Thursday, January 07, 2010

TNL says goodbye

All good things must come to an end and today is the end of TNL. 3 years and over 284,000 visits ago I started The Nittany Line with the express intention of discussing all things Penn State with a few thousand friends. It's been a good run and I've had a lot of fun but it's time to move on. Fear not though, I won't be going away, I've been invited to write over at a new site called Linebacker-U. It's a combination of Mike from Zombie Nation, Tim from Happy Hour Valley and of course me… and I drug Nick along for the ride. Think of us as the Voltron of Penn State blogs.

No, I'm not the lion piloted by the princess!

With Linebacker-U you get more perspectives and more in-depth articles than I could never have managed by myself here at TNL. Both Mike and Tim (and ok, Nick) are good writers and each have their unique perspective, it should be fun. Don't worry though, I'll still be the one that creates the photoshop of DickRod that gets us tons and tons of hate mail. It's my mission in life. So head on over to Linebacker-U and take a look. My first Wrestling Wreport is up and ready to wow you. Ok, probably not. Thanks to all of you that have been with me through that last couple years.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Matchup Comparison Rating: the special edition

Ok, we've got ya covered all the way to New Year's Day, from that point on it's all about vegetating on the couch and taking in as much football as possible (and recovering from your New Year's Eve hangover). Frankly after working on these for a week straight my eyes are ready to roll back in my head and I'm making atrocious grammar and spelling mistakes (more so than usual). But before I end this I would be remiss if I didn't cover the home team, after all this is a Penn State blog.

Penn State (10-2) vs. LSU (9-3)
Jan 1, 1:00 PM - ABC

A word from our sponsor: Hey it's the Capital One Bowl which means we get to see the winner of the Capital One Mascot Challenge. You remember the Mascot Challenge don't you? The contest where fans can vote on the best mascot, then they randomly pick a winner? The same contest that the Nittany Lion won in a landslide in its inaugural season only to be left out in the cold? Yeah, it's awesome. Oddly, the Lion hasn't been invited back to play along.

On the field: LSU lost three games in the fourth quarter, two of those to Florida and Alabama. On paper this should be a win for Penn State. LSU ranks 108th in total yards and Penn State is 10th against the run, 8th in total defense and surrender only 11.83 points per game, good enough for 4th. LSU though is no slouch on defense, they are 12th in scoring D and they've played a tougher schedule then PSU. But this game has all the same issues we've seen all season. Penn State racked up a lot of good numbers against all their unranked foes but laid eggs in the two games with decent opponents. All the same questions we've been asking all season are being asked here as well. Can the offensive line block a decent defensive line? Can Daryl Clark avoid all the costly turnovers that plagued him against Iowa and Ohio State? Just like a lot of the other games we've previewed this game also has the same mismatch on special teams that we've seen all season. LSU has the best punt return average in the nation thanks to Trindon Holliday who averages 17.72 yards per return. Holliday returned one for a touchdown against Arkansas a game that LSU won in overtime. Once again special teams could be the difference.

For Penn State it will be all about Daryl Clark yet again. As he goes so does the Penn State offense. Clark seems to be a little frustrated that fans are questioning his legacy (HT: BSD). So he's out to prove himself yet again. Make no mistake, if he plays well* Penn State should win. For LSU they will have to rely on QB Jordan Jefferson because they are banged up at running back. Jefferson has thrown 9 TD's and only 3 picks in the last five games. Jefferson has very similar numbers to Clark's. Penn State will have to deal with wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Terrance Toliver who have 52 and 47 catches respectively. After that it's quite a drop-off.

+1 unabashedPenn State Loyalty

+1 two evenly matched teams

+1 chance to see PSU seniors one last time

+1 2
nd best punt returner in the nation
+1 Clark and his legacy issues play out

-1 early start time – can our livers handle New Year's Eve and then a 1 o'clock start?

MCR 4 (Viper/Shelby Cobra)

*and by well I mean doesn't turn the ball over and completes the easy passes

Matchup Comparison Rating: the New Year’s Eve edition

We're getting ever so close to the real meat and potatoes of the schedule, the day that teams play for (or at least they used to): New Year's Day. But first there's the day before and before you venture off to consume large quantities of alcohol just so you have an excuse to kiss that semi-attractive and slightly overweight chick at the end of the bar at midnight, there's some games to get through. As always we start with the system.

