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Rose Bowl Recap: TCU Gains Validation, Defeats Wisconsin 21-19

(Sports Network) - Andy Dalton finished 15-of-23 for 219 yards and one touchdown as No. 3 TCU needed a late defensive stop to emerge with a 21-19 win over No. 4 Wisconsin at the Rose Bowl.

Dalton also added 28 yards and a score on nine rushes for the Horned Frogs (13-0), who once again made their case to be worthy of consideration for a BCS championship with their 27th win in their last 28 games.

"I think we played very hard. We knew coming into this ballgame that we were going to have to play more than just basic defense and there were times they pushed us around," said TCU head coach Gary Patterson. "But we found ways to make plays, and we were going to have to play them (coming) from behind."

Bart Johnson had a 23-yard TD reception and Luke Shivers' one-yard touchdown run proved to be the difference for TCU, which posted its first undefeated campaign since going 11-0 in 1938.

Scott Tolzien was 12-of-21 for 159 yards for the Badgers (11-2), who shared the Big Ten title with Ohio State and Michigan State but ended the year by having their seven-game win streak snapped.

Montee Ball ran for 132 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries and John Clay added 76 yards and a score on 11 totes for Wisconsin, which finished with double-digit wins for the fourth time in six seasons.

The Badgers finally got untracked as time ticked away in the fourth quarter. Taking over at their own 23 with 7:32 remaining and down by eight, Clay rushed for 14 yards on first down, then moved 30 yards to the TCU 33 on the next play. Lance Kendricks later picked up a first down on 3rd-and-6 to the 19-yard line with a 10-yard catch, and Clay forged a 1st-and-goal with a two-yard run on 3rd-and-1.

Two plays later, Ball scored from the four and it was 21-19 with two minutes remaining, but Tolzien's conversion pass was knocked down near the line of scrimmage by Tank Carder.

"That two-point play is something that's worked on," said Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema. "We had the chance to study TCU for the last three weeks and had a chance to get it in there, but we were defended by a nice read on the quarterback's eyes."

The ensuing onside kick was recovered just past the 40-yard line by TCU, which picked up a key first down with just over a minute remaining on a Waymon James five-yard rush to lock up the victory.

Ball's 40-yard run to start the game put the Badgers in TCU territory, but the drive stalled in the red zone and Philip Welch's 30-yard field goal made it 3-0 almost 4 1/2 minutes in.

Dalton hit Johnson for a 23-yard score on TCU's opening drive and the visitors led 7-3, but Wisconsin answered. A 28-yard hookup from Tolzien to Bradie Ewing put the ball on the one, and Clay took it in on the next play for a 10-7 game.

On the ensuing drive, Dalton called his own number on 3rd-and-2, running in from the four and the Horned Frogs led 14-10 after one quarter.

"You always want to start the game fast," Dalton admitted. "We only got the ball three times in the first half, we scored twice, went three-and-out then watched it the rest of the time. We knew that Wisconsin has a great offense and they can run the clock."

Welch missed a 39-yard field goal at the end of Wisconsin's first possession of the second quarter, but after the Badgers held the Frogs, Welch connected from 37 yards out and Wisconsin shaved its deficit to 14-13 on the final play of the half.

The Horned Frogs moved 71 yards in six plays to start the second half, and took a 21-13 advantage on a one-yard plunge from Shivers. For the remainder of the third quarter, TCU backed Wisconsin into unfavorable field position when unable to extend its lead.

Game Notes

This was the first meeting between the schools since their only matchup back in September, 1970 -- a 14-14 tie...For Wisconsin, this was its fourth trip to Pasadena since 1994 but it fell to 11-11 all-time in bowl games after losing its third in four tries...For TCU, it improved to 12-14-1 in postseason contests having won for the fifth time in its last six bowl appearances...Kendricks ended with four catches for 36 yards...Jeremy Kerley led the Frogs' receiving corps thanks to 58 yards on six receptions...The Big Ten has now lost seven of eight in Pasadena since Wisconsin won the 2000 contest over Stanford.

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Gator Bowl: Wolverines Humiliated By Mississippi State, 52-14

(Sports Network) - Chris Relf connected on 18-of-23 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns and added another on the ground as 21st- ranked Mississippi State thoroughly dismantled Michigan, 52-14, in the Gator Bowl.

Relf added 39 yards rushing while Vick Ballard carried 19 times for 74 yards and three scores for the Bulldogs (9-4), who set a Gator Bowl record for points in closing out their season by winning eight of their last 10 games.

"I told Chris during the warmups I thought he was going to play his best game of the season," Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said about Relf, the game's MVP. "I thought he did a great job of managing the game."

Denard Robinson threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns on 27-of-41 efficiency and carried 11 times for 59 yards for the Wolverines (7-6), who lost their final three games of the campaign.

Robinson finished the season with 1,702 yards on the ground to set the NCAA single-season rushing record for quarterbacks. He also accounted for a school- record 4,272 yards of total offense.

Roy Roundtree made nine receptions for 53 yards and a score for Michigan, which fell to 19-21 all-time in bowl games.

"All in all, we didn't play as well as we could play and they played extremely well," embattled Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. "They made plays and we didn't. They tackled better than us, they caught better than us and they ran better than us."

Things started well for the Wolverines, as Robinson threw a 10-yard touchdown to Roundtree to finish off the game's first possession in which they moved 78 yards in 10 plays.

The Bulldogs responded on their first touch, covering 79 yards in 11 plays to even the score on a four-yard scoring toss from Relf to Arceto Clark, who made the catch and stretched out to cross the plane of the goal line with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

Michigan was forced to punt on the next series and Marvin Bure partially blocked the kick, setting up the Bulldogs at the plus-29.

However, the Mississippi State offense could not pick up a first down bringing on Derek DePasquale to boot a 42-yard field goal to make it a 10-7 game with 2:23 remaining in the quarter.

Michigan needed only five plays on the next possession to move back in front. Robinson completed four passes on the quick drive, the last going to Martavious Odoms for a 27-yard touchdown to give the Wolverines a 14-10 lead with 34 ticks left in the period.

The 24 first quarter points were a Gator Bowl record, besting the 22 put up by Florida State and West Virginia in the 2005 game.

From there, things completely fell apart for the Wolverines as the Bulldogs reeled off 42 unanswered points to win their first appearance in a New Year's Day bowl game since the 1999 Cotton Bowl.

Ballard finished off a 10-play, 77-yard march by banging his way in from two yards out to put Mississippi State back in the lead for good with 11:38 left before the break.

Johnthan Banks intercepted Robinson on the ensuing possession giving the Mississippi Sate offense starting position at the Wolverines 43.

Ballard ran for five yards on 4th-and-2 to keep the drive going before Relf finished it with a one-yard scoring scamper over the right side to push the lead to 24-14 with 6 1/2 minutes left before the intermission.

Relf then connected with Ricco Sanders from 15 yards away with 25 seconds left in the half to make it 31-14 and establish a Gator Bowl with 45 first-half points.

Following a rare defensive stop, Brendan Gibbons missed a 35-yard field goal try on Michigan's first second half possession.

"When we got behind, we probably pressed a little bit and didn't concentrate as much," Rodriguez added. "We obviously didn't tackle well and couldn't get our defense off the field. And when we had the chance to develop some momentum offensively, particularly in the red zone when you can't kick field goals, it hampers you a little bit."

Mississippi took advantage of the miss and once again, methodically moved down the field to add to its lead. Ballard crossed the goal line from a yard out to cap off a 14-play, 80-yard march that ate up 5 1/2 minutes.

The Wolverines marched right down the field on 13 plays on the next series only to come up empty when Robinson's pass on fourth-and-goal intended for Junior Hemingway was knocked away by Banks on the right side of the end zone.

Whatever comeback hopes Michigan had where then permanently dashed on the very next play, Relf and LaDarius Perkins hooked up for an 81-yard catch and run that moved the ball to the Michigan seven from where Ballard found paydirt on the next play to make it 45-17 with 10 ticks left in the period.

Relf's final touchdown came on a 4th-and-10 pass to Michael Carr, who shed a tackle inside the 15 and raced into the end zone with 10 1/2 minutes to play.

"The nation saw us play and win on January 1 against a great program in Michigan," Mulled added. "This is the foundation of big wins to come."

