Tag:Bowl Bonanza
Posted on: January 8, 2011 12:35 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Basics: Nevada (12-1) vs. Boston College (7-5), Jan. 9, 9 ET

Why You Should Watch: What?  Do you want kids to starve or something?  We're trying to fight hunger here, people.  With football.  Didn't you know that when you're starving, by watching football and diverting your body's attention, you keep it from eating itself.  It's real science, look it up, I swear. Okay, so maybe the science is a little off, but there's still some other reasons to watch this game.  First, it features a Nevada team that beat Boise State earlier this year and won the WAC.  The Wolfpack aren't a bad team, and quite frankly, they're a fun team to watch.  Finally, there's the fact that after this game, there's only one game left on the schedule.  Get in one more college football game while you can, before the long, dark summer creeps in.

Keys to Victory for Nevada: The key to victory for Nevada is very tall and skinny, and when he runs, he reminds me of an ostrich. His name is Colin Kaepernick, and he's one of the more exciting quarterbacks in college football that a lot of people have never really had a chance to see.  Just like in every game Nevada plays, how The Ostrich goes, so goes the team.  And he could be facing one of his biggest tests of the season.
Kaepernick and the Wolfpack have one of the best rushing attacks in college football.  In fact, they're ranked third nationally with 305.9 yards per game.  Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua lead the attack.  Well, in this game, they'll be going against the top rush defense in the country, as Boston College has only allowed 80 yards a game on the ground.  Finding a way to be successful on the ground will be pivotal for the Wolfpack, because even though Kaepernick has improved as a passer, I'm not sure you want him being forced to drop back and throw too many times.  Particularly when he's most effective throwing off of play action.

Keys to Victory for Boston College: The Eagles offense has been unreliable all season, scoring a meager 18.9 points a game.  So, obviously, if Boston College is going to win this game, it can't afford to get into a shootout.  Which means that the defense is going to have to stifle the Nevada ground game to have any shot.

Which means that the linebacking trio of Luke Kueckly, Mark Herzlich and Kevin Pierre-Louis will have to once again step up and keep the Eagles in this game.  Of course, you can't win if you don't score points, so Boston College's offense will have to do something when it has the ball.  The good news for BC is that running back Montel Harris is expected to play in this game after missing the last few weeks of the regular season with an injury.  He's only 126 yards shy of becoming Boston College's all-time leading rusher.  If Boston College wants to win this game, they're going to need Harris to set that mark.

The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl is like: that potato chip you dropped on the ground without even noticing.  You've spent the last few hours watching television with that bag of chips in your lap.  Now the bag is empty, but you're still hungry.  That's when you notice the chip sitting on the floor.  It's got some lint on it, but still, you wonder.  "Do I have another bag of chips in the cupboard?"  No, and you don't plan on going shopping for more food right now either.  So are you going to eat that chip?  You're not sure how long it's been sitting there, and you haven't vacuumed in a while, so who knows what's gotten on to that thing since it's been down there.  But you're hungry.  What do you do?  Are you going to eat it?
Posted on: January 7, 2011 1:09 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: BBVA Compass Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Basics: Pitt (7-5) vs. Kentucky (6-6), 12 p.m. EST, Jan. 8, Birmingham, Ala.

Why You Should Watch: It's your final chance to spend a Saturday afternoon watching college football. Isn't that reason enough? If it's not, well, frankly, a matchup between a unexciting Pitt squad of questionable motivation (following the ouster of Dave Wannstedt) and a .500 Kentucky team that slumped badly down the stretch probably won't get your pulse racing. But the Wildcats' receiver/returner/Wildcat (as in the formation) quarterback Randall Cobb is one of the most underrated and explosive players in the country, and there's also the chance that Pitt preseason All-American running back Dion Lewis could pick up where he left off in his late-season (as in, final game) breakout and go bananas again.

But mostly, as we said, it's the last-chance saloon for weekend college football. Drink up while you can.

Keys to Victory for Pitt: The first -- and probably most important one -- is simply for the Panthers to show up. Pitt has already endured one of the most disappointing seasons in the country, an insanely tumultuous offseason that's featured Wannstedt's firing, Mike Haywood's hiring, then Haywood's firing, and Wannstedt waffling until this week on whether he'd bother to come to Birmingham or not. Pitt's morale and focus probably wasn't great even before the coaching drama; though interim head coach Phil Bennett has head coaching experience and is as respected as anyone on staff, it's still anyone's guess what kind of mindset the Panthers will bring to their (admittedly lower-rent) bowl.

