The College Bowl Season: An Analysis (Part 1)

Well sports fans, it’s that time of year again. Time to call in your vacation days and sit in front of the TV for the next three weeks. It’s college bowl season! In this multi-part series of articles, I will try to delve into as much depth as possible for the 35 bowl games that are slated to be played. Breaking it down into 5 games per article, this first one will feature the New Mexico Bowl up until the Poinsettia Bowl. Without further ado, let’s get on with it.

Glidan New Mexico Bowl

The first bowl of the 2011-12 season will feature the Temple Owls out of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and the Wyoming Cowboys from the Mountain West Conference (MWC). Both teams went 8-4 on the year, however the focus is going to come down to defense. The Owls are ranked 3rd in the nation for points allowed, giving up just under 14 points on average; they held the high-octane Penn State offense to just two touchdowns, which is pretty impressive. On the other side of the ball, Temple loves to run, with Bernard Pierce rushing for almost 1400 yards and 25 touchdowns. But that makes them very one-dimensional, as there quarterback Chester Stewart has done nothing all season to be considered a threat.

For Wyoming, their challenge is to contain the potent rushing attack of the Owls, something their defense hasn’t been able to do most of the season. With a middle of the road defensive squad, the Cowboys are going to have to rely on the arm of quarterback Brett Smith to keep them in the game. Throwing for 2500 yards and 18 TDs, Smith has led the charge in some quality wins over bowl bound San Diego State and Air Force. While impressive that Wyoming have made it this far after many failures in the past, I still can’t see them winning this game against the much faster, more dominating presence that is Temple.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Renamed from the Humanitarian Bowl, this game will feature the Ohio Bobacats from the MAC against the Utah State Aggies out of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Now the Bobcats (9-4, 6-2 MAC) have had great success this year, almost winning the MAC championship game. All of that can be placed on Tyler Tettleton, their starting quarterback. Tyler has thrown for over 3000 yards and 26 TDs, and with talented wide receivers like Lavon Brazill and Riley Dunlop there is no question with what the Bobcats want to do every play. Defensively, they’ve had their struggles at times with give up points late, but they’ve managed to hold the fort down when it counts.

The Aggies (7-5, 5-2 WAC) had to deal with a quarterback controversy for the second half of the season. Chuck Keeton started the first six games for the Aggies, netting 1200 yards and 11 TDs, leading them to a 2-4 record. Then Adam Kennedy stepped in for the next game and rattled off a 5 game winning streak to propel Utah State into a bowl game. While it is beyond a shadow of a doubt who is starting on the offense, it’s the defense that needs to rise to the occasion. While playing in the WAC doesn’t have the stiffest of competition, routinely giving up 30 points a game isn’t very appealing. That’s why I think Ohio will win this bowl match.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Heading down south, we have the New Orleans Bowl with a pair of 8-4 teams squaring off: the San Diego State Aztecs and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. The Aztecs (8-4, 4-3 MWC) came off a very average performance by Ryan Lindley, who threw for 2700 yards and 20 TDs, down from last year. But the rushing performance by Ronnie Hillman made up for it, as he ran for 1650 yards with 19 TDs to go along with that. Defensively, the Aztecs could have done more, with their worst outing giving up 52 points to Boise State.

The Cajuns (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt) blasted out of the gate with 6 wins in their first 7 games, but then slowly faded back down to Earth with losses to two conference opponents and Pac-12 basement dwellers Arizona. Like San Diego State, they put together an average performance both offensively and defensively. Blaine Gautier passed for 2500 yards and 20 TDs while the running game was pretty poor overall. On the defensive side, Louisiana-Lafayette will keep teams in games, surrendering at least 20 points in almost all of their games.

While the Cajuns will be in front of their home state crowd, the firepower of the Aztecs should prove to be enough to come out on top.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg

On the sunny beaches of Florida, this match-up will feature the Florida International Golden Panthers coming from the Sun Belt conference, versus the Marshall Thundering Herd from Conference-USA (C-USA). The Panthers (8-4, 5-3 Sun Belt) have been better on the defensive side of the ball throughout the season. At just over 19 points allowed per game (16th in the nation), they will certainly find ways to shut down the opposition. Which is good for them, since their offense can really score all that much. Wesley Carroll, their quarterback, has totaled 2200 yards and 14 TDs passing, while Kedrick Rhodes is leading the team in rushing with 1100 yards and 8 TDs.

Marshall (6-6, 5-3 C-USA), on the other side, should be considered fortunate to have a chance playing in a bowl game, with an overtime win in the last game to do it. And I’m very unimpressed at the numbers this team has put up. Their leading passer, Rakeem Cato, has just 1800 yards and 13 TDs. Tron Martinez, leading rusher on the team, has only 600 yards and 3 TDs. Plus the fact that they have a -8 point difference per game (22 points scored to 30 points given up) leads me to believe that they do not have what it takes to pull off a victory.

FIU should win handily.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Southern California weather should be perfect for this bowl game, which pits the Mountain West Champion and 18th ranked TCU Horned Frogs and the WAC Champion Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The loss of Andy Dalton didn’t hurt the Horned Frogs (10-2, 7-0 MWC) much, as Casey Pachall filled into the role nicely. Throwing for 2700 yards and 24 TDs, he led TCU from a devastating overtime loss to Southern Methodist, to a 7 game winning streak and an upset of then-ranked 5th Boise State. Behind him, though, were two options to choose from: Waymon James and Matthew Tucker. Both running back combined for 1500 yards and 17 TDs to help add depth to the prolific passing attack. The defense can be temperamental at times, and with Louisiana Tech being surprisingly sneaky, they need to stay focused to pull off a win.

The Bulldogs (8-4, 6-1 WAC) looked very bleak at the beginning of the season. Losing 4 of their first 5, many supporters thought the season was over. Then they managed to string together 7 straight victories, 6 of them in conference, to take the WAC title. Nick Isham did all that he could do as the starting quarterback in the first seven games, throwing for 1450 yards and 8 TDs. He was replaced for the final five games by Colby Cameron, who threw the same amount of yards and 3 more touchdowns in that short time; Cameron will be starting in the bowl game. The Bulldogs’ defense was shaky in the first half of the season, but responding to change on the offensive side, they clamped down upon the opposition allowing only 15 points per game during the winning streak.

The game is very close to call, and could come down to field goal, but if TCU can execute like that have all season, it should be enough to trump the Bulldogs recent string of luck.

Well that’s the first five bowl games in a nutshell. Do you agree/disagree with the predicted outcomes? Let’s us know in the comments section below.