Game Notes

Mississippi State is 7-7 all-time in bowl games...The 52 points scored by the Bulldogs was also a school record for a bowl game...Mississippi State was the SEC first team to play in the Gator Bowl since 1994...It was the Bulldogs first game against a Big Ten opponent since a 1980 meeting with Illinois...Chris Smith led Mississippi State with four catches, totaling 46 yards...Carr made three grabs for 65 yards and Perkins added a pair of catches for 79 yards...Perkins also carried nine times for 39 yards...The Bulldogs produced 485 yards of total offense, the second-highest total in a bowl game behind the 499 yards gained against North Carolina in the 1974 Sun Bowl...Robinson's 1,702 rushing yards was the fourth-highest single-season total in school history...Michigan lost all six games it trailed at the half this season...The Wolverines are 7-4 versus the SEC in bowl games...Michigan is 1-2 in the Gator Bowl, having lost to North Carolina in 1979 and defeated Ole Miss 12 years later...Darryl Stonum caught seven balls for 59 yards while Hemingway made four grabs for 50 yards in defeat. Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez is 3-4 in bowl games, including a 1-3 mark in the Gator Bowl...Odoms played for the first time since breaking his foot against Michigan State on October 9...He returned seven kickoffs for 163 yards.

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Capital One Bowl Recap: Crimson Tide Rolls Over Sparty, 49-7

(Sports Network) - Michigan native Mark Ingram erupted for two first-half touchdown runs as No. 15 Alabama rolled over seventh-ranked Michigan State, 49-7, in the Capital One Bowl.

Ingram -- whose father Mark Ingram Sr. played at Michigan State -- didn't play most of the second half after suffering a high ankle sprain but it wasn't before he picked up 59 yards on 12 carries and had one catch for 30 yards.

Greg McElroy completed an efficient 13-of-17 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown for the Crimson Tide (10-3), who redeemed themselves from a somewhat disappointing year that included a regular season finale loss to SEC rival Auburn.

"I'm proud of the way the players played," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "We're not satisfied with where we ended up, you know. We compete to win the SEC championship. First of all, we wanted to win our division and we didn't. We didn't get the opportunity to play in the SEC championship game and that's our goal, so that's what we want to accomplish."

Marquis Maze led all receivers with four grabs for 77 yards and a touchdown, while Julio Jones hauled in three passes for 49 yards and rushed for a score. Eddie Lacy finished with 86 yards and two touchdowns on only five carries, while Trent Richardson also had 42 yards rushing and a TD.

Kirk Cousins threw for 120 yards on 10-of-18 passes but was intercepted once for the Spartans (11-2), who finished the season in a three-way tie for the Big Ten title, but were denied a BCS Bowl bid by losing a tiebreaker with Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Cousins hurt his ribs in the third quarter and did not return while the Spartans cycled through three different quarterbacks. Bennie Fowler scored the lone touchdown for the Spartans on a pass from third-string quarterback Keith Nichol. The MSU offense ended with a dismal minus-48 yards rushing.

"I would say our quarterbacks got hit between 15 and 20 times easily today," said Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio. "If that's happening, it takes effect on you after a while. You can see they knocked both quarterbacks out. We need to do establish a running game to take the heat off of that. You know, they won up front. That's the difference. That's the difference. You know, you have to win up front if you're going to play football."

The Crimson Tide offense was unstoppable in their first five drives, which all resulted in touchdowns.

Alabama ate up the first 6:40 of the game with a 13-play, 79-yard drive capped off by Ingram's one-yard plunge into the end zone. The drive was highlighted by Maze's 19-yard grab to move Alabama to MSU's 27-yard line.

During the Spartan's opening touch, Cousins was picked off by Robert Lester at the Alabama 16 and he returned it 22 yards to start the Tide's second scoring march. Richardson scurried eight yards up the right side on the second play of the second quarter to finish the drive for a 14-0 edge.

On the next play from scrimmage, Cousins completed a pass in the flat to Brian Linthicum, who appeared to fumble the ball before Lester returned it for a touchdown. However, the play was reviewed and then ruled as an incompletion.

The Spartans took the momentum from the reversed call and marched to the Tide three before the drive came to an end. Courtney Upshaw came unblocked and hit Cousins from his blind side during a 3rd-and-goal play. The ball popped out of the QB's hands and was kicked around all the way back to the 38 where John Stipek recovered for the Spartans. MSU was forced to punt on the next play.

"Very, very quickly, it didn't go very well for us today," Dantonio said. "We needed to start out hot and take advantage of our opportunities that we had. We had two turnovers. That hurts us."

The Tide responded with a healthy dose of Ingram, who rushed three times for 26 yards during their ensuing drive. He also caught on ball and broke several tackles for a 30-yard gain to set up his six-yard TD run up the middle with 6:46 left before the intermission.

It was a perfect four-for-four for the Alabama offense when Jones took an end- around play 35-yards down the left sideline during the third play of the next drive for a commanding 28-0 lead just under two minutes later. The score stayed that way into halftime.

Alabama kept rolling by scoring on its first drive of the second half when McElroy hit a wide open Maze on a 37-yard seam pass to make it 35-0.

The Tide's first punt came with 7:33 left in the third quarter. Cousins left the game on the ensuing possession after getting sacked by Alex Watkins.

The drive ended with a MSU punt and Alabama answered with another touchdown with a 1:09 remaining in the third when Lacy rushed the ball up the middle from 12 yards out.

He added another score six minutes into the fourth on a career-long 62-yard jaunt.

The Spartans finally got on the board with 5:45 left when Nichol completed a short pass to Fowler, who broke free for a 49-yard touchdown.

Game Notes

Alabama has played in more bowl games (59) and earned more bowl wins (32) than any school in college football history...The Crimson Tide, who have posted a 32-23-3 all-time bowl record, made their fourth consecutive bowl appearance under head coach Nick Saban and seventh straight overall...Alabama outgained the Spartans, 546-171...Michigan State won a school-record 11 games and shared its first Big Ten Championship since 1990...Nichol completed 2-of-5 passes for 56 yards...Edwin Baker rushed 12 yards for 14 yards to lead the Spartans on the ground...B.J. Cunningham did not play for MSU after he broke his foot during a December 18 practice...MSU's leading receiver Mark Dell was held to just two receptions for 27 yards.

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Outback Bowl Recap: Turnovers Doom Penn State Against Florida

(Sports Network) - Ahmad Black's interception return for a touchdown in the final minute sealed a back-and-forth Outback Bowl, as Urban Meyer ended his successful tenure at Florida with a 37-24 victory over Penn State.

Meyer previously announced he was stepping down as Florida's head coach due to family reasons, and he fittingly bookended his six-year reign with Outback Bowl wins, this one coming against the all-time bowl wins leader in Joe Paterno.

Meyer finished his tenure at Florida with a 65-15 record. He is handing over the reins to former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

"It feels great because Will Muschamp is getting a good group of young men and on a positive note," Meyer said. "Will Muschamp is getting a football team that's going to have some bright eyes and ready to get to work."

Jordan Reed and John Brantley split time under center for Florida (8-5), with Reed tossing for 61 yards and adding 68 more on the ground. Brantley completed 6-of-13 passes for 41 yards while Omarius Hines and Mike Gillislee each rushed for a score.

Matt McGloin threw for 211 yards with a touchdown and added another score on the ground for Penn State (7-6), but the sophomore quarterback was intercepted five times.

After punting in Florida territory with just over four minutes left in regulation, the Nittany Lions, trailing 30-24, earned the ball back at their own 21 with 3:04 to go.

Evan Royster's 23-yard romp moved the ball into enemy territory, and another seven-yard gain by Penn State's all-time leading rusher gained the Florida 25. The comeback stopped there, as Black undercut a poorly-thrown ball at the 20 and raced up the left sideline unabated for the clinching touchdown.

Brantley threw an interception on Florida's first play from scrimmage, and the Lions took the early lead when Derek Moye capped a 10-play, 61-yard march with a five-yard grab.

Trey Burton fumbled into the end zone following Black's first interception of the game, but the Gators recovered and tied the game off another McGloin turnover early in the second.

Following Cody Riggs' pick deep in PSU territory, Hines took an end around pitch 16 yards to paydirt 2:12 into the quarter.

Later in the frame, a big hit by Black caused Justin Brown to drop a third- down pass near midfield, proving pivotal because on the next play Solomon Patton came off the left end and blocked Alex Butterworth's punt. Lerentee McCray scooped up the loose ball and took it 27 yards for a 14-7 advantage.

"He was a little slow punting it," Paterno said. "The operation wasn't really that good."

Penn State answered quickly, thanks in part to Moye's impressive 44-yard catch that put the ball on the Florida one-yard line. From there, Michael Zordich bulled his way over the goal line, and Penn State tacked on a 20-yard Collin Wagner field goal for a 17-14 halftime lead.

