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December 31, 2010

College Football Bowl Picks - Hyundai Sun Bowl:

Hyundai Sun Bowl

Miami (FL) (7-5) vs. Notre Dame (7-5)

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2 PM, CBS, Fri. Dec. 31, El Paso, TX

Why Watch: The tradition and past games of the Miami vs. Notre Dame series should be enough to draw you to this bowl game. Tagged the Catholics vs. the Convicts in the 80’s, the rivalry hasn’t been played in years, and that once label may not be viable today. Both programs are looking to return to their glory days and this is a game to make their move.

Who to Watch: The sidelines of both teams are filled with future draft picks and current playmakers. For Miami, it won’t be hard to miss linebacker Sean Spence. The junior from Miami has been everyone for the ‘Canes since stepping on the field as a freshman. This season, Spence brought in 101 tackles, with 17.5 for a loss. On the offensive side of the ball, keep tabs on Notre Dame wideout Michael Floyd. Floyd led the Irish in receiving with 73 catches for 916 yards and 10 scores, grabbing 11 balls in the last game of the year against USC.

How it’s Going Down: A lot of people are going to talk about the speed vs. the power, as usual when a team from the north meets a southern team. Both teams have speed, though. The difference should come in Miami’s speed on the defensive side of the ball with. The ‘Canes are going through some coaching changes following the firing of Randy Shannon, but the rest of the staff remains. Notre Dame has been dangerous passing the ball lately; with quarterback Tommy Rees running the show, but Miami ranks No. 2 in the nation in pass defense giving up just an average of 146 yards a game. They lead the nation in touchdown passes given up with seven, as well. As long as quarterback Jacory Harris is on page with his wideouts, the ‘Canes should take the game. Pick: Miami (FL) 31 – Notre Dame 20

College Football Bowl Picks - Meineke Car Care Bowl:

Meineke Car Care Bowl

South Florida (7-5) vs. Clemson (6-6)

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12 PM, ESPN, Fri. Dec. 31, Charlotte, NC

Why Watch: A bowl win would go a long way in erasing the disappointing seasons on both parts. Clemson and South Florida are remarkably evenly matched, but were both hoping for better seasons. For Clemson, injuries and lack of playmakers on offense have held the team back all season. For South Florida, the play and injury of quarterback B.J. Daniels has led to an up and down season.

Who to Watch: It’s an easy one for Clemson, with All-American defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. The junior led the nation in sacks with 15.5, while also bringing in 25 tackles for a loss. He’s one of the most dominating defensive linemen in years. For South Florida, keep an eye on Dontavia Bogan. His numbers are modest at 45 catches for 658 yards and five scores, but he’s got big play ability. Bogan brought in 11 catches against West Virginia and had seven for 70 yards and a touchdown in the last game against UConn.

How it’s Going Down: Clemson and South Florida have been known this season to under play, so whoever shows up should run away with a win. The Bulls may be going with backup quarterback Bobby Eveld over Daniels, who is still nursing an injury. It’s yet to be known who will be the starter. It might not matter, though. Clemson hasn’t been able to get anything going offensively, scoring more than 14 points just once in their last five games. The Bulls find ways to score, even on special teams, so that may be a problem for the Tigers. Pick: South Florida 26 – Clemson 17

December 30, 2010

College Football Bowl Picks - Holiday Bowl:

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

#18 Nebraska (10-3) vs. Washington (6-6)

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10 PM, ESPN, Thur. Dec. 30, San Diego, CA

Why Watch: The Rematch: The Holiday Bowl is the lone bowl game which features a rematch of regular season play. In the first meeting, Nebraska nearly burned down Husky Stadium, leaving with a 56-21 win in the third game of the season. It’s also a matchup of high profile quarterbacks in Washington’s Jake Locker and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez. Locker was awful in the first matchup, while Martinez shined.

Who to Watch: As many stars as both of these teams have on the offensive side of the ball, it’s the defenses that bring more bang to the game. For Nebraska, watch linebacker Lavonte David. David led the black-shirt defense with 145 tackles on the year, adding six sacks to his resume. For Washington, it’s linebacker Mason Foster. An All-American this season, Foster finished second in the nation with 151 stops, 11 behind the line.