Houston (10-3) vs. Air Force (7-5)
Dec. 31, 12:00 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor: The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces bowl is in its seventh year and is currently under contract with Conference USA and the Mountain West conference through 2013. Of course how can you not like a bowl whose main sponsor is a Helicopter manufacturer, the Army, and the Marines? Of course it wouldn't be a sporting event if it wasn't also sponsored by a Budweiser product.

On the field: This will be a rematch of last year's Armed Forces game which Houston won 34-28, and it could be even more exciting and high scoring. In this game you have the best passing offense in Houston against the best passing defense in Air Force. You also have the 3rd best rushing attack in Air Force against the 112th ranked rushing defense. Cougar QB and Davey O'Brian Award finalist Case Keenum has the kind of numbers you only see in video games. This season Keenum threw for 5449 yards, 43 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. He's completing 71% of his passes. Three wide receivers have at least 985 yards led by Iowa transfer James Cleveland. For Air Force watch for Jared Tew and Asher Clark who have 797 and 736 rushing yards on the season. This could be a battle of wills, can Air Force control the ball and the clock with their rushing attack or will Houston get a lead and force Air Force to throw more?

+1 Military academy – if you don't watch the terrorists win

+1 Award finalist QB with crazy stats

+1 great passing offense vs. great passing defense

+1 great passing offense vs. great rushing offense

MCR 4 (Viper/Shelby Cobra)

Oklahoma (7-5) vs. Stanford (8-4)
Dec. 31, 2:00 PM - CBS

A word from our sponsor: I'll bet you didn't know this little piece of info: The Sun Bowl was first played on January 1, 1935, as a fund-raising event for a local service club, to benefit underprivileged children and to finance improvements to the El Paso High School Stadium. It has grown into El Paso's number one national attraction and is second only to the Rose Bowl in longevity. So they're the second longest running bowl that had such noble beginnings… and now they're sponsored by deodorant. Something stinks alright: it's called corporate greed.

On the field: Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has lost five of his past six bowl games. TNL favorite Jim Harbaugh is coaching in his first. This will be a matchup of Heisman finalist Toby Gerhart the nation's top rusher against the 7th best rush defense. Oklahoma also ranks 7th in total defense as well. After QB Sam Bradford went down the Sooners relied on freshman quarterback Landry Jones. Jones has completed 58% of his passes for 2780 yards and 23 TD's but has been inconsistent at times. He threw four or more TD passes in three games this year but also had a five interception game in a loss to Nebraska.

+1 Heisman finalist
+1 chance to put a mic in front of Jim Harbaugh

+1 great running back vs. great rush D

MCR 3(Jessica Simpson Sex Tape)

Navy (8-4) vs. Missouri (8-4)
Dec. 31, 3:30 PM - CBS

A word from our sponsor: At least this makes sense; the main corporate sponsor for the Texas Bowl is Houston. As in the city of. Finally a bowl partner that makes sense. Oh, don't get me wrong there are lots and lots of other sponsors but at least there isn't any real shame in using this main sponsor.

Quick side note, in there information page under Quick Facts they list the results of past Texas Bowls, and they have this year's listed:
2009 Texas Bowl

* Date: Thursday, December 31, 2009, 2:30pm CST
* Television: ESPN
* Conferences: TBA

Except they haven't updated the page yet to reflect this year's teams. Come on, who the hell is asleep at the switch? That should have been updated the night the game was announced. But I digress…

On the field: Another matchup of contrasting styles, Navy has the 4th best rushing offense in the country and Missouri has the 14th best passing attack. The Tigers have scored at least 32 points in each of its past 5 games and are led by wide receiver Danario Alexander, the nation's leader in receiving yards with 1644. Navy has two players with at least 925 yards led by running QB Ricky Dobbs who has only thrown for 901. Dobbs set an NCAA record for rushing TD's in a season with 24. It won't be easy for the Midshipman though as Missouri boasts the 12th best rushing defense in the country.

+1 Military academy – if you don't watch the terrorists win
+1 record-setting QB
+1 best WR in the nation
-1 blowout possibility
MCR 2(Microwave dinner)

Minnesota (6-6) vs. Iowa St (6-6)
Dec. 31, 6:00 PM - NFL NETWORK

A word from our sponsor: Ok, this is just fucking sweet, on the sponsor page of the Insight Bowl website there's a blurb about the company Insight: Insight is a technology solutions provider serving global and local clients in 170 countries. Today, thousands of clients, including more than 80 percent of the Global Fortune 500, rely on Insight to acquire, implement and manage technology solutions to empower their business. Stick with me here, they're a "technology solutions provider" which means they should know their shit when it comes to something as trivial as say… an internet hyperlink, yet when I click on their link I get the following page.