Chas Henry booted a 30-yard field goal six minutes into the third quarter, and with the game still tied, 17-17, the Gators tried a fake punt that was stopped short of the first-down marker. Penn State took advantage of the short field and went ahead on McGloin's two-yard run.

Henry nailed a 47-yard field goal to cut into the deficit, and following McGloin's third interception of the game, Florida again rolled the dice on fourth down.

This time the decision worked, as Reed found Burton for a three-yard gain on 4th-and-2 from the PSU 17-yard line. A borderline pass interference penalty on third down kept the drive alive, and Gillislee took it in from a yard out with 13:02 remaining in the game.

Henry pushed the margin to 30-24 with a 20-yard field goal midway through the fourth.

Game Notes

The game was the only bowl matchup this season featuring two head coaches who have won a national championship. Both have two titles to their credit...Florida was making its 20th consecutive bowl appearance...Paterno, who turned 84 two weeks ago, fell to 24-12-1 in bowl games at Penn State...Royster logged 98 yards on 20 carries and became the first player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards three times...Moye caught five passes for 79 yards...McGloin completed only 17-of-41 attempts...Reed was 8-of-13 through the air...Chris Rainey gained 66 yards on six carries for Florida, which won the previous two meetings between the programs, upending the Nittany Lions in the 1962 Gator Bowl and the 1998 Florida Citrus Bowl.

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Ticketcity Bowl Recap: Late Rally By Northwestern Not Enough

(Sports Network) - Taylor Potts threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns, leading Texas Tech to a 45-38 victory over Northwestern in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl at the Cotton Bowl.

Potts also ran for a touchdown for the Red Raiders (8-5), who have won seven of their last nine bowl games. Eric Stephens ran 14 times for 126 yards and a touchdown, and Lyle Leong caught 10 passes for 118 yards and a pair of TDs in the victory.

"I had pretty good protection today, and I will be the first to say that," Potts said. "Playing behind those five guys all season was surly a privilege. They got so much better from the time we played SMU when I got hit eight or nine times, and I thought it was going to be a long season, to playing in the bowl game now where I didn't get touched one time. So, that was really nice. All season having the protection they put up and them giving me the time to throw to the receivers we have."

Texas Tech held a 22-point lead early in the third and had it whittled down to seven following a fierce Northwestern rally. The Wildcats had a final chance to tie the game, but the Red Raiders' defense recorded an interception on a final Hail Mary play.

Kain Colter ran for 105 yards and two scores for the Wildcats (7-6), who are still in search of their first bowl win since 1949. Since its victory in the 1949 Rose Bowl, Northwestern has lost each of its next eight bowl appearances.

"Throughout the week our coaches had a great game plan to show Texas Tech some different looks and I thought we did a great job at that," Colter said. "We kept them a little off guard. They gave me the opportunity to play some quarterback, running back and wide receiver so I enjoyed that and making some plays."

The Wildcats opened the second half with an 18-yard field goal from Stefan Demos, but Stephens ran 86 yards to the end zone on the next play from scrimmage to put the Red Raiders' lead at a seemingly comfortable 31-9.

Northwestern, which scored 14 points in the final 3:20 of last year's Outback Bowl to push Auburn to overtime before faltering on a trick play, nearly pulled off another comeback.

Colter trimmed the Wildcats' deficit to 14 by recovering his own fumble in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown run, finishing an 11-play drive. His two- point conversion pass to Josh Rooks succeeded.

Potts responded with a six-yard TD pass to Tramain Swindall to restore a 21- point cushion for Texas Tech, which unsuccessfully tried an onside kick with 2 1/2 minutes left in the third. The failure proved costly, as Evan Watkins eventually rushed into the end zone from four yards away for a 38-24 contest heading to the fourth.

The Wildcats' first drive of the fourth ended with Watkins' 18-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields with 10:33 to play, though Potts was able to answer again for the Red Raiders.

Potts directed a 10-play, 69-yard series that ended in Leong's 11-yard touchdown reception with 7:13 remaining, putting the heat back on Northwestern.

Things looked bleak for the Wildcats after they punted, but Jordan Mabin came up with a huge interception of Potts and returned it 39 yards to the end zone to once again cut the gap to seven, 45-38, with 5:37 to play.

Texas Tech went to the ground to try to run out the clock, and it succeeded for the most part. Stephens converted a pair of third downs during a stretch of seven consecutive runs, and Northwestern didn't regain possession until 24 seconds remained.

Watkins attempted a desperation heave from his own 42 in the final moments, and it was easily intercepted by LaRon Moore.

The Red Raiders were the only team to score in the first quarter on Matt Williams' 24-yard field goal and Potts' 13-yard touchdown pass to Austin Zouzalik.

Northwestern cut its deficit to four with 6:47 until halftime on a Colter one- yard rushing score, though Potts answered with a 13-yard run to the end zone for a 17-6 contest.

Potts' six-yard TD pass to Leong with only 11 seconds remaining on the clock made it 24-6 at halftime.

Game Notes

Potts completed a season-high 43 passes...The Wildcats began their season 5-0 before losing six of eight to end the campaign...Texas Tech is 12-21-1 in bowl games...Watkins was the leading passer for Northwestern with 76 yards on 10- of-21 throws.

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Rose Bowl Prediction: Can Bucky Beat The Upstart?

This is probably going to be the best bowl game of the year, save for the national championship game, as the TCU Horned Frogs and the Wisconsin Badgers lock horns in the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

The Wisconsin offense isn't one of those offenses that relies on speed and shiftiness and trickery to get the job done. . .they'd much rather line up behind the country's best offensive line (led by Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi), and slam it down your throats for four quarters. With their talented trio of running backs in Montee Ball, John Clay, and James White, they usually have little difficulty doing just that, and it showed with the Badgers putting up 201 points in their final three games of the 2010 season. The Badgers also have a smart, efficient quarterback in Scott Tolzien, and three capable receivers in Isaac Anderson, David Gilreath, and Nick Toon. Their game plan will be to get their running game on track early, and use that to set up the play-action passing game.

They're going to face an incredibly stiff test, however, in the Texas Christian defense. Statistically, TCU's defense has been nothing short of amazing, ranking first in the nation in scoring defense, first in the nation in total defense, first in the nation in pass defense, and "only" third in the nation in rush defense. The Horned Frogs play a 4-2-5 defense, which means they pull one of their linebackers out on defense in favor of an extra defensive back, and against an offensive front as physical as Wisconsin's, they may have some issues because of that. Three of their four starting defensive linemen weight less than 270 points, and the maulers that the Badgers have up front should be able to impose their will on TCU. The match-up to keep an eye on when the Badgers have the ball will be Carimi against defensive end Wayne Daniels, who is a fierce pass rusher, but is probably going to see a lot of running plays in his direction tonight as he works against the Outland Trophy winner.

TCU's offense has matched Wisconsin's this year in terms of points, as both teams average 43.3 points per game. The TCU offense, led by senior Andy Dalton, relies on a lot of short, quick-hitting passes, and defenses that do well against him tend to not blitz very much and flood the short zones in coverage. It would be shocking if the Badgers didn't do exactly the same thing. Forcing Dalton into throwing longer passes and having to forsake the underneath stuff would help the Badgers to victory in this one. TCU runs the ball very well, too, as they possess a pair of talented sophomore running backs in Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker. They are a real "thunder and lightning" attack, with Wesley averaging well over six yards a carry thanks to his speed, and Tucker being the bruising, between the tackles complement to Wesley.

They're going to have a tough time against a Wisconsin defense that plays with a lot of discipline. Defensive ends J.J. Watt and Louis Nzegwu are very disciplined, linebackers Blake Sorensen and Mike Taylor are good at getting off of blocks and stringing things out, and the Badger secondary is very good in run support as well. As already stated, look for very little blitzing from Wisconsin, as they try to take away the short passing game from Dalton and company.

The one aspect of this game that things may turn on is the special teams play, particularly the Horned Frogs' return game. The Badgers rank 106th (out of 120 FBS schools) in defending kickoff returns and 103rd in defending punt returns. TCU possesses one of the most explosive return men in college football in wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, and that explosiveness could rip the scales just enough in TCU's favor.

This one should be an outstanding match-up of two of the nation's elite programs. TCU carries the weight of all of the non-automatic qualifying schools on their shoulders, while Wisconsin wants to prove that they truly are one of the nation's best. The Horned Frogs' special teams will help them quite a bit in this one, but in the end. . .man, it's hard to go against that huge Wisconsin offensive line against that dynamic, but undersized, TCU defense.