How it’s Going Down: The advantage has to go to the Huskers after their early season pounding against the Huskies. Don’t count Washington out, though. Martinez is still nursing a high ankle sprain, which forced him to miss two games at the end of the regular season. Although Locker passed for a 20 percent completion percentage in the first matchup, I’d expect a better performance out of him in his last college game. The Nebraska defense should be the difference, though. A number of future high draft picks still make up the black-shirt defense. Pick: Nebraska 37 – Washington 20

College Football Bowl Picks - Music City Bowl:

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

North Carolina (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)

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6:40 PM, ESPN, Thur. Dec. 30, Nashville, TN

Why Watch: Watch because it’s amazing both of these teams have made it to the postseason this year. North Carolina features the disappearing team following the extensive list of suspensions handed out to start the season and the deep list of key injuries they’ve sustained throughout 2010. For Tennessee, who started the year 2-6, a postseason looked far out of reach. But four straight wins to end the year pushed the Vols into a bowl for the second straight year.

Who to Watch: Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray took over fulltime in the eighth game of the season, bringing the Vols to four straight wins to end the year. The emergence of running back Tauren Poole helped Bray ease into the position. Poole, who has 994 yards and 11 scores on the year, averaged 4.58 in the first six games of the year, while improving to a 5.58 average in the last six. For North Carolina, one of the lone bright spots on the team this season has been defensive lineman Quinton Coples. Coples, who can play tackle or end, led the team in tackles for a loss (14) and sacks (8.5).

How it’s Going Down: The Tar Heels are dealing with even more adversity heading into the bowl game with the recent injuries to guard Alan Pelc and linebacker Bruce Carter. Starting running back Anthony Elzy will also sit, after failing to make grade. Not good news since Elzy was filling in for starter Johnny White, who was lost for the season. While things are heading south for UNC, things are getting brighter for Tennessee. The Volunteers get a bowl in their home state and are led by a quarterback with three 300+ yard performances to end the year. Pick: Tennessee 32 – North Carolina 23

College Football Bowl Picks - New Era Pinstripe Bowl:

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Syracuse (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)

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3:20 PM, ESPN, Thur. Dec. 30, Bronx, NY

Why Watch: Watch because it’s football on a baseball field. For the second time this season, the diamond of Yankee Stadium turns into a gridiron. It will be the first addition of the Pinstripe Bowl, and first bowl game ever played at the new Yankee Stadium. The Orange, who are playing in their first bowl game since 2004, get the backdrop of their hometown state, as well.

Who to Watch: The game features a terrific matchup of running backs, who both brought in consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. For Kansas State, it’s senior Daniel Thomas. A once junior college transfer, Thomas followed up a 1,200 yard, 2009 season, with 1,495 yards in 2010. He also rushed for 16 scores. For Syracuse, it’s senior Delone Carter. Carter was the focal point of the Orange offense once again, rushing for 1,035 yards and seven scores this season.

How it’s Going Down: Both offenses go as far as their running games take them. For Kansas State, it’s been pretty good at times this season. The ‘Cuse are average at stopping the run, ranked No. 42 in the country in rush defense, though. Kansas State's defense is downright ugly at stopping the run, ranked No. 118 in the nation in rush defense. With only two team’s worse at stopping opposing rushing games than the Wildcats, I like Carter’s chances of ending his career on a high note in the Bronx. Pick: Syracuse 28 – Kansas State 23

College Football Bowl Picks - Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl:

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

Army (6-6) vs. SMU (7-6)

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12 PM, ESPN, Thur. Dec. 30, Fort Worth, Texas

Why Watch: Anyone who watched the ESPN 30-for-30 on SMU should know how important a bowl appearance is to the Mustangs following the NCAA death penalty. In 2009 SMU returned to a bowl for the first time since 1984, rolling over Nevada 45-10. That same importance is felt on the Army sidelines, though. The Knights haven’t been bowling since 1996 and are looking for their first win since ’85. The game should be intense on both sides of the field.

Who to Watch: You’ll be seeing a lot of SMU quarterback Kyle Padron, who earned freshman All-American honors last season. Padron’s favorite deep threat is wideout Aldrick Robinson, who brought in his second 1,000 yard receiving season this year. A senior from Waxahachie, Texas, Robinson averaged 20.4 yards a catch with 13 touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, Army middle linebacker Stephen Anderson fits the bill of what an Army linebacker should look like. He also led the Knights in tackles with 94, including 10.5 for a loss.