That my friends, is delicious.

On the field: Iowa State's offense is built around the run game and is led by Alexander Robinson who rushed for 1,058 yards this season (4th best in the Big 12). Minnesota's bread and butter is the passing game and all-Big Ten wide receiver Eric Decker. Unfortunately Decker went down with a season ending foot injury. Without him, the Gophers went 2-2 losing to lowly Illinois and Iowa, a game the failed to score a single point. Minnesota will have to rely on QB Adam Weber who has had mixed results since Decker's injury. Against Michigan State Weber threw for 416 yards in a 42-34 win, but against South Dakota State he only managed 94 yards (also a win).

+1 even match-up
-1 two pathetic offenses
MCR 0 (Rosie O'Donnell Talk Show)

Va Tech (9-3) vs. Tennessee (7-5)
Dec. 31, 7:30 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor: Chick-fil-A boasts that tasty and nutritious are one in the same, that's why they use only the most wholesome ingredients, prepared fresh daily. Yes, they use only the freshest, most wholesome ingredients… then coat the bastards and dunk them in artery clogging partially hydrogenated cooking oil. I'm feeling more healthy just reading about it.

On the field: Tennessee has the advantage at quarterback with Jonathon Crompton who improved down the stretch and has tossed 26 touchdowns and 12 picks. Virginia Tech has the advantage at running back with super freshman Ryan Williams who rushed for 1538 yards, eighth-most by a freshman in NCAA history. Both offenses are pretty evenly matched, both score about 30 points a game and both gain about 390 yards per game, they just get there differently: Tennessee favors the pass while Virginia Tech favors the run. The difference may come down to defense and the Vols have Jim Thorpe Award winning safety Eric Berry who does a little of everything.

+1 two evenly matched teams
+1 award winning safety
+1 chance for Lane Kiffin to put his foot in his mouth on a national stage
MCR 3(Jessica Simpson Sex Tape)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Matchup Comparison Rating: the segue edition

Segue, not Segway!

Moving on to the games that cover the work week between Christmas and New Year's, these are the "Segue games." If you're one of the poor souls that have to work the couple days before New Year's eve, these games get you through until the big ones on New Year's day.

Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5)
Dec. 28, 5:00 PM – ESPN2

A word from our sponsor: Advocare is the manufacture of supplements targeting a wide range of activities from weight management to performance enhancements (the legal kind). Unfortunately the Advocare V100 Independence Bowl website looks like it was done by a high school kid for his senior project.

Seriously, if their goal was to throw as much random shit on one web page, mission accomplished.

On the field: If you're a fan of offense, you're gonna want to tune in to this game. Georgia's defensive was so bad coach Mark Richt fired three of his defensive assistants including the defensive coordinator. All three coaches declined to coach in the bowl game leaving erstwhile defensive line coach Rodney Garner to prepare for Texas A&M by his lonesome. It will be a tough task considering the Aggies have the 5th best and the 14th highest scoring offense in the FBS. Georgia's offense isn't as potent but will be helped out by the fact that Texas A&M's defense suuuuuuccccckkkkkkksssss! They come in 107th in total defense giving up 431.33 yards per freakin' game. They also give up 32.67 points per game, 104th in the FBS.

On the offensive side of things, Texas A&M has one of the most underrated QB's in the country in Jerrod Johnson who has completed 60% of his passes for 3217 yards, 28 TD's and only 6 INT's. He's also rushed for 455 yards and 8 scores. Georgia found it's ground game late in the season rushing for 252.0 yards on the ground in its last four games thanks to freshman Washaun Ealey and sophomore Caleb King who each averaged 9.2 yards per carry in an road upset of then #7 Georgia Tech for their regular season finale. The scoreboard operator will be busy.