SB Nation Minnesota prediction: Wisconsin 27, TCU 24

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Badgers Set To Take On Horned Frogs In 97th Rose Bowl

The Sports Network

By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: Two of the top four teams in the nation will square off in Pasadena on New Year’s Day, as the TCU Horned Frogs meet the Wisconsin Badgers in the 97th Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin, which logged an impressive 11-1 mark during the regular season and shared the Big Ten Conference title with Ohio State and Michigan State after posting a school-record-tying 7-1 league ledger, is making its seventh appearance in the Rose Bowl and fourth since 1994. The Badgers are 3-3 in their six previous Rose Bowl appearances, and have won their last three games in Pasadena.

Wisconsin, which is 10-11 all-time in its bowl history, is appearing in its ninth straight bowl game, including all five during head coach Bret Bielema’s tenure.

TCU has been a thorn in the side of the BCS for the past few years, as the Horned Frogs, under coach Gary Patterson, have run roughshod through the rest of the Mountain West Conference and challenged the big boys for inclusion in the exclusive post-season club. In fact, TCU has won two straight MWC titles after recently completing its second consecutive 12-0 regular season, and it is the first team from a non-automatic BCS qualifying conference to play in back-to-back BCS bowl games.

TCU, which has won 26 of its last 27 games overall, is 11-13-1 all-time in bowl games, which includes a 7-4 mark under Patterson. The Frogs own a 15-3 record in their last 18 games against teams from a BCS conference.

The series between these two teams boasts just one previous meeting, that coming in 1970 and ending in a 14-14 tie in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin averaged 45.2 ppg in conference action this year, setting a new school record and serving as the second-best mark in Big Ten history. The Badgers are one of just five teams in the country to rank among the top 25 in both total offense and total defense. The others being Boise State, TCU, Stanford and Ohio State. The combined records of those five teams this year is an astounding 56-4.

Wisconsin uses the run about as well as any team in the nation, and the Badgers are the only FBS team to have three RBs who have gained at least 800 yards on the ground this season. James White (1,029 yards, 14 TDs), John Clay (936 yards, 13 TDs) and Montee Ball (864 yards, 17 TDs) help UW average 6.12 ypc and 247.3 ypg on the ground. All total, the UW offense has amassed 46 rushing scores this year.

Scott Tolzien has enjoyed a solid campaign under center for the Badgers as he thrown for 2,300 yards with 16 TDs and only six INTs. His .743 completion percentage ranks among the national leaders, and his favorite targets are clearly Lance Kendricks (39 receptions, 627 yards, five TDs) and Nick Toon (33 receptions, 413 yards, three TDs).

Protecting the football has been key for the Badgers, who turned it over just nine times on the year which is tied with fellow Big Ten member Iowa for the fewest in the nation. Also helping the overall cause is the fact that UW is the least penalized team in the country (2.9 per game).

Ball was asked recently about facing the best defense in the country, “We love it. It drives us every day. This is why you play football. It is going to be a great game.”

He continued by giving an assessment of what makes the TCU defense so good, “Speed. Hands down, speed. They have two great defensive ends that shoot up the field really well and their linebackers find the ball really well.”

The Badgers have performed admirably on defense themselves this season, giving up 20.3 ppg behind average yardage outputs of 131.7 ypg rushing and 191.8 ypg passing. They have surrendered 19 passing scores, but just seven on the ground, and they have been particularly strong at the start of games, yielding a mere 3.3 points on average over the opening 15 minutes.

The Wisconsin defense doesn’t feature one or two star players, but rather a collection of skilled guys who play together as a team. Blake Sorensen heads the unit with 60 tackles, and five others have at least 51 stops. J.J. Watt has team-highs in TFLs (21) and sacks (seven), while Antonio Fenelus has four of the Badgers’ 14 INTs.

Like their counterpart, the Horned Frogs have a potent offense which averages 43.3 ppg on 491.5 total ypg. The TCU ground attack is as punishing as the Badgers, or anyone else’s for that matter, churning out 261.2 ypg and accounting for a whopping 39 TDs. Ed Wesley has rushed for 1,065 yards and 11 TDs this season, picking up 6.6 ypc for a team that averages 5.5 ypc. Wesley is joined by three others who have at least 400 rushing yards, including QB Andy Dalton (407 yards, five TDs).

Speaking of Dalton, this is not a run-only offense as the talented signal- caller has thrown for 2,638 yards and 26 TDs, while only being picked off six times this year. A strong believer in spreading the wealth, six different players have double-digit catches, led by Jeremy Kerley with 50 grabs for 517 yards and 10 TDs. Josh Boyce is the leader in terms of receiving yards with 602, and he averages better than 18 ypr and has reached the end zone six times.

With the offense firing on all cylinders, one might think that the TCU defense could do just enough not to give the opposition free cracks at the end zone, but the exact opposite is true as the Horned Frogs are truly one of the elite defensive teams in the country. Holding seven opponents to single digits and allowing just 11.4 ppg in all, and only 215.4 total ypg, TCU is the best the FBS has to offer. Foes have scored just seven rushing TDs, and they average a mere 4.0 yards per offensive play. The Frogs give in on only 22 percent of third-down conversion attempts, and they have allowed the opposition a grand total of 16 trips to the red zone in 12 games.

Tanner Brock has been a man possessed for the TCU defense, logging 97 tackles, with a pair of sacks, two fumble recoveries and an INT, while Colin Jones and Wayne Daniels have combined for 22.5 of the team’s 68 TFLs. Tejay Johnson has three picks, helping the team come up with 22 turnovers on the year.

TCU Defensive Coordinator Dick Bumpas was asked recently about the challenges his unit will face against a Wisconsin offense that batters the opposition into submission, “The things that they do schematically causes you a lot of problems, so it’ll be a very interesting afternoon.”

This has all the makings of an absolute classic as both teams boast powerful offenses and strong, playmaking defenses. Expect to see plenty of action in all phases of the game, and for the Badgers to rely on the lessons they learned by playing a physical Big Ten schedule to serve them well as they pull out a narrow victory.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 27, TCU 24

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Gator Bowl Prediction: Can Michigan's Defense Step Up?

Another clash of styles will take place in the Gator Bowl this afternoon, as the powerful rushing attack of Mississippi State will take on one of the nation's most exciting players, Denard Robinson, and the Michigan Wolverines.

Robinson should finally be healthy again. . .he's struggled with injuries this season, but the layoff from the end of the regular season to now should do wonders for him. (And he can ill afford to get hurt in this one, as backup quarterback Tate Forcier has been ruled academically ineligible for today's contest.) The Bulldogs will certainly have their hands full with Robinson's combination of speed and quickness, but they do have a very solid front seven that they hope can minimize the damage that Robinson does with his feet.

The problem for Michigan lies with their defense. . .which, to be charitable, hasn't been very good this season. Mississippi State has one of the most productive rushing attacks in the country with the tandem of Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins supplementing quarterback Chris Reif in the backfield. Both Ballard and Perkins have speed and power, and could give Michigan's undersized defense some serious fits. When Mississippi State is forced to throw, it remains to be seen if the Wolverines' inconsistent pass rushers can generate any pressure against a very solid Mississippi State offensive line.

If Michigan wants to have any chance in this one, they're going to have to get the sort of defensive performance that they've rarely seen this season. Look for Mississippi State to control the football and keep Robinson and company off of the field. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen just got a fat contract extension from the Bulldogs, and he'll get a chance to celebrate this afternoon.

SB Nation Minnesota prediction: Mississippi State 34, Michigan 24

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Wolverines Clash With Mississippi State In Gator Bowl

The Sports Network

By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: An intriguing Gator Bowl matchup pits the Mississippi State Bulldogs of the SEC against the Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten Conference.

"This is a great reward for our players and coaches that worked so hard all year," said Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen upon learning of the invite. "We earned this trip with the way we fought throughout the season and we're grateful to the Gator Bowl Association and the City of Jacksonville for this opportunity to play in a historic New Year's Day Bowl."

The Bulldogs will be making their first appearance in a New Year's Day bowl since the 1999 Cotton Bowl. Furthermore, Mississippi State's Gator Bowl berth is the first for a Southeastern Conference member since 1994, and will mark the first time in MSU history the Bulldogs will play a Big Ten foe in a postseason game. State has only played three BigTen opponents in school history, with the last contest coming against Illinois in 1980.

Mullen's team enters this New Year's Day showdown with an 8-4 record, including a 31-23 triumph over Ole Miss in the finale that halted a two-game losing skid. The fact that the Bulldogs lost to still-undefeated Auburn by just three points suggests that MSU is capable of hanging with the elite teams in the nation when it plays up to its potential.