How it’s Going Down: There may not be two other teams that want to win a bowl game more so than SMU and Army. The Mustangs ended the season on a good note, earning a trip to the CUSA championship game with wins over Marshall and East Carolina, before losing to UCF in the title game. The Knights may have a disadvantage against SMU because of the quick strike June Jones offense. Army ranks dead last in the country in pass offense, averaging just 86.8 yards a game. So if SMU can slow the Army rushing game, there won’t be enough offense to match the Mustangs. Pick: SMU 34 – Army 21

December 29, 2010

College Football Bowl Picks - Valero Alamo Bowl:

Valero Alamo Bowl

#14 Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5)

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9:15 PM, ESPN, Wed. Dec. 29, San Antonio, TX

Why Watch: There really isn’t a good reason not to watch the Alamo Bowl. The Cowboys have been one of college football’s most dominating teams this season, especially on offense where they rank No. 1 in the nation averaging 537.6 total yards a game. For Arizona, who started the season 7-1, a four game losing streak is looking to be snapped.

Who to Watch: I’ve been saying it all season, but watch Arizona senior defensive ends Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed. The Wildcats feature one of the best defensive lines in the country and Elmore and Reed are a big part of why. They rank No. 1 and No. 2 on the team in sacks with 11 and nine and a half, respectively. For the Cowboys, watch Biletnikoff winner, Justin Blackmon. The sophomore led the nation in receiving touchdowns with 18 and has proven to be unstoppable all season long, even against Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara.

How it’s Going Down: I’d like to see the Wildcats put up a bigger fight in this one than they did to end the regular season. In their four game losing stretch, Arizona never scored more than 29 points, what would have been the second fewest of OK State’s season. Although the Wildcats have a tough defense and a tremendous pass rush, the Cowboys have proven all season long it takes an offense just as powerful as their own to stop, or even match up with them. Quarterback Brandon Weeden should continue his destruction. Pick: OK State 41 – Arizona 27

College Football Bowl Picks - Texas Bowl:

Texas Bowl

Illinois (6-6) vs. Baylor (7-5)

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6 PM, ESPN, Wed. Dec. 29, Houston, TX

Why Watch: Watch because someone’s going to win their first bowl game this decade. Baylor has not been to a bowl since 1994, and Illinois, who has been to two bowls this decade, has not won a postseason game since 1999. Both teams have two game breaking players in Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III and Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure.

Who to Watch: The Illini are going to try to control the game and clock with the running game and will try to force Griffin to beat them with his arm. Because of that, running back Jay Finley needs to come up big. Finley, who had a terrific second half of the season, rushed for 1,155 yards and 11 scores in a pass happy offense. For Illinois, linebacker Martez Wilson will need to come up big, like he did all season long. Wilson led the team in tackles with 101, tackles for loss with10.5 and sacks with four.

How it’s Going Down: Baylor had one of its better seasons in quite some time, and had been having one of its best ever before a three game skid to end the season. To be fare, however, the losses came against OK State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. For Illinois, the emergence of Leshoure late in the season helped move the Illini to a bowl. The Bears have stopped top rushers this season, including the Sooners DeMarco Murray (62 yards) and OK State’s Kendall Hunter (66 yards). If Baylor shuts down Leshoure, it may be a long day for the No. 115 ranked pass offense of the Illini. Pick: Baylor 30 – Illinois 25

College Football Bowl Picks - Military Bowl:

Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman

Maryland (8-4) vs. East Carolina (6-6)

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2:30 PM, ESPN, Dec. 29, Washington, D.C.

Why Watch: Besides the fact that it’s a bowl presented by a military company with precision missiles, Maryland and East Carolina exciting teams capable of putting up a lot of points, both averaging better than 30 points an outing. The Terrapins are trying to escape some late season turmoil after the firing of long-time head coach Ralph Friedgen, who will get one last chance in the bowl game. The Pirates are well capable of pulling the upset against the Terps, having beaten ACC member N.C. State earlier this season.

Who to Watch: Pirates quarterback Dominique Davis couldn’t have thrown for 36 scores this season without the help of wideout Dwayne Harris. Harris brought in 93 catches for 1,055 yards and 10 scores. He also serves as the Pirates kick returner. For Maryland, safety Kenny Tate will be counted on to slow down the Pirate offense. Tate finished second on the team with 94 tackles and eight for a loss. He also finished with three and a half sacks and three interceptions. At 6-foot-4 220, Tate is an intimidating piece to the Terps defense.