+1 strong offense
+1 kick-ass QB
+1 shootout possibility

-1 total lack of defense

MCR 2 (Microwave Dinner)

UCLA (6-6) vs. Temple (9-3)
Dec. 29, 4:30 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor:
The EagleBank Bowl's focus is to recognize and pay respect to the dedication and sacrifices made by all those who serve our country, at both the U.S. military academies and in the U.S. Armed Forces. The EagleBank Bowl brings together three of the largest forces in our economy – the government, the military and private enterprise – in one venue. This unique event is an opportunity to show your appreciation for those who protect our freedom. So it's all patriotic to watch.

On the field: Hey, we get a chance to see Penn State's best out of conference opponent in Temple. It's been an amazing turnaround for Temple, just a few short years ago the Owls were 1-11 in coach Al Golden's inaugural season. This is only the fourth winning season for the Owls in the past 30 years. This team had a nine game winning streak until losing to Ohio which kept them out of the conference championship game. Golden has a school record 8 players named to the all-Mac first team led by MAC freshman of the year Bernard Pierce who rushed for a conference leading 1,308 yards and was second with 15 touchdowns. The Owls control the ground, they have the 23rd best rushing attack averaging 192.3 yards per game while giving up only 108.8 on defense, good for 19th best.

UCLA wouldn't even be here if Army had beat Navy, the Black Knights would be playing in this game against Temple. The Bruins have been inconsistent opening up with three straight wins and then losing their next five. They then had another three game winning streak snapped by USC in their last contest. Despite the shoddy record UCLA does boast four All-Americans led by second teamer Rahim Moore who leads the nation with 9 interceptions and Lou Groza Award winner (best kicker) Kai Forbath. The problem is on offense where inconsistent play from freshman quarterback Kevin Prince has led to the Bruins getting held under 20 points six times. Both QB's in this game won't scare anyone.

+1 former PSU player and assistant coach
+1 consummate underdog vs. evil west coast team (they're coached by Rick Neuheisel for cryin' out loud)
-1 two pathetic quarterbacks

MCR 1(Woman's Heart)

Miami (9-3) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)
Dec. 29, 8:00 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor: The Champs Sports Bowl (also known as the Florida Citrus bowl) is sponsored by a wide array of corporations from the title sponsor Champs Sports to Capital One to Budweiser, to Coca Cola and Dasani. So drink a lot and user your credit card to buy some overpriced sports equipment.

On the field: Call this a matchup of contradicting styles. While both teams average more than 30 points per game and both defenses only allow 321 yards or less per game, Wisconsin does it with their usual plodding ground attack and Miami does it through the air. The Badgers are 14th in the nation in rushing at 206.7 yards per game and are led by Big Ten offensive player of the year John Clay who ran for 1,369 yards and 16 TDs on the season. Miami is led by quarterback Jacory Harris who ranked 15th in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 3,164 passing yards and 23 TD's. His Achilles heel though would be the 17 interceptions he's thrown to go along with all those touchdowns. The Badgers are used to controlling the ground game on defense but are not known for their secondary. Both defenses should be tested in this game and turnovers will play a big roll, Wisconsin is 30th in the country at forcing turnovers, Mimi is 70th.

+1 two statistically evenly matched teams
+1 two decent defenses
+1 two strong offense

+1 pass-happy offense vs. plodding road grader offense

MCR 4 (Viper/Shelby Cobra)

BGU (7-5) vs. Idaho (7-5)
Dec.30, 4:30 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor: What could be more boring than a bowl in Boise, Idaho? A bowl game in Boise Idaho sponsored by equally boring corporations like Roady's truck stops, the Idaho lottery, and the Boise convention and visitors bureau.

On the field: The two teams come into this game going in different directions: Bowling Green won their last four games while Idaho lost their last three. This will be a matchup of two high powered offenses, Idaho boasts the 10th best offense in yardage and BGSU has the nation's 8th best passing attack (Idaho is 12th). Idaho QB Nathan Enderle is the seventh best rated passer in the FBS completing over 64% of his passes for 2666 yards and tossing 18 TD's and only 9 INT's. BG QB Tyler Sheehan is no slouch either throwing for a career-high 3,664 yards with 23 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. Bowling Green's star though is wide receiver Freddie Barnes who led the nation in receptions (138) and touchdowns (16) and is third in receiving yards (1,551). Barnes would have won Biletnikoff Award easily had there not been someone from a team named Notre Dame on the ballot. If Barnes makes 5 catches he will set an NCAA record for catches during a season. It will be a home game for Idaho something the Falcons will have to overcome. It should be a shootout as neither team has a decent defense, Idaho ranks below 100 in seven different defensive categories. Bowling Green is a little better but not by much.