As for Michigan, it is set to make its 40th all-time bowl appearance, and the program hopes to even its postseason record at 20-20 with a win. This will be the third time that Michigan has played in the Gator Bowl, and the team has split its previous two Gator Bowl decisions.

Now in his third season as the head coach of the Wolverines, Rich Rodriguez has seen some major improvement in 2010. The club is 7-5 overall despite a 3-5 mark in Big Ten Conference action, and fans finally have reason to smile after Rodriguez's 2008 and 2009 squads combined to go 8-16, including 3-13 in league play.

"Mississippi State is a great team and has been consistently ranked among the top 25 this season," said coach Rodriguez. "Dan Mullen and his staff have done an outstanding job. It should be a great matchup and we look forward to playing them on New Year's Day."

This showdown marks the first-ever meeting between Mississippi State and Michigan on the gridiron.

Mississippi State is a solid offensive football team, as the club is averaging 27.1 ppg and 394.3 total ypg. The Bulldogs have scored 39 offensive touchdowns, 24 of which have been of the rushing variety, and 215.8 ypg are gained on the ground. Vick Ballard has made the most of his 166 rushing attempts, as he has gained 892 yards to go along with 16 rushing scores.

Chris Relf, MSU's quarterback, has run for 683 yards and four touchdowns. As a passer, Relf has connected on 56.3 percent of his tosses for 1,508 yards with 10 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Chad Bumphis is the top receiver on the roster, as he has 44 catches for 634 yards and five touchdowns.

With 26 takeaways and 26 sacks, Mississippi State has certainly made its fair share of big plays this season on the defensive side of the ball. The Bulldogs have been tough against the run, permitting a mere 121.7 ypg at a clip of 3.6 yards per carry. Against the pass, the Bulldogs have struggled a bit, yielding 236.4 ypg on 12.3 yards per completion.

Opposing quarterbacks have tossed 17 touchdowns against MSU, so expect Michigan to put the ball in the air early and often. Chris White is the top defensive performer for the Bulldogs, as he has posted 105 tackles, 15.5 of which have resulted in lost yardage.

White and company will certainly have their hands full with Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, the 2010 Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Year. A true dual threat, Robinson has rushed for 1,643 yards and 14 touchdowns at 6.7 yards per carry, and he has thrown for 2,316 yards and 16 scores. In large part because of their versatile signal-caller, the Wolverines are racking up 34.3 ppg and 500.9 total ypg.

Robinson's top target is Roy Roundtree, who has posted 882 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 63 receptions. As for the ground attack, Robinson does get some help from the likes of Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw. Smith has run for 588 yards and five touchdowns, while Shaw has nine rushing scores to his credit on only 71 totes.

Opponents are notching 33.8 ppg against Michigan, which is yielding 447.9 total ypg. Fans of the team consider this Wolverines' defensive unit one of the worst in recent memory, and it is hard to argue that claim given the numbers. There have been 48 touchdowns surrendered to opposing offenses through 12 games, and 30 of those scores have been of the rushing variety. Michigan is permitting 4.7 yards per rushing attempt to go along with 12.9 yards per pass completion.

With just 17 sacks and 18 takeaways, Michigan hasn't made nearly enough impact plays. Jordan Kovacs leads the Wolverines with 112 total tackles, including 8.5 TFLs, and Jonas Mouton also has 8.5 TFLs while registering one fewer total tackle than Kovacs to date. James Rogers paces the squad with three interceptions.

Robinson is one of the most exciting players in college football and will play well against the Bulldogs. Still, the edge goes to Mississippi State, which is clearly a better defensive football team than Michigan.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Mississippi State 27, Michigan 24

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Capital One Bowl Prediction: Crimson Tide To Overpower Michigan State

For the first time in both of their histories, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan State Spartans will meet on the football field. These two teams have a home-and-home scheduled for 2016 and 2017, but for now this is a historical match-up between these two teams.

The Crimson Tide come in ranked lower than the Spartans, but make no mistake. . .the Crimson Tide are still one of the best teams in America, and they are still the defending national champions (at least for the next week or so). They have an outstanding pair of running backs in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and a very cerebral quarterback in Greg McElroy. The Michigan State defense, led by all-everything linebacker Greg Jones, has been known to overpursue on running plays and have missed their fair share of tackles. They're not going to be able to get away with that against an offense like Alabama's.

Michigan State's offense is led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has the tendency to press in order to make the big play. . .and, against a defense like Alabama's, there just aren't a lot of big plays to be had, so Cousins may be pressing a lot. Only two teams have intercepted more passes than Alabama has this season, and with defensive end Marcell Dareus chasing him around all day, Cousins will probably be making some ill-advised throws this afternoon for that ball-hawking Alabama secondary to pounce on. Michigan State has a trio of talented running back, too, in Edwin Baker, Le'Von Bell, and Larry Caper, but the Crimson Tide's rush defense is among the best in the FBS.

Alabama came into this game expecting big things from themselves, and a possible chance to repeat as national champions. Their last game saw them blow a huge lead to their biggest rival, the Auburn Tigers, and they're probably still seething about it. Today, there's a good chance that they're going to take it out on Sparty.

SB Nation Minnesota prediction: Alabama 31, Michigan State 17

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Sparty Takes On Crimson Tide In Capital One Bowl

(From The Sports Network)

The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Michigan State Spartans will be spending New Year's Day in Orlando, Florida, as the teams will collide in the 2011 Capital One Bowl.

"It is going to be exciting for us to go to Orlando and play in a New Year's Day bowl game," said Alabama junior running back Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner and a Michigan native. "I grew up a Michigan State fan, so it will be very exciting for me and my family just to go out, play in the game and for them to watch it. But they (Michigan State) are the other team now."

Alabama has played in more bowl games (58) and earned more bowl wins (31) than any school in college football history. The Crimson Tide, which has posted a 31-23-3 all-time bowl record, is making its fourth consecutive bowl appearance under head coach Nick Saban and the seventh straight for the school. Saban is 2-1 in bowl games at Alabama, including a triumph over Texas in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game.

With many key contributors back from last season's title team, Alabama was again expected to challenge for the ultimate prize this year. The team clearly fell short of expectations, losing three games during the regular season. In the finale against rival Auburn, the Tide jumped out to a commanding lead, only to watch the Tigers dominate the second half and win by a 28-27 final.

"We're pleased with the progress that this team made," said Saban after the loss to Auburn. "We're not always pleased. Are we satisfied with the results that we got, especially in this game, which means so much to so many people? I'm responsible for the fact that we didn't finish the way we needed to."

As for Michigan State, which won a school-record 11 games in 2010 and a share of its first Big Ten Championship since 1990, it is making its fourth straight bowl appearance for the first time since 1987-90, matching the longest bowl streak in school history. Big Ten Coach of the Year Mark Dantonio becomes the first coach in MSU's annals to earn a postseason bowl bid in each of his first four seasons. After such a magical regular season, it seems a bit unfair that Michigan State was left out of the BCS picture, as the Spartans lost a tie- breaker to Wisconsin for the conference's automatic BCS bid and failed to receive an at-large nod.

"For four years, we talked about what it takes to become a champion, and now that the program has arrived at that point, we must try to take the next step," said Dantonio, who has chosen to focus on the positives. "At 11-1, we're not satisfied. Our focus is on winning our last football game - the bowl game. It's important for our seniors - the winningest four-year class in Spartan history - to add a bowl victory to their impressive list of accomplishments."

Michigan State is making its 21st postseason bowl appearance overall, including its third trip to the Capital One Bowl, formerly known as the Florida Citrus and Tangerine Bowls. The Spartans are 7-13 all-time in bowl games, including a 1-1 record in this bowl.

Surprisingly, Alabama and Michigan State have never met on the football field, and adding intrigue to this bowl showdown is the fact that Saban was the head coach at MSU from 1995-99.

Heading into this season, Alabama was expected to be one of the top running teams in the nation with Ingram back in the fold. Unfortunately, the star tailback missed some action early on and was limited at times due to injury, so his 816 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns are a far cry from last season's numbers. Fellow tailback Trent Richardson has posted 658 rushing yards and five scores for the Tide, who are generating 34.6 ppg and 435.6 total ypg.

During the run to the national title a year ago, Alabama's Greg McElroy was asked to do little more than manage the game. This season, the signal caller emerged as an accomplished passer. Through 12 games, he has connected on 70.6 percent of his tosses for 2,767 yards and 19 scores with only five interceptions. It certainly helps to have Julio Jones on the outside, as the star receiver has 75 catches for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns, outpacing his teammates by a landslide in all three categories.

