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College Football Week 1 Breakdown: Boise St vs Virginia Tech

With the absence of the entire North Carolina defense, the LSU-North Carolina game is suddenly no longer intriguing, so College FootBlog decided to break down the other key match up in Week 1 of the 2010 college football season–Boise State vs. Virginia Tech at FedEx Field in Washington D.C.

College FootBlog will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, and we will give our first game prediction for the new season.  First, let’s take a look at the Hokies.

Virginia Tech

Va Tech RB Ryan Williams leads one of the most explosive running attacks in the country (google images)

Key Strength

Running Game:  Although Alabama is getting all the hype for the best tailback tandem in the country, Ryan Williams and Darren Evans would like to throw a hat in the ring as well.  Williams broke Evans freshman rushing record last season by rushing for 1,655 yards and 21 TDs.  He replaced Evans, who tore his ACL and missed the 2009 season.  In 2008, Evans rushed for 1,265 yards two seasons ago.  He is back, he’s healthy, and he gives a huge shot in the arm for what was already one of the top rushing teams in the country.

Key Concern

Defense:  The Hokies must replace seven starters from last year’s defense, don’t bet against defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s ability to coach up a defense.  Foster had all spring to reload, and although the departure of DE E Jason Worilds and inexperience up front, Foster will have his unit ready to play Monday, and they will only improve as the season continues.  Despite the losses of several key players on the defense, look for Virginia Tech to have yet another top 25 defense by season’s end. 

Boise State

Key Strength

Kellen Moore:  The Heisman hopeful completed an unbelievable 39 TDs last year to just 3 Ints last season.  The Broncos have a very solid running game, but Moore leads one of the top aerial attacks in the nation.  Moore has plenty of weapons around him, highlighted by senior wideouts Titus Young and Austin Pettis.  Look for BSU to throw the ball early and often on Monday.

Key Concern

Tough to Find One:  BSU has pretty much kicked the notion that they can’t play with the big boys to the curb.  Head coach Chris Peterson is 4-1 against teams from the BCS conferences.  They had a balanced attack last season, and the only area of their game that wasn’t lights out was their defense against the run.  They still finished 28th in the nation and were able to neutralize TCU and Oregon on the ground.  When they went against Fresno State’s Ryan Matthews, however, it was a different story.  Matthews went for 234 yards and three TDs against the Broncos, proving that a dominant RB can have success against them.  But again, that was just one game, and this BSU defense is a year older and wiser.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Boise State Defense

Look for BSU to load the box and attempt to force VT quarterback Tyrod Taylor to beat them with his arm.  Taylor took a huge step forward in this department last season but still only completed 56% of his passes.  The difficult thing for BSU is that every other opponent of VT last season tried the same thing, but the end result was usually the same–Taylor was not only efficient (ranked #13 in passing efficiency nationally), but Williams still got his yards, too.  Add Evans to the backfield this season, and that will be a tall order for the Broncos, even with their experienced and disciplined defense.  EDGE:  Virginia Tech

A strong performance on Monday night could go a long way in Boise State's BCS Championship hopes, but it could also put him in the driver's seat for the Heisman Trophy (google images)

Boise State Offense vs. Virginia Tech Defense

The combination of Kellen Moore’s efficiency (ranked #2 in passing efficiency nationally in 2009) and a solid and underrated running game with the tandem of Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin.  BSU had one of the most explosive offenses in the nation last season, and the only thing that has changed this season is that they have more experience, and they have played in more big games.  There is no doubt that Bud Foster will put a solid defense on the field, but at least some inexperience is likely to show in the first game of the 2010 season.  EDGE:  Boise State

Special Teams

Senior Kyle Brotzman handles the kicking and punting duties for Boise State and has been solid on each.  Last season, he was 18-25 on field goal attempts, while averaging 43.9 yards per punt.  When you talk about Virginia Tech, however, you immediately have to think of Beamer Ball.  The Hokies have always been among the nation’s best in special teams under head coach Frank Beamer, and this year should be no different.  Va Tech will feature a pair of seniors who will handle the kicking and punting duties, and junior Dyrell Roberts returns after finishing 2009 as the nation’s #4 ranked kick returner.  BSU counters with versatile athlete Titus Young as threat on kick returns.  Slight EDGE:  Virginia Tech