But if the Panthers are locked in, they've got the tools to make life very hard on the Wildcats. Offensively, Lewis appears to be back in form after his early-season struggles, receiver Jonathan Baldwin's size will present some serious matchup problems for the Kentucky corners, and the young (and often inconsistent) offensive line should benefit from the extra practice time. Defensively, though the Panthers will miss injured defensive end Jabaal Sheard, Bennett's charges finished a quiet ninth in the country in total defense, and should have little difficulty stopping a 'Cat passing attack minus starting suspended starting quarterback Mike Hartline. On paper, the Panthers ought to be the favorites.

But emotion regularly makes a hash of what "ought" to happen on paper in football, and what kind of emotion Pitt will play with is very much a question right now.

Keys to Victory for Kentucky: The Wildcat's first problem is obvious: Hartline's absence through suspension for a public intoxication arrest. That leaves sophomore Morgan Newton at the helm of the offense; while he hasn't played this season (only seven passes attempted), Newton's freshman season saw him complete 55.6 percent of his 135 passes for only 5.2 yards per attempt. He's likely to be a little sharper with another year under his belt and the extra bowl practice to prepare, but he'll also have to deal with a Pitt pass rush that's been one of the country's best the past couple of seasons (even without Sheard). Newton must play under control, and the Wildcat offensive line -- in a bit of good news for Kentucky, one that's allowed only 15 sacks all season, second-best in the SEC -- must give him time, or the Wildcat passing attack will be dead-on-arrival.

If Newton is on point and the line does give him time, the Wildcats have the weapons to put plenty of points on the board; Cobb, running back Derrick Locke, and 6'5" receiver Chris Matthews would all start for a lot of teams a lot higher-ranked than Kentucky. They may need them, since aside from revelatory first-team All-SEC linebacker Danny Trevathan (the conference's leader in tackles), few Wildcats stood out on defense this season either in rush defense -- where the 'Cats gave up 170 yards a game -- or pass defense, where the 'Cats ranked 81st by giving up 7.4 yards an attempt.

Of course, as unthreatening as Pitt's offense has been at times, the game promises to be tight and low-scoring regardless. Which is where Cobb comes in: one big special teams return or huge play out of the backfield could decide the game, and the Panthers don't appear to have a similar weapon.

The BBVA Compass Bowl is like: the small-town gas station off the Interstate that the sign says is your last opportunity to fill up for 73 miles or so. You stop because, hey, better get some gas. But maybe there's also a souvenir inside, a little Randall Cobb or Dion Lewis-shaped figurine, that you'll want to keep and remember during the long Saturday football-less road ahead.


Posted on: January 2, 2011 12:12 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Sugar Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Basics: Ohio State (11-1) vs. Arkansas (10-2), Jan. 4, 8:30pm ET

Why You Should Watch: This game will feature one of the more interesting matchups in the BCS this season, and in the bowl games.  On one side you have a program that is no stranger to the BCS, nor to facing an SEC opponent (Ohio State is 0-9 against the SEC in bowl games) while there in Ohio State.  The other side has a team that's looking around like "Wow."  Arkansas has had some success in the last decade, but the Sugar Bowl isn't a stage it's grown accustomed to.  In fact, this is Arkansas' first appearance in a BCS game, and first trip to the Sugar Bowl since 1980. 

It's also a clash of styles.  Ohio State presents an offense that prefers to keep things close to its sweatervest, preferring to move the ball down the field slowly, and occasionally go for the big play.  Arkansas is a team that can score from anywhere on the field at anytime, and is literally trying to score on every play.  It'll be like a poker game where one guy is pushing all his chips in on every play, and the other is just sitting around waiting for pocket aces.

Keys to Victory for Ohio State: As I mentioned above, Ohio State and Jim Tressel have a very particular approach to football, and if they're going to win this game, it's a formula they'll likely need to stick to.  Ohio State's defense is pretty strong, but the best way to keep the Arkansas offense from putting points on the board is to keep the Arkansas offense on the sideline.  So while Terrelle Pryor has plenty of talent and nice weapons in Devier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, the Buckeyes best bet is to keep the ball on the ground and in the hands of Brandon Saine and Dan Herron.