How it’s Going Down: The Terps had quite the turn-around from a 2-10, 2009 season, to a near ACC title game appearance. Much of their success came from the emergence of quarterback Danny O’Brien, who took over full-time in the fourth game of the year. ECU’s Davis has thrown for 36 scores, and rushed for another nine, but has been prone to a few mistakes. What’s been prone to even more mistakes, though, is the Pirates defense, which gave up 42 points or more nine times this season. The Terps should be able to get their running game going easily against the Pirates awful rush defense. Pick: Maryland 43 – East Carolina 34

December 27, 2010

College Football Bowl Picks - AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl:

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl

Georgia Tech (6-6) vs. Air Force (8-4)

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5 PM, ESPN 2, Mon. Dec. 27, Shreveport, LA

Why Watch: It’s old school football and it’s going to be a quick one. The Yellow Jackets and Falcons are the No. 1 and No. 2 rush offenses in the country, respectively. Tech averages 327 yards on the ground a game, while Air Force brings in 317.9 a game. With maybe the exception of Navy, the game features the two best triple-option teams in the nation.

Who to Watch: Earlier this season against the triple option, Air Force linebacker Jordan Waiwaiole brought in 15 total tackles against Navy, a major reason he’s one to watch against Georgia Tech. He finished second on the team with 88 tackles on the year, including 7.5 for a loss. For Georgia Tech, it’s the man Waiwaiole will be trying to bring down, running back Anthony Allen. Allen moved from the wing-back to the fullback position this season, betting fitting his power running style. The senior brought in 1,225 yards and six scores on the year.

How it’s Going Down: Tech will be down a total of seven players in this one, three who will only miss the first half. Two of the players who will miss the entire game, safety Mario Edwards and widout Stephen Hill, are starters. Edwards ranks second on the team in tackles, while Hill leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. The suspensions are big losses, but I liked Air Force even before the suspensions. Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt will miss his fourth straight game, with his replacement Tevin Washington, who is 1-2, taking his place once again. Air Force is better equipped to stop the triple-option and will be facing the unusual offense for a third time this season. Pick: Air Force 28 – Georgia Tech 23

College Football Report - Four Suspended Ohio State Players Need to Take the Money:

Terrelle Pryor isn’t ready for the NFL. He’s not ready for the mental training or the physical pounding he’ll experience week-after-week in a 16 game (maybe more) NFL season. What Pryor also won’t be prepared for: A five game suspension to begin his senior season. The same senior season that was suppose to get him ready for the mental and physical hardships of the NFL.

As it’s already known, and argued, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor (left) will miss the first five games of the 2011 season for selling his own bowl rings, game paraphernalia and as ironic as it sounds, his Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award.

Pryor won’t be alone though; he’ll be joined by running back Dan “Boom” Herron, wideout DeVier Posey, offensive lineman Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, who received money and free benefits, including tattoos for their autographs and game worn products. A sixth player, linebacker Jordan Whiting, will have to sit just the first game of the 2011 season.

The amazing part about all of the suspensions is that they don’t take place until the 2011 season, skipping the teams Sugar Bowl appearance against Arkansas. It’s a whole different article dipping into the fact that the NCAA skipped the Sugar Bowl all-together, though. It’s also a whole other article dipping into how much money the five make for OSU.

The OSU five are now faced with a decision. All are junior’s who are eligible to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft in April. So do they declare, or do they stay?

It’s a tough decision to make for any underclassmen to forgo their senior season; it’s an even tougher one to make when your draft projection says stay in school. But staying in school may not help, having to sit nearly half the season, in some of your teams’ biggest games.

If the players stay, they’ll miss games against Akron and Toledo to begin the season (two stat-padding games to get them into grove), then they’ll miss a trip to Miami (FL) and Colorado and Michigan State at home .Three pivotal games to the Ohio State season and themselves moving forward as football players. The return game would come against Nebraska, not an easy game to start the year or to make a first impression on NFL scouts.

If they leave, four of the five will get drafted, but not where they would have or potentially should be. Thomas sits with the most to lose if he declares. The other four would get drafted, though. But that’s if there even is a draft. The NFL labor agreements are yet to pass through with owner’s signatures and a 2011 NFL season isn’t guaranteed. The owners have until March 4 to get the labor issue resolved, but players must declare for the NFL Draft far before then, with a deadline of January 18.

