovering onside kicks, Little Giants and most importantly no mid-season meltdown.
Mark Ingram should have no trouble getting up for this game, but will the rest of the Tide? This could also be the Julio Jones swan song, so expect him to go out with a bang. The loss of safety Mark Barron is a significant blow for the Tide, and the one area the Spartans can look to exploit. Look for both offenses to put up some points in this one.