On defense, the goal is simple, but not easy to execute: stop Ryan Mallett.  Mallett has thrown for 3,627 yards and 30 touchdowns this season, so it will be a key for Ohio State's defense to get pressure on him and not allow him to sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary.  Of course, while focusing on Mallett, the Buckeyes can't afford to sleep on Knile Davis.  Davis has rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns, and is often overlooked due to the Arkansas passing attack.

Keys to Victory for Arkansas: Now, we know that Arkansas has a high powered offense.  One that is 4th in the nation in passing yards with 349.2 a game, but its average of 37.3 points per game is actually below Ohio State's output of 39.4 points a game.  So we know that Mallett, Greg Childs and the rest of the Razorback offense is going to make some plays.

The key will be whether or not Arkansas' defense can stop the Buckeyes.  The Hogs have lost two games this season.  One was a shootout against Auburn that saw its defense give up 65 points to Auburn.  The other was a game in which the Hogs only managed 20 points against Alabama.  Ohio State will be the toughest defense Arkansas has faced since that game, and the Arkansas defense will have to do its part to keep the Hogs in the game.  To do this the Hogs will have to make Pryor one-dimensional.  Either take away the pass and force him to beat you with his legs, or take away the running lanes and force him to beat you with his arm.

The Sugar Bowl is like: Well, it's like a big bowl of sugar.  It tastes really good, gets you incredibly excited, but in the end, you're just going to crash and it won't really mean anything in the bigger picture.  Of course, that won't stop you from doing it all over again.
Posted on: December 31, 2010 11:36 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: TicketCity Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Why to watch: Why, Northwestern is playing in the Cotton Bowl for the first time in the program's history! Sure, by that we're referring to the venue and not the bowl game itself (that's in Cowboys Stadium) but this is Northwestern's first game in Dallas, period. Isn't that enough? Doesn't history mean anything to you? Of course, it would be nice if Dan Persa -- the man who almost single-handedly put Northwestern in the postseason to begin with -- were healthy and able to play, but a fully Persa'd Northwestern team wouldn't have slid all the way to the TicketCity Bowl. As for Texas Tech , the nation can witness Tommy Tuberville and his neutered, lobotomized version of Mike Leach 's Air Raid offense. That won't be fun, per se, but not every play's a comedy.

Keys to victory for Northwestern: The Wildcats lost a lot when Dan Persa ruptured his Achilles' tendon, but heart appears to be the chief missing ingredient. Even though Persa never played a snap of defense (to the best of our knowledge anyway but you really can't rule this out), when he was out, Northwestern began giving up points in bunches. Illinois roughed the Cats up to the tune of 48 points at Wrigley Field, then Wisconsin rolled up 70 points in three quarters -- the fourth was nothing but random Wisconsin students from the crowd taking snaps on first down, then the Badgers punting on second down out of pity. If Northwestern wants even a fighting chance, it'll need to get its mojo back first. That means Evan Watkins will need to put together a good game under center, and tailback Mike Trumpy will probably have to get 100 yards or close to it just to keep the Northwestern defense off the field. Also, not giving up like 50 points would be ideal.

Keys to victory for Texas Tech: Obviously, step one is getting Taylor Potts off and running (or throwing, anyway); Potts is something of a relic of a bygone era considering his upbringing in the Leach offense, but he still threw nearly 500 times for 31 scores this year. Most of those scores went to Lyle Leong , who is downright lethal in the red zone: 13 of his 17 touchdown catches came in the red zone, with three more coming within 26 yards. MORE OF THAT PLEASE, obviously, but if Northwestern sells out to limit Leong's availability like Oklahoma , Oklahoma State , and Texas all did (all Tech losses), Potts is going to have to figure out how to spread the wealth successfully between the 20s and in the red zone. He did that against Baylor, so it's not as if this is an impossible task.

The TicketCity Bowl is like: Church. You may not enjoy it, but that's not the point and it never was to begin with. This is the first game of the New Year, kicking off at noon on the East Coast and in the morning everywhere else in the States, so odds are that most people watching the game are going to be wishing they were still in bed. Ah, but this is the institution you worship, this combat on this sacred acre of grass, and if anything's going to drag you out of bed with a brain still spitting up champagne and gasping for air, this is it. Get up, get in your seat, and get back to the real world as you watch the first snap of 2011.