Although OSU fans would hate to see four of their best skilled players leave (below), I think the decision to bolt is an easy one. Pryor, Herron, Posey and Adams aren’t going to get a whole lot better watching from the sidelines. They all might even look worse entering the season halfway through while their opponents have five games with real game speed under their belt. The potential of an injury is always there as well, and may be even more so entering the season at its midpoint.

Pryor wouldn’t like where he would end up getting drafted. With the potential of quarterbacks Ryan Mallett of Arkansas, Andrew Luck of Stanford and Cameron Newton of Auburn declaring for the draft, the position Pryor falls to deepens. Add in Washington senior Jake Locker to the mix, and he’s fallen potentially out of even the second round. The worry is he’s not yet ready for mental aspect of reading NFL defenses, which may be true. The class Pryor falls into is with Florida State’s Christian Ponder, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor, and Delaware’s Pat Devlin, into the third-to-fourth round mix.

For Posey and Herron, things might be better than Pryor’s situation. Posey could work his way into the second round because of the physical attributes he brings to the field and the array of wideouts who could not declare for the draft or if all bring in first round paychecks. Herron sits in the middle of the pack as far as available running backs. With over 1,000 yards on the season, Herron would most likely find a grade ranging from early third-to-fourth round.

For Adams, who started all but one game for the Bucks, a third-to-fifth round grade would most likely be the result. At 6-foot-8 310 pounds, Adams may intrigue scouts with his sheer size and potential in the league, improving his grade. As for Solomon, who isn’t a starter for OSU, what little games he could play in, in 2011, would help his future draft status.

They all may not be the grades they want to hear, but I can’t see playing in potentially just seven games in their senior years really helping them out. The NFL pay I hear, however, is better than having to turn to selling your jersey and bowl rings for money.

The fact of the matter is they’ll be able to start making some money for themselves, rather than just Ohio State.

Pryor Photo Credit: Doug Lesmerises - The Plain Dealer

December 26, 2010

College Football Bowl Picks - Little Caesars Pizza Bowl:

Little Caesars Bowl

Florida International (6-6) vs. Toledo (8-4)

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8:30 PM, ESPN, Sunday, Dec. 26, Detroit, MI

Why Watch: Even though it’s a bowl sponsored by a pizza, there’s still reason to watch. The Little Caesars Bowl features two teams that most didn’t think would reach anything beyond the regular season besides some extended rest leading up to next season. Both put up phenomenal seasons in their respective conference play, though, and both feature coaches who may just become household names in the future in FIU’s Mario Cristobal and Toledo’s Tim Beckman.

Who to Watch: Both FIU and Toledo follow the notion that if you’ve got a play-maker, get him the ball, featuring two of the best all-purpose players in the country. For Toledo, it’s wideout Eric Page. The sophomore brought in 1,983 all-purpose yards this year, including 1,091recieving. Page also made multiple All-American teams as a kick returner, bringing in three kick-off scores. For FIU, it’s T.Y. Hilton. Hilton ranks just behind Page with 1,879 all-purpose yards on the year. The junior from Miami brought in 816 through the air, 278 on the ground and 785 in returns.

How it’s Going Down: Toledo has been the more consistent of the two this season, while losing just one conference game. They also brought in a win against Big Ten opponent Purdue earlier in the year. FIU, after losing their first four, racked off four wins in their last five to close the season. They also pulled in a 52-35 win over Troy, who put a whooping on MAC team Ohio earlier this bowl season. As dominant these two teams are in the return game, it very well could come down to special teams winning the game. In the end, though, I like the Panthers, even in Toledo’s neck of the woods. Pick: Florida International 30 – Toledo 21

December 24, 2010

College Football Bowl Picks - Sheraton Hawaii Bowl:

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

#24 Hawaii (10-2) vs. Tulsa (9-3)

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8 PM, ESPN, Fri. Dec. 24, New Orleans, LA

Why Watch: Watch the aerial assault go down on the tiny island of Oahu, Hawaii’s fifth island. The Warriors and Golden Hurricane feature two of the top 10 ranked offenses in the county. Hawaii, which ranked No. 8 in the country averaging 496.85 yards a game, likes to air it out with their No. 1 ranked pass offense. Tulsa features the No. 5 ranked offense, averaging 503.50 yards a game, but with a far more balanced unit.

