The bowl season is now in full swing as we review this four game slate that will keep us occupied up until Christmas day and the arrival of Saint Nick.
Boise State vs. Northern Illinois
ESPN, 4:30 p.m. EST
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Two former BCS party crashers meet up in the first of two bowl games on Wednesday. Both teams are in the midst of down years with Boise State winning less than nine games for the second time since 2002 and failing to reach the Mountain West championship game while Northern Illinois lost five games and fell to Bowling Green for the second straight year in the MAC championship. Both the Broncos and Huskies should come into this game seeking redemption and looking to prove that they are two of the best non-power five teams in the country.
The major storyline heading into this game is the NIU quarterback situation. The man who began the season under center, Drew Hare, played up and down until his season was cut short by an Achilles injury in week ten. The planned backup Anthony Maddie had suffered a season ending injury at that point so the Huskies had to look toward redshirt freshman Ryan Graham who played well enough to beat Toledo but then suffered an injury the next week against Ohio. Similar to what the Baylor Bears were forced to do, the Huskies turned to their fourth quarterback, a freshman walk on, to play in the MAC championship. He predictably threw three interceptions in a blowout loss. Graham will reportedly be healthy enough for the bowl game and should be able to steer the ship well enough to keep NIU in the game.
The Boise State offense is looking to continue the explosiveness that they have made famous going as far back as current Cowboys quarterback Kellen Moore’s time on the blue turf. True freshman Brett Rypien threw for 3000 yards with 17 touchdowns in only nine games as a starter, filling in admirably for sophomore Ryan Finley. The bigger punch to this offense however is sophomore tailback Jeremy McNichols who racked up over 1600 total yards with 23 touchdowns as he carried the Broncos offense. The explosive runner had 120 yards or more in his final five games and will look to continue that streak Wednesday.
The NIU defense will look to continue their bend don’t break defensive mentality headed by FBS takeaway leader Shawun Lurry. The unit will look to force the freshman QB into mistakes and play the type of defense that nearly led to an early season upset of Ohio State.
Georgia Southern vs. Bowling Green
ESPN, 7:00 p.m. EST
Wednesdays night showdown in Mobile is looking to exceed the excitement that last years GoDaddy Bowl brought, which saw over 100 points and 1000 total yards between Toledo and Arkansas State. This year’s game certainly has the potential with two explosive offensives facing off in Wednesdays nights primetime slot.
Both teams have felt the downside of being a mid-major success in the weeks since the end of the season. Both Willie Fritz of Georgia Southern and Dino Barbers of Bowling Green have accepted jobs at bigger programs, with Fritz to Tulane and Barbers to Syracuse.
Coaching carousel aside, the triple option attack of Georgia Southern is looking to prove that they are one of the fastest rising programs in the FBS and capture their first every bowl victory. The team leads the nation in rushing yards per game (375.6) while their quarterbacks only have a combined 129 pass attempts. The three-headed monster running the option will guide the Eagles offense, lead by Matt Breida who is averaging an absurd 8.2 yards per carry on 188 touches with 16 touchdowns.
MAC champion Bowling Green will also look to continue their offensive tirade against the stingy Eagles defense. Behind quarterback Matt Johnson’s incredible season in which he threw for 4700 yards and 43 touchdowns, the Falcons posted a top five offense in both passing yards and scoring. While the departure of Art Briles disciple Dino Barbers will hurt, Johnson and the rest of the offense should continue to post video game numbers in Mobile.
Western Michigan vs. Middle Tennessee
ESPN, 12:00 p.m. EST
Christmas Eve football in the Bahamas! Arguably the best bowl game from last season, the Blue Raiders and Broncos will look to provide some fireworks for the only international bowl game on the slate.
Sound the alarm; Corey Davis is playing on national TV. The junior receiver is a DLF favorite, coming in as the 11th overall player and 5th receiver on our staff rankings. He has posted back-to-back seasons with at least 75 receptions and 1200 yards with 26 combined touchdowns. The receiver should gain traction should he declare for the draft as many will be watching him for the first time and we could be seeing a possible first round pick. Davis will lead a very capable Broncos offense that has scored 40 or more points five times this season.
The Blue Raiders, who had a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule, which included losses at Alabama, Illinois and Vanderbilt, rebounded well and are riding a four game winning streak into the Bahamas. A strong passing attack headlined by quarterback Brent Stocksill and receiver Richie James (100 receptions, 1220 yards) will look to put up points in a flurry.
San Diego State vs. Cincinnati
ESPN, 8:00 p.m. EST
This years Hawaii Bowl features a matchup of Mountain West champions San Diego State and the mediocre Cincinnati Bearcats. Tommy Tuberville’s time at Cincinnati seems to be coming to an end as he has failed to win a bowl game as head coach and is rumored to be seeking retirement. Add in the fact that the Aztecs of San Diego State have been playing incredible football since they began the season 1-3 and we have what looks to be a one-sided bowl game.
Bearcats QB and potential draft prospect Gunner Kiel will be missing the bowl game to attend to a family matter so true freshman Hayden Moore will step in behind center. Cincinnati, who is averaging 36 points per game, should have no problems scoring but their defense is a turnstile that the Aztecs should capitalize on. The Bearcats gave up 65 points to South Florida and 53 to Paxton Lynch and Memphis.
San Diego State on the other hand, has a great run defense and is one of the best teams in the country at forcing takeaways. Donnell Pumphrey who has posted 1464 yards with 18 total touchdowns leads their offense and they go where he goes. This game will come down to the ability of Cincinnati to stop the run and of the true freshman Moore to command the offense.
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