Posted on: December 31, 2010 9:27 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Capital One Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Basics: Alabama (9-3) vs. Michigan State (11-1), Jan. 1, 1pm ET

Why You Should Watch: If you're a fan of defensive football, then this game may be your dream matchup. Now, on the surface, not many people seem to be giving Michigan State a chance in this game, and it's understandable.  After all, Alabama is the defending national champ and has a bit of a chip on its shoulder following what it feels is a disappointing season.  Nobody seems to be paying much attention to the fact that Michigan State has only one loss, and has been a very solid team all season.  This one could turn out to be one of those New Year's Day shockers.

Keys to Victory for Alabama: I think the biggest key for Alabama in this game is that it wants to play in it.  It's not crazy to think that the Tide might show some disinterest in this one.  After all, this is a team that feels it's supposed to be getting ready to defend its title in ten days, or at least in a BCS bowl game.  Not playing in Orlando in the "second-tier" Capital One Bowl.

Of course, on the flip side of that, this could be an angry team.  One hell-bent on destroying the Spartans.  If Alabama cares then I see no reason why it shouldn't pick up the victory.  The Tide are more talented than Michigan State at just about every position.  Plus, one of Alabama's weakness is it's pass protection and Michigan State hasn't had much of a pass rush all season.  Still, that doesn't mean Alabama should fall into the trap of trying to throw all day.  Yes, Julio Jones is a monster, but the secondary is probably the one aspect of this game in which Michigan State has an advantage on the Tide.

Instead we should get a healthy dose of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and seeing those two matchup against MSU's Greg Jones is something that every college football fan should enjoy.

Keys to Victory for Michigan State: The Spartans have used a balanced offense to find success all season, and that shouldn't change in this game if they want to pull off the upset.  Yes, Alabama is tough against the run, but the Spartans have a few options at running back with Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper and have the ability to wear the Tide down.

Also, just because the Spartans will be without B.J. Cunningham -- the teams leading receiver -- that doesn't mean they don't have options in the passing game.  Plus the Tide will be without Mark Barron, which will only help matters.  Kirk Cousins has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football this season, and he'll still have plenty of weapons at his disposal in Mark Dell, Keith Nichol, Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum.

The X-factor could be the speedster Keshawn Martin. He's very dangerous in space, so look for the Spartans to try and find him some.

The Capital One Bowl is like: the movie 300.  The Spartans will be playing the role of the Spartans, and Alabama is the giant Persian army marching in looking to crush everything and everyone in its path.  All that's missing are the air-brushed abs and gratuitous nudity.  Will these Spartans emerge victorious, or end up in a pile of bodies?
Posted on: December 31, 2010 8:46 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Outback Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Basics: Florida (7-5) vs. Penn State (7-5), Jan.1, 1pm ET

Why You Should Watch: Well, first of all, you should watch this game because it'll be starting around the same time you're finally waking up out of your New Year's Eve haze.  Nothing like some football to help you shake the cobwebs out of your brain.  Oh, and it's also the final time you will have a chance to see Urban Meyer nearly suffer a heart attack on a Florida sideline.  Not to mention, depending on who you want to believe, it could also be the final time that Joe Paterno ever graces a sideline.

Keys to Victory for Florida: You could question how Florida will approach this game given everything that's gone on in Gainesville over the last month, but I don't think motivation is going to be a problem.  There's no way these Gators want to send Urban Meyer out with a loss.  To do this, well, the Gators will have do so something they haven't done all season.

Find some consistency on offense.  Whether it's John Brantley through the air, or Trey Burton on the ground, whoever is at quarterback for Florida is going to have to make some plays against this Penn State defense.  That means the Gators offensive line, which has been pretty disappointing this year, is going to need to step up the protection.  When Brantley is back there he tends to make dumb decisions when facing pressure and has a hard time reading coverage.

The best way to help Brantley would be to get the ground game going with Mike Gillislee, Emmanuel Moody, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.  Penn State has had some problems with the run this season, and the Gators should watch the game film of the Penn State game against Illinois and copy Illinois' game plan.  Maybe Ron Zook can finally win a bowl game for Florida after all these years.

Keys to Victory for Penn State: Florida is faster and more athletic than Penn State.  The best way for Penn State to counter this will be to attack, attack and attack some more on defense.  Blitz John Brantley like there is no tomorrow and force him to make decisions he's not ready to make. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the Nittany Lions need to tighten things up against the run.

