R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Preview: Memphis Tigers vs. Florida Atlantic

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R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Preview: Memphis Tigers vs. Florida Atlantic

Bowl game: The R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Date: Friday December 21st, 8 p.m.(ESPN2)
Venue: Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana
Teams: Memphis Tigers(C-USA) vs. Florida Atlantic Owls(Sun Belt)

Memphis quarterback Martin Hankins can sling the rock and sling it well.

The breakdown:
This bowl matches two teams that are so evenly matched its scary. Memphis averages 29.4 points per game on offense, whereas the Florida Atlantic Owls are putting up 30.1 points per game on the scoreboard.
Both teams have very good offensive attacks. Behind any great offense is usually a great field general and the Memphis Tigers quarterback is senior Martin Hankins. This year he  completed 60.7% of his passes for 2,939 yards while tossing 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith is one of the best sophomore quarterbacks in all of college football. He was recently named the 2007 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.

The unquestioned leader for Florida Atlantic is their super sophomore of a quarterback, Rusty Smith. The 2007 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year completed 57.3% of his passes for 3,352 yards while firing 27 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
If Memphis wants a chance at winning this one, they are going to have to find ways to rattle Smith, something very few opponents have done this season.

Memphis running back Joseph Doss is one of the best running backs in C-USA.

If you want solid running backs, this game will also feature a pair of those as well. The Memphis Tigers tailback is senior Joseph Doss. This year Doss has 154 carries and has chewed up 715 yards of real estate, while racking up 5 touchdowns.

That's Florida Atlantic tailback Charles Pierre jumping through the air over a pile of defenders.

Junior tailback Charles Pierre will be toting the rock for Florida Atlantic. He has put up nearly identical numbers to those of Joseph Doss. This season Pierre has 159 carries for 733 yards, while scoring seven touchdowns. It's safe to say that the running back match up in this game is dead even.

Florida Atlantic receiver Cortez Gent is one of the best receivers in all of college football.

If you're looking for the best offensive player in this game, look no further than sensational sophomore receiver Cortez Gent of Florida Atlantic. He put up gaudy stats this season, hauling in 61 passes for 1,030 yards and nine touchdowns. He racked up those numbers in just 11 games, because he didn't play against Oklahoma State.

It's a bird, it's a plane, no wait, it's Florida Atlantic tight end Jason Harmon leaping in the air!

Florida Atlantic has another stud receiver and his name is Jason Harmon. The freakishly athletic tight end snagged 56 balls for 728 yards and four touchdowns this season for the Owls.
He also has unleashed his patented "Harmon Hurdle" a few times this season, once against Middle Tennessee State and also against South Florida. Harmon leaps over defenders that try and tackle him low with ease. Check out the picture above—the guy can leap to Mars!

Memphis receiver Carlos Singleton leads the team in touchdown catches with 10 catches this year.

The Memphis Tigers also have a very fine receiving corps. Their leading receiver is yet another stud sophomore by the name of Duke Calhoun. He's hauled in 58 balls for 850 yards and five touchdowns this year for the Tigers.
Calhoun will have some help in the game from fellow sophomore receiver Carlos Singleton. He s snared 47 balls for 704 yards and 10 touchdowns for Memphis and will definitely be a man to lookout for in this game.

Florida Atlantic kick returner/receiver DiIvory Edgecomb is one of the most dynamic returners in all of college football.

On special teams the Florida Atlantic Owls' very own DiIvory Edgecomb not only has one of the best names in college football, but he also happens to be one of the best all-purpose threats as well. This year the stud return man has piled up over 1,000 yards on kickoff returns, averaging just over 22 yards per return.
Edgecomb has chewed up a team-leading 1,558 all-purpose yards this season, simply sensational numbers by anyone s standards. Keep an eye out for Edgecomb in this game.
The Memphis Tigers' best return man is of course junior cornerback Michael Grandberry. This year he's shredded opposing defenses to the tune of 1,133 yards on kickoff returns. If Memphis wants a chance in this game, I think they are going to need some big time plays on special teams from Grandberry.