Final Analysis

What more could you ask for on opening weekend of the college football season.  This match up has all the makings of a great football game.  Each team will be well-coached and will perform on both sides of the ball.  In games that are as evenly matched as this one, you have to go back to two areas–home field advantage and special teams play.  Even though this game is technically not a home game for Virginia Tech, it may as well be.  Tech fans have a four and a half hour drive to FedEx Field, while BSU fans have to cross the country.  While BSU should have some fans, the crowd will be overwhelmingly in favor of Va Tech.  As for special teams, one area we didn’t focus on in the above paragraph was the Hokies’ ability to block kicks and punts.  Look for them to go after at least two punts during this one, and if they get a blocked kick, that could be all it takes to pull out a narrow victory.  Final Score Prediction:  Virginia Tech wins 28-24

Heisman Dark Horse Part 3: Jacory Harris

In part three of our Heisman Dark Horse candidates, we take a look at Miami quarterback Jacory Harris.  In case you missed them, we featured Florida State’s Christian Ponder in our first article (see link) and West Virginia running back Noel Devine in our second article (see link).

After splitting snaps with Robert Marve as a freshman, Harris took the reigns last season exclusively.  And the then-sophomore QB didn’t disappoint.  When the dust settled, Harris led the ACC with 3,352 yards passing. In order for Harris to have a legitimate shot at the Heisman, at least two things must happen in 2010.  College FootBlog takes an in-depth look at these items and analyzes Harris’ chances of punching a plane ticket to New York this December.

Harris must cut down on his mistakes this fall if he wants a shot at the Heisman (google images)

Many of those picks were due to poor decisions and/or bad reads.  Other picks were caused by pressure up the middle that did not allow Harris to properly step into his throws, which caused the ball to float, giving the defensive backs time to adjust and attack the ball at its highest point.  He must improve this if he wants to show up on anyone’s Heisman radar this fall.

Will it happen?  It should.  With a full year under his belt and home games against Virginia Tech and North Carolina (two games Harris really struggled) and an off-season to study film can only help him.  An injured thumb on his throwing hand didn’t help Harris last year, either.  Harris had surgery on that thumb and appears to be ready to go for two-a-days, and because he was not able to throw this spring, he spent his time in film study, which should improve his decisions and reads this fall.

Harris must shine in his nationally televised games:  This point directly ties into the previous one–decision-making.  Harris will lead his team into some of the most hostile stadiums in the country this year, traveling to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes and they travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson, who Harris struggled against last season.  

Each of those games has a great shot at national coverage, and the annual rivalry games against Florida State and Virginia Tech will likely be opportunities for Harris and the ‘Canes to play in front of a national audience.  If North Carolina continues where they left off last season, there is a chance for yet another nationally televised game against the Tar Heals as well.  Big performances in those games would go a long way in impressing Heisman voters who are not in the southeastern United States.

Will it happen?  Probably, but how much he improves is debatable.  What should concern ‘Canes fans is that ten of his 17 Int’s came against the good defenses he faced.  Miami played five games against defenses that ranked in the Top 20 in the country, and there was only one of those games (Wisconsin) that Harris made it through the game without throwing the ball to the wrong-colored jersey.

The Hurricanes will again have to face top-tier defenses in 2010, and that includes trips to Ohio State (ranked #5 in total defense in 2009) and Pitt (ranked #23 in total defense in 2009).  They get North Carolina and rivals Florida State and Virginia Tech at home, but they travel to Death Valley to take on a Clemson defense that roughed Harris up several quarterbacks last year.

Mega-Conferences: Be Careful What You Wish For

The fate of the Big 12 Conference was in the hands of the Texas Longhorns, and earlier this week, the conference was finally able to exhale.  After more guaranteed revenue, the University of Texas agreed to keep the conference intact, and they were soon followed by Oklahoma.  And despite the departures of Nebraska next fall and Colorado in 2012, the threat of the mega-conferences is on the back burner.  Now the question is how long the current situation will last.