When Penn State has the ball it should look to exploit the Gators a bit in the secondary.  Yes, Evan Royster should still get plenty of carries to soften up the Florida defense, but the Gators don't have Janoris Jenkins in this game and he's not an easy player to replace.  Now, the problem here is that as good as Matt McGloin has been, he's not very effective on deep routes.  Which means that Penn State should look to attack Florida on shorter routes like slants and hitches. 

Finally, it will be important for Royster and the offensive line to have move the ball against the Florida run defense.  Royster had a couple of lackluster games against tough run defenses like Alabama and Ohio State this season, and for Penn State to have a legit chance in this game, he's going to have to produce.

The Outback Bowl is like: one of those Rolling Stones farewell concerts.  You know that even though they claim it's the last time you'll ever see them performing, they're going to come back eventually.  Yes, Urban Meyer may be leaving Florida to spend time with the family and tend to his health, but do you really believe a man that immersed in football is never coming back?  I don't.
Posted on: December 31, 2010 8:17 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 8:18 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Fiesta Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The Basics: Oklahoma (11-2) vs. UConn (8-4), Jan. 1, 8:30pm ET

Why You Should Watch: If you like those nature programs where a pack of lionesses hunt down and ruthlessly slaughter a gazelle, this is totally the bowl game for you. Probably. Possibly. Not if you go by Bob Stoops' prior track record in BCS games, admittedly; he and his Sooners have lost their last five. And that's the real reason you have to tune in, no matter how lopsided a matchup this might appear to be. If a UConn team that is totally overmatched on paper -- remember that the Huskies lost to Temple, were shut out by Louisville, and won the Big East despite being outgained by some 600 total yards in league play -- can pull off what might be the upset of the season, or even come close, Stoops might hitch the first plane to Gainesville just to avoid the tomato storm that would await him on his return to Norman. It's not likely, but like the first round of the NCAA Tournament in hoops, the potential is tantalizing enough that it's still a game you have to watch. Just know that no one will blame you for making other plans for the third and fourth quarters.

Keys to Victory for Oklahoma: The biggest one for the Sooners is pretty simple: just don't screw it up. Stoops' team has overwhelming matchup advantages all over the field, and if they can merely avoid making the handful of catastrophic mistakes that would keep the Huskies in the game, they should cruise. Start with the passing game, where Oklahoma will feature the nation's No. 4 air attack at 337 yards-per-game, one headed by quarterback Landry Jones and featuring one of the FBS's most dangerous receivers in overlooked All-American (if there can be such a thing) Ryan Broyles. They'll be facing a low-wattage UConn secondary that was shredded by the likes of Michigan (8.5 yards an attempt), Rutgers (11.4), and Pitt (7.9). If the Panthers' Tino Sunseri can do that kind of damage (he finished 20-of-28 for more than 220 yards) against the Huskies, there's no telling what Jones and Broyles might do. It doesn't get much better in the run game, where 1,100-yard All-Big 12 rusher DeMarco Murray will face a young front seven ranked 56th in the country in rush defense -- lower even than the Huskies' pass defense. If the Sooners don't turn the ball over (and their 16 total giveaways were the fewest in the Big 12), they should put up major yards and points without too much effort. 

Defensively, though, the Sooners aren't quite as overpowering; they rank outside the top 50 in total, passing, and rushing defense. But they do have a penchant for big plays, having forced 30 opponent turnovers this year, good for the fourth-highest total in the country. The ball-hawking secondary tag-team of senior safety Quinton Carter and junior corner Jamell Fleming each picked off four passes, with a big assist to Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Jeremy Beal. The senior defensive end wreaked havoc on opposing lines all season, recording 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles-for-loss. If Beal can force the Huskies into repeated third-and-longs or the Sooners' sticky fingers can negate a UConn drive or two with turnovers, the underdog won't stand a chance.