Despite the three losses suffered this season, Alabama is still one of the top defensive teams in the nation. Foes are scoring just 14.1 ppg against the Crimson Tide, which is yielding a mere 296.0 total ypg. Running against Alabama is difficult, as the team has surrendered just six rushing touchdowns through 12 games. Also, the Tide is permitting only 3.6 yards per rushing attempt. As for the pass defense, the positive plays have greatly outweighed the negative, as Alabama has 21 interceptions to go along with 22 sacks.

There is some negative news to report for the Tide defense, however, as leading tackler Mark Barron will miss this bowl game because of a chest injury. He has registered 75 stops to go along with two sacks and three interceptions, production that will clearly be missed. Fortunately, Courtney Upshaw (11.5 TFLs) and Robert Lester (seven interceptions) are still in place.

There is no doubt that Michigan State has the firepower necessary to challenge that tough Alabama defense. The Spartans are generating 31.3 ppg and 406.7 total ypg thanks to tremendous balance, as they have run for 25 scores while notching 22 passing touchdowns.

Kirk Cousins is the starting quarterback of the Spartans and he has completed 67.5 percent of his attempts for 2,705 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. B.J. Cunningham is tops on the roster with 50 catches and nine touchdowns, but he broke his foot on December 18th during practice and will miss this bowl game.

"B.J. Cunningham is a great competitor and he's extremely disappointed to be out for the Capital One Bowl," Dantonio said. "Fortunately, wide receiver is a position of strength for this football team, so B.J.'s injury will provide opportunities for others to step forward and make plays for us offensively."

Mark Dell leads the Spartans with 761 receiving yards and he will have to pick up some of the slack in the absence of Cunningham. As for the MSU ground attack, Edwin Baker has rushed for 1,187 yards and 13 touchdowns, outstanding numbers that could earn the tailback All-Big Ten recognition.

The Michigan State defense isn't quite as strong as Alabama's unit, but Dantonio's group has certainly been good enough to help the team win 11 of 12 games. Opponents are scoring 20.1 ppg against the Spartans, who are allowing 337.8 total ypg. The team is yielding just 121.9 rushing ypg at a clip of only 3.6 yards per carry, but the pass defense hasn't been as strong. Still, it should be pointed out that the Spartans have come up with 17 interceptions and 24 total takeaways, a key to their success.

Expect this game to be one of the most physical of the bowl season. Give a narrow edge to Alabama, as it is hard to believe that a Nick Saban-led team can lose four games in a season with the amount of talent on the Tide roster.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 27, Michigan State 21

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Outback Bowl Prediction: Nittany Lions To Bump Off Florida

At the beginning of the season, many people would have assumed that if the Florida Gators and the Penn State Nittany Lions were going to meet in a bowl game, it would be a significantly bigger one than the Outback Bowl. However, both teams struggled to a 7-5 finish, and will meet today in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida.

This match-up is a classic battle of speed versus physicality, as the the Gators are the more athletic team on the field today, while the Nittany Lions are the more physical of the two. The Gators' offense has struggled to transition from the loss of Tim Tebow to a quarterback that's more of a mortal type, but they still have outstanding athletes on offense, particularly running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, who figure to get plenty of work, as Gators' quarterback John Brantley has been. . .well, he's been pretty awful for most of the year.

Matt McGloin has taken good care of the football for the Penn State offense this year, having only thrown four interceptions, but he's made some throws that he might not be able to get away with against a speedy defense like Florida's. Penn State's success today is going to rest at the very capable feet of running back Evan Royster. Royster is a powerful runner with good instincts, and he should be able to find a couple of creases in the Gator defense to work through.

This is going to be a pretty interesting game to watch, thanks to the contrast in styles, but I think that Joe Pa and the Nittany Lions have the potential to ruin Urban Meyer's second-annual "last game ever at Florida." They just need to be smart with the football. . .if they can do that, they'll come out on top in a close one.

SB Nation Minnesota prediction: Penn State 27, Florida 24

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Penn State Takes On Florida In Outback Bowl

The Sports Network

By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: Traditional national powers square off in the 25th Outback Bowl, as the Florida Gators take on the Penn State Nittany Lions from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

The Outback Bowl is the only 2010-11 bowl game featuring two head coaches who have won a national championship, with Penn State's Joe Paterno and Florida's Urban Meyer earning two national titles apiece.

While both teams have certainly had their share of memorable seasons, this hasn't been one of them as each comes into this clash sporting a 7-5 record. Both also went 4-4 in their respective conferences -- Florida in the SEC and Penn State in the Big Ten.

The Gators, who are playing their final game under Meyer's watchful eye, lost two of their final three games of the regular season, the lone win in that span coming against FCS foe Appalachian State. UF hasn't beaten a FBS opponent since whipping Vanderbilt (55-14) back on November 6th.

Florida is making its fourth appearance in the Outback Bowl, the last of which occurred in 2005 and resulted in a 31-24 victory over Iowa -- that being Meyer's first season. Overall, the Gators are 18-19 all-time in bowl games, but they have won six of their last seven. They are 4-1 in bowl games under Meyer, who will hand over the reins to former Texas Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp following this contest.

Penn State enters the contest having lost two of its final three games of the regular season, including a 28-22 decision at home to Michigan State on November 27th. Prior to that stretch, the Lions had reeled off three straight wins, two of which took place in Happy Valley.

The Nittany Lions are playing in their 37th bowl game under Paterno, who is the all-time leader in bowl wins (24) and appearances. Paterno's team is appearing in its 25th New Year's bowl game, having compiled a stellar 17-7 mark. Penn State is 3-0 in the Outback Bowl, beating Tennessee in the 2007 version in its last appearance.

Florida is 2-0 all-time against Penn State, with the first meeting coming in the 1962 Gator Bowl (17-7), and the last in the 1997 Citrus Bowl (21-6).

Gator fans knew the post-Tebow era wasn't going to be pretty, but the Florida offense wasn't terrible in 2010, averaging just shy of 30 ppg on average yardage outputs of 165.6 ypg rushing and 191.2 ypg passing. John Brantley did his best to fill the huge shoes of his legendary predecessor, completing 61.4 percent of his passes for 2,020 yards. Unfortunately, he threw only nine TDs against nine INTs. Deonte Thompson was the team's leading receiver with 36 grabs for 548 yards, but he only reached the end zone once.

The UF ground attack is led by Jeffery Demps with his 531 yards on 89 carries, although Trey Burton was the most efficient of the rushers, scoring 11 times on 73 attempts.

Florida's defensive effort is what kept the team in most of its games, as foes were permitted 21.1 ppg on 129.9 ypg on the ground and another 173.0 ypg through the air. The Gators did surrender 16 passing scores and a dozen more via the run, but foes scored TDs on just 53 percent of their trips to the red zone. Playing solidly to open most tilts, the UF defense gave up an average of only 3.4 ppg in the first quarter. That figure doubled in the second quarter.

Ahmad Black was Florida's most active defender during the regular season, logging an impressive 102 tackles, 68 of which were unassisted. He also finished with 10 TFLs, three INTs and a pair of fumble recoveries. Jelani Jenkins is next with 73 stops, while Janoris Jenkins also came up with three picks while 73 percent of his total tackles were solo efforts.

Meyer, while excited about leading his team one final time, has been a staunch supporter of what the University of Florida did in hiring Muschamp, "The guy we hired is fantastic. I think that eased a lot of the burden because the first priority is the players and the coaches. I've really enjoyed these last two weeks."

He continued, "If there's ever a good time [to resign] -- obviously I don't know that there ever is -- but this kind of worked out very well."

The Penn State offense has seen better days as well, but the unit isn't totally devoid of talent as the school's all-time leading rusher, Evan Royster, prepares for his final game as a Nittany Lion. Royster carried the ball 188 times this season, producing 916 yards and six TDs for a Penn State team that averages 142.8 ypg on the ground and has scored 14 rushing TDs.

The PSU aerial attack accounts for 231.2 ypg, with Matt McGloin, having been given the keys to the ship midway through the season, hitting 58 percent of his passes for 1,337 yards with 13 TDs and only four INTs. Rob Bolden earned the starting QB job in the summer, but threw just five TD passes while being picked off seven times. Derek Moye is Penn State's top receiver with 48 grabs for 806 yards and seven scores, while Brett Barrett is next with 37 receptions for 497 yards and five TDs.

Long a staple of how Penn State conducts its business, the Nittany Lion defense had an up-and-down season by yielding 22.6 ppg on typical yardage gains of 164.6 per game on the ground and 187.9 per outing by way of the pass. A total of 19 passing scores were surrendered by the unit, which was solid on third-down conversion attempts (.320), but allowed an unsightly 94 percent (30-of-32) of red-zone visits by the opposition to result in points.