Both defenses are extremely generous in surrendering yardage and points. Memphis and Florida Atlantic have both allowed over 400 yards per game and over 30 points per contest. I'd look for the scoreboard operator to get carpal tunnel in this one, since both offenses are so superb at scoring and both defenses are so porous.

Florida Atlantic linebacker Frantz Joseph is a "heat-seeking missile in pads" for the Owls.

The Florida Atlantic defense might have been known to surrender chunks of yardage this season, but you certainly can't point the finger at it's two immensely talented linebackers, Frantz Joseph and Cergile Sincere.
Joseph is the emotional and spiritual leader of the Owl defense and has racked up a team-leading 121 tackles this season. That total not only leads the team, but the Sun Belt Conference as well. The monstrous linebacker has also recorded 10.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions.
Cergile Sincere has put up eyebrow-raising numbers as well, racking up 111 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks this season for the Owls. Both Sincere and Joseph were named to the All-Sun Belt first team defense.

Memphis head coach Tommy West points linebacker Jake Kasser downfield.

The undisputed leader of the Memphis Tiger defense is linebacker Jake Kasser. He's racked up a team-leading 95 tackles this season and earned second-team All-C-USA honors. The star linebacker has also tallied three tackles for loss and recovered three fumbles.

Florida Atlantic freshman cornerback Tavious Polo has been one of the nation's best kept secrets for the entire 2007-2008 college football season.

Since this game is so evenly matched on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, this match up will likely hinge on whoever wins the turnover battle.
On paper, Florida Atlantic has the advantage. They were the best in the nation in turnover margin, with a +1.58 rating in the category. Three of the biggest reasons they led the nation in that category were their trio of ball hawking cornerbacks, Tavious Polo, Corey Small, and Taheem Acevedo.
Polo is one of the biggest reasons you should watch this game. The immensely gifted freshman snagged seven interceptions this season, tying him for 4th in the nation in that category. He's been one of the nation's best kept secrets and I hope this bowl game helps to bring him more recognition nationally, because he deserves it.

Junior corner Corey Small and senior safety Taheem Acevedo have both picked off five passes this season for the Owls. In the picture above, the talented tandem are seen celebrating. Those two are a very big reason why Florida Atlantic leads the nation in turnover margin.

Memphis is not far behind with a + .75 rating in turnover margin, ranking them 17th nationally. One reason they rank so highly in that category is because free safety Brandon Patterson has snagged three interceptions this season for the Tigers. Three other players have picked off two passes this season for Memphis: LeRico Mathis, Tony Bell, and another all-name team candidate, LaKeitharun Ford.

Florida Atlantic head coach Howard Schnellenberger will be smiling after bringing the Owls' their first bowl victory in school history. He's done a remarkable job with the Florida Atlantic program already, a bowl victory would just be icing on the cake.

This game is, on paper, probably the most evenly matched bowl game you are going to find this year. The game features two potent offensive attacks that can light up the scoreboard and two defenses that are incredibly generous in allowing points.
I'm going to pick the Florida Atlantic Owls in this one, simply because they are the best in the nation in turnover margin and they have the game's most dynamic offensive player, sophomore receiver Cortez Gent.
Another advantage that I think will help the Owls prevail in this one is their trio of lockdown cornerbacks, Tavious Polo, Corey Small, and Taheem Acevedo. I see one of those three guys making a big interception that will be a difference maker in this game.
The scoreboard will be lit up early and often in New Orleans in one of the most high-scoring affairs of the 2007-2008 bowl season. Florida Atlantic wins in a fairly close one. Coach Howard Schnellenberger will be smiling as he brings Florida Atlantic its first bowl victory in school history.

The pick: Florida Atlantic 49 Memphis 35

Taylor Bradford, may you rest in peace.

R.I.P. Taylor Bradford:
I'd like to take this time to extend my condolences to the University of Memphis football team, the family of Taylor Bradford, and his surrounding friends and family.
Bradford was tragically shot and killed earlier this season and you should remember that the University of Memphis football team has been playing with heavy hearts this season.
I didn't know Taylor Bradford at all, but I hate to see a life ended prematurely, because there were so many more lives that Bradford could have touched. It's quite a shame.
May you rest in peace, Taylor Bradford.

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