Mack Brown and his Texas Longhorns are staying with the Big 12....at least for now (google images)

It appears that this is a band-aid on an issue that could require plastic surgery.  Had Texas and Oklahoma left for the Pac 10 and Texas A&M bolted for the SEC, it would have had a domino effect in the rest of the college football world.  All conferences must learn from what could have happened and they need to prepare themselves for the same situation 3-5 years down the road.   College FootBlog takes a look at what might have been had the Longhorns set the mega-conferences into motion and weighs two potential impacts it would have had.

1.  The ACC and Big East would have been dead in the water.  The ACC thought they were going to challenge the SEC when they on-boarded Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College a few years ago.  Instead, Miami and Florida State have struggled to live up to their prestige from the 80’s and 90’s, and with huge losses in out of conference and bowl games, they have been little more than an automatic bid to a BCS Bowl because the BCS has to have a representative from their conference.

The Big East has come a long way since losing their coveted teams to the ACC.  But it hasn’t been easy.  Despite having three teams finish in the Top 25 last season, the Big East is still trying to prove they belong with the big boys.  The emergence of Pitt, Cincinnati and Rutgers has helped give them some respectability, but they are still largely considered a second-tier league.  With the depth they had last season, that is somewhat unfair, but that is still the general consensus. 

The Big Ten flirted with Pitt when they originally wanted to have 14-16 teams in their league, and much like when the ACC raided them a few years ago, the conference seemed ready to take their lumps and move on.  There is talk that if and when the SEC comes calling, they will go after Virginia Tech, but even if the mega-conferences leave the ACC and Big East alone, each conference could easily become a footnote in the BCS title hunt if the big conferences get bigger and deeper.  That would result in far less revenue and could effectively make each conference a new-aged mid-major. 

If they don’t want that to happen, representatives from each conference need to take advantage of the new three-year window and fight for stability and/or growth.  Otherwise, FSU, Miami and Virginia Tech could easily look to jump ship before it goes down.

2.  The Mid-Majors would have dropped further into obscurity.  Even with Boise State making the move to the Mountain West, they simply will not be able to compete in terms of revenue and overall respectability vs a 16-team Pac 10.  Add to it that Utah is likely jumping ship from the MWC to become the Pac 10’s 12th team, and they will continue to fight for some well-deserved attention in college football.  Should the Pac 10 increase to a 16-team league in the future, all hope of having a representative in the BCS National Championship will be gone.

The conference already had an uphill battle due to the lack of television coverage and the perception that they, along with the other mid-majors are the little brother of the bigger, more traditional BCS conferences, but one or two mega-conferences would effectively shut the door on their chances for a title.

That would be a shame, considering what Boise State and Utah have more than represented themselves and their conferences on the big stage of a BCS bowl game.  A one-loss or even a two-loss team from a mega-conference could easily get the nod from voters to play in a title game over an undefeated mid-major team.  Considering the strength of schedule from a 16-team SEC and/or Pac 10, it would be very difficult to keep a conference champion from a dominant conference out of the National Championship.

The other major issue facing the non-BCS Conferences would be their ability to schedule decent out of conference games.  Boise State and TCU are already teams that present a no-win situation for a major program.  If the larger program wins, they were supposed to win.  If they lose, the upset becomes an instant classic.  A 16-team conference would provide more than enough competition and national recognition without scheduling a couple tough out of conference games, leaving the cupboard bare for the mid-majors to challenge the big boys.

College FootBlog wants your input.  Let us know your thoughts on the Mega-Conferences and the pros and cons if they become a reality.

2010 College Football ACC Preview (Coastal Division)

In case you missed it, earlier this week, we unveiled our initial power rankings for the ACC’s Atlantic Division (see link).  College FootBlog continues our breakdown, this time with the teams from the Coastal Division.  From all indications, the Coastal Division is much deeper than their friends from the Atlantic.  Let’s take a look at what we should expect this fall.