Linebacker U. had another solid one this year as Chris Colasanti tallied 102 tackles, while Nate Stupar and D'Anton Lynn came in next with 72 and 71 stops, respectively. Nick Sukay collected three of the team's nine INTs, while the team as a whole was credited with just 16 sacks.

Paterno is proud of the work put in by his team since the regular season ended, "Our kids have worked hard. We're getting better. I think we're going to be ready. I think we're going to have a good football game...just go out there and have a little fun."

Penn State is probably the more physical team, while Florida is more athletic. Neither has the kind of superior talent that led to previous national titles, but in Meyer's swan song, expect the Gators to come away with a hard-fought victory.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 27, Penn State 21

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Wildcats Take On Red Raiders In TicketCity Bowl

The Sports Network

By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: In the inaugural TicketCity Bowl, the Texas Tech Red Raiders will clash with the Northwestern Wildcats for the first-time ever on the gridiron at Cotton Bowl Stadium.

The Wildcats stormed out of the gates this season, winning their first five games, but it was not easy, as three of those victories came by a total of eight points. However, Northwestern could not continue its impressive effort, especially as Big Ten Conference play began. The Wildcats lost five of their last seven games, and the two victories were decisions over Indiana and Iowa by a total of seven points. Coach Pat Fitzgerald's team backed its way into this bowl appearance, as the Wildcats lost their last two games during the regular season against Illinois and Wisconsin by a combined score of 118-50. Still, Fitzgerald is happy to be in another New Year's Day bowl.

"We're extremely proud of our football program, which is making a third consecutive bowl trip," said Northwestern Head Coach Fitzgerald. "We're proud to represent the Big Ten for a second straight year on New Year's Day, and do it against Texas Tech, a tremendous opponent from the Big 12 Conference. I'm thrilled for our 12 seniors, who have the opportunity to help us win a bowl game and become the winningest senior class in our program's modern era."

Back in 1949 Northwestern won the Rose Bowl against California by a 20-14 margin. However, since then the Wildcats have made just seven bowl appearances, and have lost them all. This will be the third straight bowl game for the Wildcats, but coach Fitzgerald is hoping for a better outcome than the previous two seasons. In 2008 the Wildcats lost to Missouri, 30-23, in overtime of the Alamo Bowl. That was followed the next year by another overtime setback, as Northwestern was defeated by Auburn, 38-35, in the Outback Bowl.

When compared to their opponent, the Red Raiders have a bit more of a history in terms of playing in bowl games. In fact, this will be the 11th straight bowl game for the Red Raiders, who are just 11-21-1 all-time in bowls. However, the team has performed better in these matchups over the past few seasons, and have won six of its last eight bowl contests. One of those victories came last season, as Texas Tech defeated Michigan State, 41-31, in the Alamo Bowl.

The Red Raiders opened the year with back-to-back victories over SMU and New Mexico, but the team's quick start to the year was dashed by losses in three of its next four matchups. The lone win during that span was a slim, 45-38 victory over Baylor. After a 34-17 setback to Oklahoma State at home, the Red Raiders rebounded with a slim, 27-24 decision on the road against Colorado. However, that was followed by a loss to Texas A&M, which dropped the team to 4-4 on the year. Coach Tommy Tuberville's squad continue to fight hard down the stretch and the team's hard work paid off, as Texas Tech finished with three wins in its last four matchups to end the year with a 7-5 record.

"I am so proud of this team and group of seniors for getting us to the postseason," said head coach Tuberville. "When you come to play football at Texas Tech, you expect to go to a bowl game and we are thrilled to accept the invitation from Tom Starr and the TicketCity Bowl selection committee. Northwestern is a well coached football team and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Fitzgerald. We are honored to be part of this game and to be able to play in front of our great fans in the Dallas/Fort Worth area."

The Wildcats were nothing special offensively, and never really overwhelmed their opponent this season. Still, Northwestern does possess some solid performers on offense, beginning with wideout Jeremy Ebert, who led the team in receptions (59), yards (919) and touchdowns (8). Those numbers landed Ebert on the All-Big Ten First Team. Ebert is still trying to find his rhythm with Evan Watkins however, who is the starting quarterback for this bowl game since Dan Persa is out for the remainder of the year.

The loss of Persa, who was also an All-Big Ten First Team selection after completing 73.5 percent of his throws, is a crushing blow for this offense, but coach Fitzgerald has prepared Watkins for this matchup coming up.

"Get prepared to win. Really. Mentally, he's obviously further along than he's been," said coach Fitzgerald. "Physically, he's further along because he has more reps. And now he's just got to get the poise, and have some fun, and get ready to win a football game."

Without a reliable passing attack, the ground game will need to pick up the slack, but for Northwestern, the rushing attack also had plenty to do with Persa, who finished with 519 yards and nine touchdowns. Mike Trumpy is the top back on the roster, but he finished with just 530 yards and will be a game- time decision for the Wildcats. If Trumpy is out, it will be interesting to see how the offense for Northwestern will work.

The defense was bailed out a few times this season by Persa and the offense, but clearly there are too many players banged up on that side of the football, so this unit will need to put forth its best performance of the season if Northwestern has a chance to snap its bowl losing skid.

Throughout the season this defense has struggled against the run, as well as the pass. Against the ground attack, the Wildcats have been gashed for 185.2 ypg and have also surrendered 22 touchdowns via the run.

Stopping the pass has not been any easier for Northwestern, as the team has been torched for 21 touchdowns through the air. Softening the blow for this defense a bit has been its ability to force mistakes, as Northwestern has collected 14 interceptions.

If the Wildcats are going to have any chance against Texas Tech's passing attack, then the team will need to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback, but with just 17 sacks on the season, that won't be easy.

Looking to abuse Northwestern through the air will be QB Taylor Potts, as he leads the Red Raiders' offense, which is producing 32.1 ppg. Potts completed over 65 percent of his throws this season, and finished the regular season with 3,357 yards and 31 touchdowns. There were 16 different players that caught at least one pass this season, but the two best options for Potts have been Detron Lewis and Lyle Leong. Lewis, who finished the season with a team- best 79 receptions, went for 803 yards with six touchdowns. Leong was even better, earning All-Big 12 Second Team honors after collecting 64 balls, for 808 yards and a whopping 17 touchdowns.

Usually overlooked at Texas Tech is the ground game, and rightfully so, because the Red Raiders light up the sky with a dangerous passing attack. However, when needed these Red Raiders have found success on the ground, proven by the team's 137.8 ypg. Baron Batch led the way for Texas Tech out of the backfield, rumbling for 805 yards, while also finding the end zone five times. Eric Stephens also scored five rushing touchdowns for Texas Tech and posted 542 rushing yards on the year.

While the offense was lighting up the scoreboard almost every weekend, the defense for coach Tuberville was allowing the opposition to remain close in each game. Texas Tech surrendered over 30.0 ppg this year, and things could be worse in this bowl game now that defensive coordinator James Willis has surprisingly left the program. However, coach Tuberville believes the rest of the defensive staff can have this unit prepared for action come Saturday.

"I wish James the best of luck but it is important for this football team to keep pressing forward. We have a great defensive staff here that will carry the load along with my assistance as we prepare for Northwestern."

For this unit to be successful, it must find a way to stop the pass, and that is easier said than done. It is definitely helpful that Texas Tech will not see Persa, but even with an inexperienced signal caller under center for Northwestern the Red Raiders could be in trouble. Throughout the season this has been a problem area, with TTU allowing 306.1 ypg, while surrendering 27 touchdowns through the air.

On top of that, the defense for Texas Tech has also been inconsistent against the run, as opponents have gashed this unit for 157.0 ypg. However, once again without Persa and possible Trumpy the Wildcats are not playing with their best options, something that could help Tuberville's defense remain competitive.

Northwestern closed out the year with two ugly losses and there is no coincidence that both losses occurred once Persa was done for the year. Persa is just too valuable for the Wildcats and without him, they may not be able to end the year on a high note.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas Tech 35, Northwestern 24

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Leshoure, Scheelhasse Lead Fighting Illini Past Baylor, 38-14

(Sports Network) – Mikel Leshoure capped a record-breaking season by running for 184 yards and three touchdowns, and Illinois silenced Baylor, 38-14, to win the Texas Bowl in convincing fashion.

The game was played a short drive from Baylor’s campus at Reliant Stadium, but it was the Fighting Illini that looked right at home with a balanced attack against a Bears program playing in the postseason for the first time since 1994.