+1 two evenly matched teams
+1 best wide receiver in the nation
+1 two high powered offenses
-1 two pathetic defenses

MCR 2(Microwave Dinner)

Arizona (8-4) vs. Nebraska (9-4)
Dec.30, 8:00 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor: Besides the title sponsor this bowl has a who's who of corporate supporters. There's Bank of America, AT&T, Bumble Bee Foods, Dr Pepper, Jack in the Box, Sea World and the World Wide Leader. Like I said earlier, the closer you get to New Year's Day the more the big boys step up.

On the field: After watching two god-awful defenses in the earlier game we'll get a chance to see two of the best defenses in the nation. Both Nebraska and Arizona were seconds away from winning their conferences but both teams fell just short. Nebraska had Texas beat 12-11 in the Big 12 championship game when Texas quarterback Colt McCoy threw the ball out of bounds as time expired but the officials replayed the play and put 1 second on the clock. That allowed kicker Hunter Lawrence to make a 46-yard field goal and pull out the win for Texas. Similarly Arizona was pulling off an upset of Oregon leading 31-24 in the final minute, but an eight-yard Ducks TD pass with 6 seconds sent the game into overtime and Oregon won 44-41.

Arizona has the better offense statistically with QB Nick Foles who completed 66% of his passes for 2438 yards and 19 TD's. The Wildcats' offensive line, which has only allowed 11 sacks all season, will have one thing on their mind: find a way to slow down Defensive Tackle freak Ndamukong Suh who finished fourth in the Heisman Voting. Suh lead the Huskers with 82 tackles, 12 sacks and 23 tackles for loss but put on his best performance against the Longhorns. Facing double teams all day he had 12 tackles, 9 for zero or negative yards and 4 ½ sacks. Nebraska is second in the FBS in points allowed at 11.2 per game and ninth in total defense, giving up an average of 284.5 yards. On the other side of the ball, Nebraska relies on running back Roy Helu who rushed for 1,139 yards and 9 TD's.

+1 two tough defenses
+1 best DT in the nation vs. strong offensive line
-1 two average offenses

MCR 1(Woman's Heart)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Matchup Comparison Rating: the Christmas hangover edition

Ok, so other than the surprisingly entertaining 2 overtime New Mexico bowl, the games have sucked. Not to worry, we've adjusted the MCR and we won't let you down. I hope.

Marshall (6-6) vs. Ohio (9-4)
Dec. 26, 1:00 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor: Of course this bowl should be called the "Pizza, Pizza" bowl because of the title sponsor but this bowl is also sponsored by a wide range of companies, everything from the United Auto Workers, to AT&T, to Blue Cross and Blue Shield, to the Detroit Lions. The closer we get to New Year's day, the more the sponsors pile on

On the field: Ok, stick with me here this is going to get messy. After a stretch of losing three of four games to end the season Mark Snyder resigned as coach of the Thundering Herd and Marshal hired West Virginia assistant John "Doc" Holliday and gave him a five year contract. He's not at the bowl though, erstwhile defensive coordinator and interim coach Rick Minter will coach the team for one game. Sounds ugly doesn't it? It could get that way. Marshall is led by… Marshall. Running back Darius Marshall who is returning from an ankle injury was a second-team all-conference selection and rushed for 1054 yards and 11 TD's. Ohio's run defense is quite porous so it could play right into the hands of Marshall (both the running back and the team). Ohio is led by QB Theo Scott who completed just over 58% of his passes for 2258 yards and 19 TD's. Scott's favorite target is WR Taylor Price who has 52 receptions on the season. They also have Tight End Cody Slate who made 50 receptions for 607 yards, that was good enough to make him a Mackey Award finalist.

+1 strong passing attack vs. strong rushing attack
-1 Lame-duck coach
-1 barely bowl eligible team
MCR 0 (Rosie O'Donnell Talk Show)

Pittsburgh (9-3) vs. UNC (8-4)
Dec. 26, 4:30 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor: Meineke has turned simple jobs like flushing an AC system and changing brake pads into a Million dollar company. They're so successful at it that they can be the title sponsor of a bowl game. All that and yet they can't pay someone to come up with a better slogan than "At Meineke, you're always the Driver." I have no idea what that means.