Va Tech's Ryan Williams finshed fifth in the country in rushing yards per game last season (google images)

1.  Virginia Tech:  Although the Hokies lost a lost a lot on defense from last season’s squad, they were able to retain defensive coordinator Bud Foster despite him being on several programs’ wish list during the off-season.  Even with the youth and inexperience, it would not be wise to count the Va Tech defense out as long as Foster is running the show.  Offensively, the Hokies may have a running back tandem that can rival any other tandem in the country, including Alabama.  We already know what to expect from Sophomore Ryan Williams, who rushed for over 1,600 yards last season, but the Hokies also return Darren Evans, who missed last season with an ACL tear. 

2.  Miami:  After a 9-4 season in ’09, the Hurricanes are looking for an ACC Championship this season.  Randy Shannon’s team benefited greatly from a coaching overhaul last spring, and the results spoke for themselves last fall, especially on offense.  Jacory Harris returns at quarterback and will try to pick up where he left off last season, when he completed nearly 60% of his passes for over 3,300 yards.  Linebacker Sean Spence leads the ‘Canes defense, which was young but talented last season and still ranked 29th nationally in total defense.  The November 20th match up at home against Va Tech will have major implications on who represents the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship Game.

3.  North Carolina:  Butch Davis has done wonders in Chapel Hill, especially on defense.  The Tar Heels ranked sixth overall in total defense last season.  Linebacker Quan Sturdivant is a legitimate potential first round draft pick in next spring’s NFL Draft.  As great as the UNC defense was last year, the offense was anemic.  The ‘Heels ranked a dismal 108th in total offense last year, and that must change if they want to challenge Miami and Va Tech for the Coastal Division crown.  That means quarterback TJ Yates must improve on his 14 TD/15 Int’s from a season ago.

GT coach Paul Johnson will rely heavily on QB Josh Nesbitt to keep the 'Jackets rushing offense among the nation's best (google images)

4.  Georgia Tech:  We will see how much the loss of running back work horse Jonathan Dwyer will affect the offense, but quarterback Josh Nesbitt returns for his third season as the engineer of Paul Johnson’s tricky, triple option offense.  Running back Anthony Allen appears to be up the challenge of filling Dwyer’s role, but defensively, the Jackets must replace first round draft pick DE Derrick Morgan and long-time starter at safety, Morgan Burnett, which could be a daunting task.

5.  Virginia:  First year head coach Mike London has his work cut out for him, but Cavaliers fans are hoping he can bring the same results that he has produced throughout his career, specifically when he was their defensive coordinator from ’06-’07.  In that short amount of time, London’s defenses were among the nation’s finest, and handed the Miami Hurricanes their worst ever loss at the Orange Bowl when they shut them out 48-0.  With his ties to the Hampton Roads area and his tenacity as a coach, Virginia should be better, but it will likely take a couple of years before we see the Cavs making serious waves in the ACC.

6:  Duke:  The Blue Devils round out our power rankings for the Coastal Division.  After a couple of season’s head coach David Cutliffe has made strides and last season coached them to a 5-7 record, which is quite an accomplishment, considering that is the best record in Durham since 1994.  The departure of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will hurt Duke quite a bit, and there appears to be no one who can fill that void.  Look for Cutliffe to be under .500, but he will likely be rewarded with another head coaching opportunity after this season.

Next week, College FootBlog will take a look at the Big Ten in another two-part breakdown.  Let us know your thoughts on our ACC breakdown and our power rankings that will be published in the next couple of weeks.

College Football Preseason Top 25 (#1-#7)

The countdown is over.  For the past week, College FootBlog has broken down college football’s 2010 Preseason Top 25.  In case you missed them, take a look at teams #8-#15 and teams #16-#25.  We now unveil our Preseason Super 7, along with some things to look for this fall.  