Nathan Scheelhaase rushed for a score and had a efficient effort through the air, connecting on 18-of-23 throws for 242 yards for the Illini (7-6), who clinched their first winning season since 2007.

“The coaches did an outstanding job of getting them prepared, having great plans,” Illinois coach Ron Zook said. “They executed it.”

The Bears (7-6) started the year with a promising 7-2 record, only to give up 188 combined points over their final four games — all losses.

Robert Griffin III was under pressure throughout the rout and completed 30- of-41 throws for 306 yards with a touchdown pass to Kendall Wright in defeat.

Baylor looked as if it hadn’t been to a bowl game in 16 years, especially early on, as Griffin had a backwards pass fall idly near the sideline on the game’s opening drive. Illinois defensive back Travon Bellamy alertly picked up the loose ball and returned it 46 yards to the opposing 28-yard line, and Derek Dimke opened the scoring with 38-yard field goal.

Dimke added kicks of 28 and 43 yards to extend the lead, and Ryan Lankford’s 52-yard reception down to the Baylor five preceded Leshoure’s first touchdown run 5:18 into the second quarter.

The Bears had a promising drive thwarted a little later when Griffin lost the ball at the Illinois 32, and it remained 16-0 after Baylor’s Aaron Jones was well short on a 57-yard attempt prior to the break.

“I’m just disappointed I didn’t do a better job of having them ready to play early in the game,” Bears coach Art Briles said.

The Illini kept the pressure on coming out of the locker room, as Leshoure capped a nine-play, 87-yard march with a 13-yard jaunt that saw him dive into the end zone from the four. Leshoure’s two-point run made it 24-0.

Baylor finally got on the board when Jay Finley got around the right end and went in for a four-yard touchdown with 8:03 remaining in the third.

Following several punts, Wright hauled in a 39-yard heave in the end zone on 4th-and-14 early the final quarter, cutting the deficit to 24-14. Replay confirmed Wright held on to the ball despite taking a big hit.

The Bears forced a quick punt but proceeded to go three-and-out. The ensuing punt was muffed by Jarred Fayson, but Illinois recovered and went in for the clinching TD.

Fittingly, Leshoure took it in from five yards out, breaking Rashard Mendenhall’s single-season school TD mark with his 20th of the campaign.

Scheelhaase’s 55-yard run in the closing minutes accounted for the final score.

Game Notes

Leshoure finished the year with 1,697 rushing yards, also topping the single- season mark held previously by Mendenhall…Illinois’ Ron Zook won his first bowl game as a head coach. He had two defeats at Florida and one in the 2008 Rose Bowl…The game marked the first non-BCS bowl appearance for the Fighting Illini since 1999…Griffin tied Baylor’s single-season TD mark with 22, while Finley, who gained 63 yards on 12 carries, set a new single-season rushing record (1,218)…Wright ended with 127 yards on 12 receptions…The Illini are 7-9 all-time in bowl games, while Baylor dropped to 8-9…Baylor also fell to 2-10-1 all-time against Big Ten teams.

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Freshman Marcus Coker Leads Iowa Past Missouri In Insight Bowl, 27-24

(Sports Network) – Iowa had waited for a big defensive play all season during heartbreaking last-second losses. It finally got it in the Insight Bowl.

Micah Hyde picked off Blaine Gabbert near the sideline, reversed field and followed a convoy 72 yards for the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter, as Iowa rallied past 14th-ranked Missouri, 27-24.

Iowa (8-5) had been tortured all season by a defense that faded in crunch time. The Hawkeyes lost three straight coming into the bowl game, all by four points or less. The defense had given up a game-winning touchdown in each of its five losses, and also had the bowl distraction of player suspensions, as leading receiver Derrel Johnson-Koulianos and leading rusher Adam Robinson both sat out.

Big players stepped up in their place. True freshman Marcus Coker ran for an Iowa bowl record 219 yards and two touchdowns and Marvin McNutt compiled 63 yards receiving for the Hawkeyes.

Gabbert threw for 434 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions with 152 of those yards going on 15 completions to T.J. Moe. Jerrel Jackson caught nine passes for 129 yards for Missouri (10-3), which failed in its quest to win four straight games to end a season for the first time since 1965.

Iowa took the opening kickoff 67 yards in eight plays to paydirt. Ricky Stanzi’s 49-yard connection with McNutt was the drive’s big play, and Coker’s fifth straight rush ended with a touchdown from one yard out.

The Tigers took their initial possession 75 yards on 16 plays, converting three third downs, including a 24-yard toss from Gabbert to Jackson on 3rd- and-19 from midfield. The march stalled and Grant Ressel booted through a 23-yard field goal for a four-point game.

A quick dart from its new back gave Iowa a double-digit edge. After a six-yard pass to Allen Reisner, Stanzi turned and handed off to Coker, who did the rest with a 62-yard jaunt for a 14-3 edge.

Missouri reversed field position on its next series, but Iowa used a 38-yard toss from Stanzi to Don Nordmann to set up another score, this time a 34-yard field goal off the foot of Michael Meyer for a 17-3 lead.

The Tigers answered with a heavy dose of the pass — five complete passes in all — before Henry Josey caught the Hawkeyes off guard with a 10-yard TD jaunt for a seven-point margin.

Coker again ran around and through the Missouri defenders on Iowa’s first second-half possession. Coker broke off a 35-yard run highlighted by a head-on collision with a linebacker five yards into the scamper. The drive stalled inside the Tigers five-yard line, and Meyer was true from 21 yards out for a 20-10 lead.

Missouri again called a plethora of passes on its next drive. Gabbert found an open Michael Egnew for 25 yards and again for 13 later on in the march. He finally sprinted up the middle for a seven-yard score and 20-17 deficit late in the third quarter.

After a Stanzi interception, Missouri methodically moved 57 yards in nine plays to take the lead. The Tigers needed to convert just one third down, and Egnew was the recipient of Gabbert’s deft three-yard TD pass for a 24-20 lead.

After Gabbert’s poor decision resulted in Hyde’s 72-yard interception return, the Tigers advanced the football to the Iowa 43-yard line and appeared to connect on a fourth-down throw to the sideline. However, the originally ruled completion was overturned, creating a turnover on downs.

Iowa iced the game with Stanza’s 39-yard completion to Reisner in the closing seconds.

Game Notes

This game marked Missouri’s 28th all-time bowl appearance. Missouri made one other appearance in the Insight Bowl, downing West Virginia, 34-31, in 1998…Iowa played in its 25th bowl game…Missouri still holds a 7-6 edge in the all-time series, and this was the first meeting since 1910…Missouri had 512 total yards to 425 for Iowa…Stanza threw for 200 yards on 11-of-21 passing with two interceptions…Egnew caught seven passes for 64 yards. Coker carried the football 33 times, averaging 6.6 yards per carry.

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2010 Insight Bowl Prediction: This Could Get Ugly For Iowa

The Iowa Hawkeyes are going into their Insight Bowl match-up against the Missouri Tigers a bit shorthanded, as they've lost a couple of key players to suspensions. Wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and leading rusher Adam Robinson were both suspended for this game, Johnson-Koulianos for reasons connected to substance abuse, and Robinson for the more nebulous "failing to comply with team expectations and policies."

These two suspensions are going to greatly hinder the Iowa offense, led by quarterback Ricky Stanzi. The rushing attack will now have to be carried by freshman Marcus Coker, who has a lot of power as a runner, but isn't terribly seasoned and would need very good blocking from an offensive line that hasn't come together the way Kirk Ferentz and company have needed them to this year. Missouri's red zone defense is pretty tough as it is, but without Robinson and Johnson-Koulianos available to them, things inside the 20 are going to be that much more difficult for the Hawkeyes. Also, the absence of Johnson-Koulianos will have a big effect on the Hawkeyes' return game as well, as he is one of the nation's better players in that category.

Missouri, on the other hand, is led by one of the nation's premiere quarterbacks in junior Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert has matured a lot in his junior year, and is a threat both with his arm and with his feet. He's not that fast, but he is smart about when to run the ball and about what to do when he gets into space. He leads an up-tempo Missouri attack that should be successful at wearing down an Iowa defense that doesn't have a whole lot of depth up front, and could get tired from having to chase Gabbert all over the field as he looks for receivers T.J. Moe, Jerrell Jackson, Wes Kemp, and hybrid TE Michael Egnew, who leads the team in receiving yards.

If Iowa had their full complement of offensive weapons, then they'd probably be a good bet to win this one. However, a lack of offensive options and a lack of defensive depth should lead to a victory for Missouri, as Gabbert should prove to be too much for the Hawkeyes to handle.

SB Nation Minnesota prediction: Missouri 31, Iowa 20

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