On the field: This should be renamed the disappointment bowl. Pitt has to try and get past two straight last-minute losses including a heartbreaker against Cincy that cost Pitt the Big East title. UNC has been tough to figure out this year, they beat Virginia Tech and Miami, but lost to Virginia and NC State.

Pitt's offense is quite formidable with quarterback Bill Stull who has thrown for 2470 yards, 21 TD's and only 8 picks. Pitt is well balanced with super freshman Dion Lewis who finished third nationally in rushing yards per game and is 46 yards shy of Tony Dorsett's 36-year-old Pitt freshman record of 1,686 rushing yards. On the other side of the ball the Tar Heels rank sixth nationally in total defense and ninth against the run. Pitt's bread and butter on defense is their line which is largely responsible for the Panthers FBS best 45 sacks. That could spell doom for North Carolina's T.J. Yates who is the ACC's 10th rated passer.
+1 strong offense
+1 strong rushing attack vs. good rushing defense
+1 record breaking freshman running back
-1 strong blowout possibility
MCR 2(Microwave Dinner)

USC (8-4) vs. BC (8-4)
Dec. 26, 8:00 PM – ESPN

A word from our sponsor: Who knew that selling something as mundane as nuts could be so profitable? Diamond Foods, that's who. From their website (which I think was created by the makers of Monte Python) Emerald, the nut brand of Diamond Foods was first made public on July 21, 2005 and has the simple goal of being "a branded food company that specializes in everything NUTS." Awesome, a company that's proud to be nuts!

On the field: BC was picked to finish last in the ACC's Atlantic Division (aren't college football reporters smart?) but will play in a bowl for the 11th straight year. USC isn't used to playing this early in bowl season, the Trojans have been in the Rose Bowl or the Orange Bowl for seven straight years. USC could be without the services of star running back Joe McKnight who didn't initially travel with the team because he had to do some "paperwork" as coach Pete Carroll said. No telling if that "paperwork" had anything to do with the SUV McKnight was seen driving around LA.

If USC is without McKnight's services they will have to rely heavily on Matt Barkley who was inconsistent all season long and finished with a Pac-10 leading 12 interceptions and only 13 TD's. BC had their own freshman QB woes as Dave Shinskie was last in the conference completing only 52.8 percent of his passes. BC has relied more on running back Montel Harris, who set school records with 264 rushing yards and five touchdowns in a 52-20 win over North Carolina State on Oct. 17.
+1 strong running game
+1 schadenfreude – seeing USC in a crappy bowl a day after Christmas.
-1 bad mismatch possibility
MCR 1 (Woman's Heart)

Kentucky (7-5) vs. Clemson (8-5)

Dec. 27, 8:30 PM – ESPN

A word from our sponsor: From the bowl's website here's how it's described. The Bowl is played in a world-class city known for incredible entertainment and southern hospitality. A post-season college football game played in late December in Nashville, TN. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the Bowl is an NCAA sanctioned event that currently features the two top football conferences in the country, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Who knew that Nashville was so awesome and the ACC was one of the top two football conferences in the country?

On the field: The Wildcats will be making their 3rd trip to the Music City bowl in the last four years. They will be looking to win their fourth consecutive postseason game. Both teams encountered close late-season losses to land in the Music City Bowl. The player to watch in this game is versatile running back C.J. Spiller the ACC player of the year. Spiller scored TD's five different ways: 11 rushing, 4 receiving, 4 on kickoff returns, 1 on a punt return and 1 on a pass. He ended up sixth on the Heisman Trophy voting. Oh by the way, Kentucky will be without its best defensive player linebacker Sam Maxwel who had shoulder surgery. That's not the only injury for Kentucky, they have been without QB Mike Hartline and have had to rely on freshman Morgan Newton. They do have some offensive firepower, tailback Derrick Locke and all-purpose WR Randall Cobb have combined for 1,381 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns, with Cobb averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
+1 Heisman finalist
+1 two strong running attacks
-1 mismatch probability
MCR 1 (Woman's Heart)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Matchup Comparison Rating: the Deck the Halls edition

While you're putting up the Christmas tree and wrapping the gifts* you'll have the opportunity to catch some college football. How good will the games be? The MCR has you covered.