1.  Alabama:  The Crimson Tide will likely be everyone’s #1 going into this fall, and why shouldn’t they be?  They lost All-Americans at all three levels of their defense; DT Terrence Cody, linebacker Rolando McClain and cornerback Javier Arenas, but ‘Bama will reload at each position, none more that Dre Kirkpatrick at corner.  The strength of the Tide, however, will be the offense.  The running game will once again feature the tandem of Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and ultra-talented Trent Richardson.  Wide Receiver Julio Jones could be next year’s top receiver taken in the NFL Draft, and under center will be Greg McElroy, who, as opposed to last fall, has not only played on the biggest stages (see SEC Championship and BCS National Championship), but he has come through with flying colors.  Put it all together, and Nick Saban appears to be in position to win it all again in 2010.

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor will look to pick up where he left off last season in the Rose Bowl (google images)

2.  Ohio State:   If Terrelle Pryor picks up where he left off in the Rose Bowl, look for Ohio State to challenge for a BCS National Championship this season.  Pryor was inconsistent at the beginning of the season, but as the 2009 season progressed, he seemed to be more relaxed and confident, and he helped lead the Buckeyes to six straight wins to close out the season.   Tailbacks Brandon Saine and Boom Herron will compliment Pryor in the backfield behind a very physical and very experienced offensive line.   As is typically the case in Columbus,  Jim Tressel will have a stacked defense.  Although changes in the depth chart could happen after two-a-days in August, the spring depth chart for the Bucks has ten seniors starting on defense, highlighted by linebacker Brian Rolle.

3.  Boise State:  This fall the Broncos will not have to fight the preseason rankings like they have in year’s past.  The BCS formula and bowl selection failed miserably by putting BSU against TCU in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.  The Broncos return 23 of 24 starters from last year’s undefeated squad, including quarterback Kellen Moore.  Chris Petersen’s team will also have a national audience for their opener at Virginia Tech.  If they can win that game and take care of business for the rest of the season, pollsters will find it difficult to continue to keep them out of the BCS National Championship, especially if Ohio State or Alabama suffers a loss.

4.  Virginia Tech:  The Hokies will try to break the recent trend of ACC teams that are hyped up all preseason, only to fail miserably early in the season (see Clemson).  The defense will break in several new starters, including the DE position vacated by E Jason Worilds, who left early for the NFL.  While the youth and inexperience on defense may be an issue, this is certainly not defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s first rodeo.  Look for the Va Tech defense to be solid, and they will be aided by the running game on offense.  Ryan Williams blew up last season for over 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns, and he will be joined by Darren Evans, who sat out last season with an ACL tear.  Tyrod Taylor is still more dangerous with his feet than his arm, but last season, he proved he could win games by throwing the ball, too.

Sophomore QB Garrett Gilbert will take the keys to the offense in Austin this fall (google images)

5.  Texas:  With the losses of Heisman runner-up Colt McCoy and soon-to-be first round pick Sergio Kindle, one might think the Longhorns would be in a bit of a rebuilding year, but Mack Brown is one of the best recruiters in the business, consistently replacing All-Americans with newer All-Americans.  The early departure of McCoy due to injury in the BCS National Championship was a major blow to the ‘Horns chances of beating Alabama, but it provided great experience for then-freshman Garrett Gilbert.  It did not take long for Gilbert to settle in, and when he did, he gave the Crimson Tide defense (which was arguably the best in the country) a run for their money.  Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp once again has a talent-rich defense led by linebackers Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho.

6.  Oregon:  Had it not been for Jeremiah Masoli’s suspension for the entire 2010 season, the Ducks would be ranked as high as #3, but when you lose a Heisman candidate, it is going to drop you at least a few spots.  Head coach Chip Kelly proved last year that he can not only keep his team focused despite a suspension to a key player (i.e. LeGarrette Blount), but he can also replace talent with more talent.  LaMichael James replaced Blount with seemingly no issue, as the freshman tallied just under 1,500 yards on his way to earning the Pac 10 Freshman of the Year.  An off the field incident in February, however, will result in a suspension of at least one game this fall.  If the Ducks can finish with one loss or less, they will have made a very strong case for a shot at the BCS title.  That is because their schedule is one of the toughest in the country, and includes road games at Tennessee, Cal, USC and they cap off the season in Corvallis for the Civil War against Oregon State.

