St. Pete's, NO, and NM Start This Bowl Season Off Right
Bowl Season is here. One of the most talked about voting systems (outside of Florida) there is for the sporting world. There are a lot of bowl games coming up in the next 3 weeks so without writing 5000 words previewing all them in one post, I am going to break it down a couple games at a time to make it manageable to read with your morning coffee. Let's get started.
St. Petersburg Bowl - Rutgers (8-4) v. University of Central Florida (8-4)
This match up is weird to me. When you break it down and really look at it, it's almost like sleeping with your cousin. First things first, it's the Knights v. the Scarlet Knights. Both teams went 8-4. Rutgers hung around the top 25 for a bit before losing to bottom dwellers Syracuse towards the end of the season. UCF had a big upset win over then ranked number 14 Houston. This is Rutgers fifth bowl game in five years, UCF making it for the third time in five years.
Both of these are not really offensive juggernauts. UCF is averaging a little over 200 passing yards a game where Rutgers is a little under 200. Their rushing attacks are almost identical. 138.5 and 138.4 for UCF and Rutgers, respectively. Rutgers' back Joe Martinek, who had almost 1000 yards this season, will have a tough time running against UCF's D who ranked 4th in the country on run defense; only allowing 83 yards a game.
Quarterbacks for both teams are fairly accurate. Both are good drop back style QB's and can throw the ball long. But the big deciding factor in this game will be the offensive line. Rutger's freshman QB Tom Savage was sacked 34 times, the most in the Big East. And UCF senior QB Brett Hodges threw 11 TDs this past season. Both quarterbacks will need good protection.
Prediction: Rutgers 38, UCF 31
New Mexico Bowl - Fresno St (8-4) v. Wyoming (6-6)
Who playing who? This could be the worst bowl game to start the bowl season. This game could turn into the Ryan Mathews show. Mathews, Fresno St running back, is averaging over 150 yards rushing a game. Do the math, that is over 7 yards more than Heisman invitee and runner-up Toby Gerhart of Standford. The kid just flat-out runs. He leads the nation with 7 runs of at least 50 yard. In a loss this season to Boise St he had 235 yards rushing with TDs of 60, 68 and 69 yards.
The Wyoming defense allows a little more than 170 yards a game on the ground. Their D will be in the trenches most of the night. It is hard to imagine them stopping Mathews all night. And they won't. The biggest thing will be to limit the big runs. They can not give up big runs and still expect to win this ball game.
Wyoming will have freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, Mountain West's freshman of the year, behind center. He started the last 9 games of the season and threw for over 1500 yards. He led them to three straight victories to the end the season and get them a bowl game.
Prediction: Fresno St 42, Wyoming 17
New Orleans Bowl - Southern Mississippi (7-5) v. Middle Tennessee (9-3)
Johnny Floyd Stadium
When you look at these two teams and where they are from, I can not think of a better place for them to play then Johnny Floyd Stadium. Just saying it sounds fitting. This game should be high scoring with both teams averaging over 400 yards a game in offense. Middle Tennessee is looking for their first 10 win season since 1992 and this will be only their second bowl game since entering the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999. As for the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss, they are making this their 12th bowl game in 13 seasons. The game will turn into a classic Blue and Gold game (Golden Eagles v Blue Raiders, get it). Key to this game will be defense. Midd Tenn ranks in the top for in tackles for a loss and sacks per game.
Prediction: Toss up. This is the first meeting between the two schools. Blue 24, Gold 1
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