Oregon St (8-4) vs. BYU (10-2)
Dec. 22, 8:00 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor: According to their website, No one does more auto body repair and auto paint jobs than Maaco. According to pissed they don't do such a great job at it. Of course Maaco is the title sponsor but it wouldn't be the Las Vegas bowl without plenty of casino sponsors like the Venetian and Fremont Street.

On the field:BYU really really likes the Las Vegas bowl, so much so that they decided to make this their fifth consecutive trip. Those Mormons like them some gambling don't they? There are some side stories to this game, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall played for Oregon State a team that has won five straight bowls. On paper this should be a very compelling game. You have the 16th and 13th best passing attacks and 23rd and 13th highest scoring offenses. This game also has a family theme to it. Oregon State is led by the Rodgers brothers, leading rusher Jacquizz (1377 yards, 20TD's) and leading receiver James (1004 yards, 9TD's). BYU is led by QB Max Hall whose favorite target is Mackey Award finalist tight end Dennis Pitta who happens to be Hall's brother-in-law. BYU's leading rusher is Harvey Unga who ran for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. The Cougars' all-time leading rusher with 3,384 yards, he is the cousin of Oregon State freshman players Devin and Kevin Unga. Both QB's Max Hall and Sean Canfield can light the scoreboard up. Both are completing around 70% of their passes, both have thrown for more than 3,000 yards and the two have combined for 51 TD's. The over/under sits at 59, that might be too low.

+1 2 strong offenses
+1 Mormons in Vegas
+1 shootout possibility
+1 two evenly matched teams

MCR 4 (Viper/Shelby Cobra)

Utah (9-3) vs. California (8-4)
Dec. 23, 8:00 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor: San Diego County Credit Union is a member owned financial institution focused on serving the financial needs of San Diego, Riverside and Orange County residents. For a credit union to have the kind of money to title sponsor a bowl, there must be a lot of rich people in Orange County and Riverside. Keep in mind the World Wide Leader and AT&T are corporate sponsors as well which means they forked over $25,000 plus, remember that next time you get your AT&T phone bill.

On the field: Utah is trying to extend the nation's longest postseason winning streak to nine games and just like our beloved Nittany Lions, trying to prove they can beat a decent team. Utah played three ranked teams and lost to all of them. Cal had high hopes coming into the season but blowout losses to Oregon and USC, and a horrible lost to Washington in the season finale dashed any BCS notions. Cal will also be without star running back Jahvid Best who is still recovering from a concussion. Utah led the Mountain West with 15 interceptions and held opponents to an average of 172.8 passing yards. That doesn't bode well for Cal quarterback Kevin Riley who has only managed to complete just over 54% of his passes. The Utes have a decent running back threat in Eddie Wide, who led the conference with 1,032 rushing yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

+1 two evenly matched teams
+1 two decent defenses
-1 two pathetic offenses

MCR 1(Woman's Heart)

Nevada (8-4) vs. SMU (7-5)
Dec. 24, 8:00 PM - ESPN

A word from our sponsor: Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Outback Steakhouse, and Heineken beer. That sounds like the trifecta of sponsors to me. Get a good steak, get drunk and pass out on the beach.

On the field: SMU will be playing in a postseason bowl for the first time since getting the NCAA death penalty 25 years ago. Coach June Jones has turned his inaugural 1-11 season into a 7-5 campaign the biggest turnaround in the FBS. For their efforts they get the team with three (?!?!) 1000 yard rushers. Nevada lost three consecutive games to start the season and then reeled off eight straight to challenge Boise State for the WAC title but lost to the broncos 44-33.

Nevada leads all FBS teams with 362.3 rushing yards per game, and scores 40.6 points per game. They are also 2nd in total yards averaging a whopping 521.6 yards per game. Junior quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the Wolf Pack's go to guy throwing for 1875 yards and rushing for 1160 and scoring 35 touchdowns combined. Luke Lippincott and Vai Taua were the other two running backs to break the 1,000 yard mark for the season. SMU is not without weapons though, despite the pass-happy run-and-shoot that Jones likes, the Mustangs were more balanced thanks to Shawnbrey McNeal who ran for 1,125 yards and 9 touchdowns.

+1 kick-ass offense
+1 3-1,000 yard rushers
+1 pistol vs. run-and-shoot
+1 high probability of offensive explosion
-1 potential blowout

MCR 3 (Jessica Simpson Sex Tape)

*by wrapping gifts I mean putting the gift cards in their envelopes