7.  TCU:  In ten years at the helm, head coach Gary Patterson has quietly led the Horned Frogs to an 85-28 record.  Like Boise State, they return the majority of their starters from last season.  Led by quarterback Andy Dalton, the offense returns nine of their eleven starters.  Last season,
Dalton accounted for over 2,700 yards passing and over 500 yards rushing.  On defense, TCU loses linebacker Daryl Washington and dominant defensive end Jerry Hughs.  Linebacker Tank Carder should fill the void at LB, but the Horned Frogs will need to find someone off the edge to provide pressure on opposing quarterbacks for Patterson’s defensive scheme to be effective.  Patterson’s troops open up at home against Oregon State.  A win against the Beavers on national television combined with their high preseason ranking could likely send them to their second-straight BCS bowl at season’s end.

2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings Part 1

With the 2009 football season now officially in the books, College FootBlog will tackle the ongoing debate of which conference is the best in the FBS.  In this three-part breakdown, we will rank the six major conferences from the BCS in 2009, and we will also provide an outlook for each conference for the 2010 season. 

In our first of three articles, we will take a look at teams five and six in the power rankings of the major BCS conferences, although it should be noted that Boise State and TCU could make us rank eight conferences at the conclusion of next season. 

Oregon State's Quizz Rodgers has his sights set on a Pac 10 Title (google images)

6.  Pac 10 

2009 Recap:  For the last several years, USC has brought respect to the conference, but last year’s fall from grace left put the pressure on the other teams in the conference to step up.  No one else did–at least not consistently.  The Pac 10 was a dismal 2-5 in bowls last season and one of those wins was USC’s victory over a very mediocre Boston College team in the Emerald Bowl.  Losing three linebackers and quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first day of the NFL Draft last season proved to be too much for Pete Carroll to overcome. 

After a promising start, Cal fell far below expectations, and Oregon started and finished with huge losses on national television.  Toby Gerhart led the Stanford Cardinal on the college football map, but overall, the Pac 10’s 2-5 bowl record was very underwhelming. 

2010 Outlook:  All signs point to the Pac 10 having a big turnaround next season.   Conference Champ Oregon returns quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James.   Oregon State will have the Rodgers brothers returning key running backs coming back next year, Arizona is emerging after an 8-5 record, and Jim Harbaugh and Steve Sarkisian have Stanford and Washington out of the cellar of college football. 

5.  ACC

 2009 Recap:  The ACC barely made the cut for the fifth worst conference in college football last season.  For the

VT's Ryan Williams exploded on the scene in '09, rushing for over 1,500 yards and 19 TD's (google images)

second year in a row, the Atlantic Coast Conference was consistently inconsistent.  Paul Johnson once again proved to critics that the triple option can (and does) work in major college football, but they could not get things going against Iowa’s defense in the Orange Bowl. 

Virginia Tech racked up ten wins, but once again, Frank Beamer was unable to get his team over the hump as one of college football’s elite teams.  For what seems like the fifth straight year, Clemson failed to live up to all of the hype as well, losing five games, including one against a very average South Carolina team.  Overall, ACC teams finished with a 3-4 bowl record in ’09. 

2010 Outlook:  Like the Pac 10, the ACC should make significant strides in 2010.  Georgia Tech may take a step back with Jonathan Dwyer departing to the NFL, but several teams should be much improved.  Virginia Tech returns running back Ryan Williams and QB Tyrod Taylor, and we may actually see Miami and Florida State get back on the map.  Each of the traditional power houses from Florida showed signs that they may be on the cusp of regaining greatness, but they were up and down for much of the season.  Look for Miami and FSU to make a serious run at Va Tech next season. 

Note:  Look for Parts 2 & 3 of College FootBlog’s 2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings later this week. 