Keys to Victory for UConn: To actually win this game, UConn's going to have to catch a ton of breaks, and the bigger impact those breaks have, the better. Which is why they're going to need to make the game as low-possession, as short, and as break-dependent as possible, and that means a heavy dose of Jordan Todman. The nation's second-leading rusher, Todman gained 1,574 yards this season on an impressive 5.2 yards per-carry. Combine his toughness with a veteran line featuring a pair of first-team All-Big East performers in jumbo junior tackle Mike Ryan (333 pounds) and equally jumbo senior guard Zach Hurd (325 pounds), and you get what might be the Huskies' only real matchup advantage as they go up against a Sooner front that's allowed seven different teams to average 4.5 yards a carry or better. If Todman and the big Huskie front can grind out some big first downs, they'll take loads of pressure off the entire rest of the team: wobbly quarterback Zach Fraser (5.4 yards per-attempt for the season, 5-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio), a front seven that could be ground down by the Sooners' up-tempo attack if left on the field very long, a secondary that simply can't be allowed to face Jones, Broyles, and Co. with the burden of trying to salvage the game on their shoulders. For Uconn, it all starts with Todman and the line.

The good news is that if that start can keep the Huskies close going into the fourth quarter, they've shown an impressive ability to finish, winning tight games against West Virginia, Pitt, and South Florida with key late drives and clutch kicking from big-legged All-Big East kicker Dave Teggart. There's also little doubt that should the game stay competitive deep into the second half, all the pressure -- not only from this game, but from Stoops' previous BCS failures and Oklahoma's role as the overwhelming favorite -- will be on the Sooners, It won't be easy to get there, but if Todman can get rolling and the defense (notably all-league defensive end Kendall Reyes) can play far enough over its head to keep the Huskies in it, it might be the other team that makes the single game-deciding mistake.

The Fiesta Bowl is like: an inspirational underdog sports movie recast -- probably -- as a gritty indie drama. We've got a lovable, plucky underdog that's scraped and clawed to get its one shot at Goliath, a Goliath that by all rights should pound it into submission. (Big East or not, the Huskies are a far bigger underdog to Oklahoma than Boise State was four years ago in this same game.) If this was Rocky or The Mighty Ducks or something similar, the Fiesta would end with UConn executing some crazy trick play at the final whistle to pull out a shocking victory. Unfortunately for fans of those movies, it's far more likely that the Huskie heroes will be taught a cruel-but-authentic lesson about their inability to deal with powerful forces beyond their control. The critics might applaud if Oklahoma pulls away by three scores in the second quarter, but we're not expecting a crowd pleaser here.
Posted on: December 30, 2010 2:16 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Sun Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Basics: Notre Dame (7-5) vs. Miami (7-5), 2pm EST, CBS

Why You Should Watch: This is a pretty interesting matchup, not just for the teams playing in it, but because of the history between these two schools.  It's not quite the Catholics vs. Convicts matchups of the late 80s and early 90s, as neither team has been all that successful the last few years, but a win in this game could be another step on the path back to the top of the polls.  Plus it's on CBS!

Keys to Victory for Notre Dame: Ever since Dayne Crist went down during a loss against Tulsa, Tommy Rees has stepped in and played well, and the Irish haven't lost since.  Sure, Rees hasn't exactly been tearing it up in Crist's absence, but he's been managing the offense extremely well for a freshman, and the Irish have also seen their running game get going.

In order to beat Miami, the Irish will have to keep that formula going.  It was good enough to beat Utah and USC, and it could work against Miami as well.  The key will be for the offensive line to give Rees time, as the Miami pass rush will be better than any he has faced thus far.

Still, as well as Rees has played, the real reason Notre Dame has won its last three games has been the play of the defense.  The Irish have only allowed 22 points over those three games, and if they can pressure Jacory Harris it's only a matter of time before he makes a mistake.

Keys to Victory for Miami: Miami has the talent edge in this matchup.  The question is what the team's motivations will be.  The Hurricanes are playing for an interim coach in Jeff Stoutland, and you really have to wonder how badly they even want to play this game, or if they'd rather just move on.

We know that Jacory Harris will come to play as this is his last chance to redeem what's been a terrible 2010 season.  Still, that could work against Miami.  Harris' biggest problem has always been his patience, and it will be key for him to not try and do too much.  Just take what the Irish defense gives him, and move the ball down the field.

On defense, the key will be to get to Rees.  Pressure him into making mistakes, and keep the running game in check.    If Miami can do this, and the offense limits mistakes and turnovers, then there's no reason that Miami can't win this game.

The Sun Bowl is like: that fight between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson, the rematch, in 1997.  Yes, Holyfield was still the champion at the time, but neither fighter was the same as the ones we'd seen earlier in their careers.  Still, a win in this game, much like that title fight, would help bring some legitimacy back to either program.  I just hope that nobody bites anybody's ear off.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com