Who to Watch: Hawaii features two of the best wideouts in the country you’ve probably never heard of. Greg Salas brought in 106 catches for 1,675 yards, while teammate Kealoha Pilares broke through this season with 88 grabs for 1,306 yards. The seniors also combined for 27 touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson will be counted on to disrupt the heady Hawaii attack. Jackson, only a freshman, brought in 80 tackles with 12.5 for a loss. He also led the team with 5.5 sacks.

How it’s Going Down: Both teams haven’t been bowling since 2008, so both are hungry for a postseason victory. A lot of times when two potent offenses get together and a lot of points are expected, the opposite happens. This won’t be one of those times. Although I like Tulsa a lot, quarterback G.J. Kinne brings plenty to the table; Hawaii is too good this season to drop this one. I have to go with Bryant Moniz and the Warriors. Pick: Hawaii 45 – Tulsa 37

December 23, 2010

College Football Bowl Picks - Poinsettia Bowl:

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

San Diego State (8-4) vs. Navy (8-3)

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8 PM, ESPN, Thur. Dec. 23, San Diego, CA

Why Watch: It’s going to be an 11-on-11 mud wrestling match. Qualcomm Stadium’s field was submerged under nearly a foot of water following the week long rain storms in California. Nearly 1.5 million gallons needed to be pumped from the Stadium, which supposedly will be dry for game time. How dry can grass under 1.5 million gallons of water really be a day later, though? Navy’s better suited for muddy conditions, but San Diego State has a nice rush offense of their own.

Who to Watch: San Diego State freshman running back Ronnie Hillman is surely one to keep an eye on, but keep close tabs on linebacker Miles Burris as well. Burris, a junior, finished the year with 74 total tackles including 19 for a loss. He also brought in 9.5 sacks on the season. For Navy, watch fullback Alexander Teich. He’s a powerful runner who brought in 830 yards and five scores on mostly quick dives, including 210 yards against Notre Dame.

How it’s Going Down: The field conditions almost give Navy the advantage here. The option is operable in rain, sleet, snow or muddy fields, and there’s sure to be mud everyone tonight. I’m sticking with my original pick, however. I really think San Diego State has the better overall team, and even in muddy conditions, Aztec quarterback Ryan Lindley should be able to find wideouts Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson, who combined for 2,362 receiving yards and 17 scores. Pick: San Diego State 35 – Navy 28

College Football Report - Mid American Conference Proves to be Stepping Stone to Coaching Success:

Along the winding road to college football success, a modest mid-west conference, with a tradition of coaching greats, has turned into the crossroads of the modern day coaching search.

The Mid American Conference (MAC), is exactly like its name implies; the middle of America. It also happens to be the middle grounds to American success, though. Dug into the heart of mid-western America, from Illinois to New York, and up to Michigan, the MAC holds a heavy list of starting places for some of college football’s greatest leaders in the history of the game.

Notre Dame’s Ara Parseghian, Michigan’s Bo Schembechler (left) and Ohio State’s Woody Hayes all once called the MAC home before their coaching greatness began at their respective universities. All three, incidentally, came from MAC school Miami of Ohio.

The current list of coaching greats surrounding FBS college football programs reads as impressive as the conferences’ coaching history does. Before Urban Meyer built Utah and won two national championships with Florida, he roamed the sidelines of Bowling Green. Before Brian Kelly led Cincinnati to two straight BCS Bowls, then accepted his dream job at Notre Dame, he built a dormant Central Michigan program. Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel led a Toledo team to four conference championship appearances, and a near undefeated season in 1995.

MAC ties can be found all over college football, with others who propelled themselves into larger positions that include Alabama’s Nick Saban, Ohio State’s Jim Tressell, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Kansas’ Turner Gill, Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe, and Cincinnati’s Butch Jones.

The conference, whose coaches are some of the most under-paid in college football, produces some of the hungriest coaching prospects around. So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise when three of the biggest coaching vacancies in college football – Minnesota, Miami (FL), and Pittsburgh – came about at the end of the 2010 season, the MAC turned out to be one of the first places searched. In result, the MAC was the location of their programs future leaders.

Minnesota struck first, nabbing Northern Illinois head man Jerry Kill, who built up a Southern Illinois program before his three year stint at Northern Illinois. He then led the Huskies to a 10-3 record and MAC Championship appearance in 2010. Not bad for a team that went 2-10 in 2007, the year before Kill became the programs head coach.