 

College Football Bowl Breakdown #1: Miami vs. Wisconsin

After more than a month-long hiatus, College FootBlog is back and ready for this year’s bowl season.  On December 29th, the ACC’s Miami Hurricanes (9-3) will take on the Big Ten’s Wisconsin Badgers (9-3) in the Champs Sports Bowl.  In this match up, the ‘Canes will look to show the college football world that they were overlooked for a New Year’s Day bowl, while the Badgers will try to redeem themselves after getting blown out by Florida State in their bowl game last season.

College FootBlog will break down this match up, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each team, and will conclude with a score prediction.

Quarterback Jacory Harris will try to use his weapons at WR against the Badgers (google images)

Miami

Strengths:  With sophomore Jacory Harris as the trigger man, the Hurricane’s passing attack has put up some big numbers in 2009.  After splitting time with Robert Marve last season, Harris has really developed since taking over as the full-time QB.

His corps of receivers has helped as well.  Junior wideout Leonard Hankerson leads the group with 773 yards and six touchdowns on the season, and if Laron Byrd can come up with 69 yards and Travis Benjamin can come up with ten yards, the ‘Canes would finish the season with three WR’s with at least 500 yards on the year.

Key Concern:  Despite having a ton of speed and athleticism, Miami has been very inconsistent on defense.  The ‘Canes rank 25th in yards per game on defense, they have given up some points.  In fact, the ‘Canes have given up over thirty points four times this season.

The bright side for Miami in this match up is their ability to stop the run, led by linebacker Colin McCarthy.

Wisconsin

Strengths:  As sophomore running back John Clay goes, so does the Badgers’ offense.  The bruising 248-pound back enters this bowl game just four yards shy of 1,400 and has rushed for 16 TD’s on the year.  Clay has enjoyed another great year, following the traditional stellar offensive line that consistently produces NFL talent.  

At 248 pounds, John Clay is a load coming out of the Wisconsin backfield (google images)

Key Concerns:  At nearly 220 yards passing allowed per game, the Badgers have not exactly been stingy this year, especially considering the Big Ten is not known for throwing the football around.

Wisconsin ranks 66th nationally against the pass, and despite shutting down pass-happy Hawaii and limiting them to ten points and 214 total yards, the Badger defensive backs will face much more speed than they have seen so far this season.

The Badgers will need a big day from their secondary if they want to stay in this game.

Wisconsin Offense vs. Miami Defense

Although Miami has seen a couple of dominant running teams this season in Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, they have not faced an offensive line like this.  Look for the ‘Canes to stack the box and force quarterback Scott Tolzien to beat them. 

Still, Clay will easily eclipse the 1,400 yard mark on the season, and he should make a real run at 1,500.  Slight EDGE:  Wisconsin

Miami Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense

As previously mentioned, the Wisconsin secondary should have their hands full with the speed and the talent that the ‘Canes possess at wide receiver.  The silver lining for the Badgers could be that Miami’s senior offensive tackle Jason Fox is out for this game. 

The Badgers will have to get pressure on Jacory Harris, or it will be a very long day.  Mix in Graig Cooper’s receiving ability out of the backfield, and Miami could score and score quickly.  EDGE:  Miami

Special Teams

The big difference here could be the return men.  Wisconsin’s David Gilreath is a dangerous returner on kick offs and punts.  Miami counters will very dangerous tandem of Travis Benjamin and Graig Cooper.   Both kickers, Miami’s Matt Bosher and Wiconsin’s Phillip Welch have been solid this season as well.  Slight EDGE:  Miami

Prediction

The Big Ten had another let down of a season in ’09, but the ACC didn’t exactly light things up this year, either.  Wisconsin was supposed to have the big advantage last year against Florida State with their ability to run the football.  Things did not go so well for the Badgers, as the Seminoles rolled to a 42-13 win.

Like last year’s match up, the Badgers will likely have a difficult time keeping up with Miami’s speed on offense.  Wisconsin has shown that they can be vulnerable to the pass, and they could be facing the best passing offense they have gone against in a couple years.  Look for Miami to roll.  Score Prediction:  Miami 34, Wisconsin 17


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