Pittsburgh, whose head coach Dave Wannstedt, stepped down after six seasons, made a quick move to hire Miami of Ohio’s Michael Haywood (right). Haywood seemed like an unlikely candidate after a 2009 1-11 first season with the Redhawks. But he led Miami to a 9-4 record and MAC Championship this season. It was clear, following a 2-10 record in 2008 before Haywood arrived, the program just didn’t have the talent or the amount of coaching it needed in 2009.

Temple head coach Al Golden became Miami’s choice after a two week search that many believed would bring in a coach with a name to fit the programs heavy bill. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden was rumored, so was former Auburn coach and current Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen. In the end, however, the Hurricanes settled on the little known Golden. The 41 year old and former Penn State tight end, built up a Temple program from 0-11 the year before he arrived, to seasons of 9-4 in 2009 and 8-4 this season. The Owls 2009 bowl appearance was just their third in the programs history, and first since 1979.

All three coaches struck fans, program personnel and boosters the wrong way at the time of the hiring, but after school press conferences and familiarity with the three, everyone became aware of the hunger and drive in Kill, Haywood and Golden, much like that seen in the MAC’s history of coaching greats.

Whether or not the success of the past coaches from the MAC will follow the three who left the conference this season, remains to be seen. The tools are in place, and the desire to bring excellence back to their current storied programs is there, however.

History implies the three are likely to uncover success. Somewhere in a tiny midwest town, though, with a school too big for its boots, there lays another coach waiting in the crossroads of college football’s coaching carousel.

December 22, 2010

College Football Bowl Picks - MAACO Las Vegas Bowl:

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl

#11 Boise State (11-1) vs. #19 Utah (10-2)

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8 PM, ESPN, Wed. Dec. 22, Las Vegas, NV

Why Watch: The Las Vegas Bowl turns out to be one of the better bowl games of the season. Both teams were ranked within the top five in the country at one point in the year. Boise has proven to be the far better team, coming into the game a foot-wide field goal away from their second straight undefeated season. Utah, who’s gone through a late season collapse, is still a dangerous team, especially in a bowl, where they’ve won nine straight.

Who to Watch: It’s too easy to say Boise quarterback Kellen Moore, so I’m going to go with Boise running back Jeremy Avery. Avery led the team in rushing last season with over 1,100 yards, but has taken on the role of an all-purpose player for the Broncos this season. He’s explosive with the ball in his hands, bringing in 684 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns on just 97 touches. For Utah, watch cornerback Brandon Burton, who led the Utes with 10 pass breakups. He’ll most likely be lined up on Boise wideout Titus Young, a tough task all game.

How it’s Going Down: As long as we don’t see gale-force winds like last year’s Las Vegas Bowl, Boise should be able to get their air attack going. Moore is too good of a quarterback to be shut down. Utes quarterback Jordan Wynn will watch from the sidelines, following surgery. Terrance Cain, who takes his place, is plenty capable with a 9-1 career record, but none of those were against a team like the Broncos. Pick: Boise State 38 – Utah 24

December 21, 2010

College Football Report - Bowl Picks - St. Petersburg Bowl:

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl

Louisville (6-6) vs. Southern Miss (8-4)

V S.

8 PM, ESPN. Tue. Dec. 21, St. Petersburg, FL

Why Watch: It’s actually a nice matchup. Louisville was more inconsistent this season than Southern Miss, but the Cardinals are actually a decent team. Five of the six Louisville losses came by a touchdown or less. Southern Miss, who went 5-3 in the CUSA this season, isn’t all that bad of a football team either, having lost their three conference games by a combined eight points.

Who to Watch: It’s Louisville running back Bilal Powell. The senior, who wasn’t even a starter before the season, ran for 1,330 yards and 10 scores on a 6.3 average. Southern Miss defensive end Cordarro Law is one to watch, as well. Law brought in four sacks in the final four games of the year, leading the Golden Eagles with six on the year.

How it’s Going Down: The St. Petersburg Bowl almost turned into the St. Petersburg Brawl, before the game could even start. The two got into a pushing and verbal confrontation following a pool dance contest during hotel activates in St. Petersburg. The advantage in the fight on the field has to go to Louisville. Southern Miss is a good team, they proved it against Central Florida and Houston this season. But if Powell can get going, it should be enough for the Cardinals. Expect a close one, though. Pick: Louisville 31- Southern Miss 27

All writing and views subject to © Drew P. Kochanny, All Rights Reserved. Photo's credited to rights owner.