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Casey’s Call: College Football – Let’s Go Bowling

Syracuse Orange QB Ryan Nassib (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images), Kansas State Wildcats HB Daniel Thomas (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Syracuse Orange QB Ryan Nassib (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images), Kansas State Wildcats HB Daniel Thomas (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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By Casey Keefe
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Christmas has come and gone. If you asked Santa for better bowl games but didn’t quite get them, don’t worry…you’re about to. The matchups over the next three days are bigger and better than what we’ve seen to this point, that’s for sure.

Here’s a closer look…

Tonight:

CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL – West Virginia (9-3) vs. NC State (8-4)

- Matchup:

The Mountaineers narrowly missed out on a BCS bid, but their consolation prize is a spot in the Champs Sports Bowl against a solid, yet one-dimensional NC State team. The Wolf Pack will go as far as quarterback Russell Wilson takes them. When you’re that one-dimensional and are facing a defense as good as this West Virginia group (#3 overall), you are in big, big trouble.

- Players To Watch:

West Virginia: RB – Noel Devine – 886 rush yards, 6 TD’s

NC State: QB – Russell Wilson – 3,682 total yards, 35 total TD’s, 14 INT’s

- What Will Happen:

The Mountaineers will shut down Wilson, therefore naturalizing the Wolf Pack’s offense. State’s offensive line will struggle against West Virginia’s front seven which has racked up 40 sacks on the season. Running back Noel Devine, who’s been slowed by injuries all year long will look to go out with a bang in this one. Plus, I expect quarterback Geno Smith – who’s more of a true passer than Pat White ever was – to pick apart State’s secondary… Prediction: West Virginia

INSIGHT BOWL – Missouri (10-2) vs. Iowa (7-5)

- Matchup:

The best 7-5 team in the country takes on the explosive offense of the Missouri Tigers. Iowa was headed for bigger and better things before their season fell apart against Northwestern. However they remain one of the best coached teams in the country under Kirk Ferentz. With such great offensive talent showcased between the two teams, the game will be decided by whichever defense steps up to the table and clamps down.

- Players To Watch:

Missouri: QB – Blaine Gabbert – 2,752 pass yards, 15 TD’s, 7 INT’s

Iowa: DE – Adrian Clayborn – 51 tackles, 7 TFL, 3.5 sacks, FF

- What Will Happen:

The Hawkeyes have gone through a little bit of turmoil with the dismissal of star receiver Derrell-Johnson Koulianos due to drugs and the suspension of running back Adam Robinson. However they remain extremely dangerous on both sides of the ball. Ricky Stanzi has played smart ball at the quarterback position all year long. He still has an electrifying receiver in Marvin McNutt. Despite being without Robinson, I expect the Hawkeyes to still get production on the ground against the weak Tiger run defense. I think you’ll see Adrian Clayborn and the defensive line put pressure on Blaine Gabbert which will really hamper the Tigers offense… Prediction: Iowa

Wednesday:

ALAMO BOWL – Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5)

- Matchup:

This matchup would look like a dandy if this was 6 weeks ago. Both teams were flying high, but unlike Oklahoma State, Arizona struggled down the stretch, finishing the season on a 4 game losing streak. But with a month to rest and prep, the Cowboys are sure to get Arizona’s best. We’ll see two of the nation’s best wide receivers, Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon and Arizona’s Juron Criner. Expect to see a lot of points scored in this one.

- Players To Watch:

Oklahoma State: WR – Justin Blackmon – 102 receptions, 1,665 yards, 18 TD’s

Arizona: WR – Juron Criner – 73 receptions, 1,186 yards, 10 TD’s

- What Will Happen:

Arizona isn’t as bad of a team as their 4 game losing streak would indicate, but at the end of the day they just are not as good as the Cowboys who are much more balanced and explosive. Brandon Weeden is an underrated quarterback and it cannot be stated enough just how good Blackmon is. He’s a game breaker in every sense of the word. The Wildcats have no chance to keep him in check. Nick Foles is a boom or bust quarterback for Arizona, and I think we’ll see more bust than we will boom out of him… Prediction: Oklahoma State

Thursday:

ARMED FORCES BOWL – Army (6-6) vs. SMU (7-6)

- Matchup:

Army is one of the rare teams that no one can possibly root against, for obvious reasons. What they’ve accomplished this season is nothing short of spectacular, despite them finishing the season losing 3 of 4 and not having beat a winning team all year long. They’ll be taking on a solid SMU team which has an offense to die for. How Army’s defense fares against this offense will decide this game.

- Players To Watch:

Army: FB – Jared Hassin – 931 rush yards, 9 TD’s

SMU: QB – Kyle Padron – 3,526 pass yards, 29 TD’s, 12 INT’s

- What Will Happen:

As much as I’ll be rooting for them, Army has no chance to win this game. Their offense is too one-dimensional (worst pass offense in the country), and their defense will be eaten alive by Padron and his receivers Aldrick Robinson (1,225 yards), Cole Beasley (1,036 yards) and Darius Johnson (693 yards). Army has come a long ways and will hopefully continue to get better as we head into the future, but as far as the Armed Forces Bowl goes, they ain’t winning… Prediction: SMU

PINSTRIPE BOWL – Syracuse (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)

- Matchup:

Postseason football in the Bronx… Does it get any better? Expect Syracuse to have a significant home crowd advantage when they take on Kansas State. If you’ve read me at any point this season, then you know how I feel about the disgraceful Orange offense. They’re a team that will go as far as their defense will take them. The big question is how will that defense fare against a very tough and talented Wildcats offense? This is the matchup to watch and it will decide this game one way or another.

- Players To Watch:

Syracuse: RB – Delone Carter – 1,035 rush yards, 7 TD’s

Kansas State: RB – Daniel Thomas – 1,495 rush yards, 16 TD’s

- What Will Happen:

As much as Orange fans hate to heart it, I think this has all the makings for a long day for Doug Marrone and company in the Bronx. I just don’t think they match up that well. Quarterback Ryan Nissab is awful and repeatedly stalls the offense. Carter on the ground is Syracuse’s only hope for some offensive efficiency. While the Orange defense is a definite strength, they do struggle in the secondary which is where quarterback Carson Coffman will make them pay. A steady mix of pass and run (with Thomas) will help K-State control the tempo and pace of this game, in turn grinding the Orange into the ground… Prediction: Kansas State

HOLIDAY BOWL – Nebraska (10-3) vs. Washington (6-6)

- Matchup:

This matchup looks a whole lot like the one that took place on September 18th – oh wait, it is… That was when the Cornhuskers took the Huskies out to the wood shed in the 56-21 thrashing. The teams ended the season on opposite notes. Washington finished strong to get to 6 wins and bowl eligibility, while Nebraska crapped away a shot at the Big 12 title in typical ‘Husker fashion. Talent-wise this game is a mismatch in Nebraska’s favor, but you never know what you’re going to get out of Big Red.

- Players To Watch:

Nebraska: RB – Roy Helu Jr – 1,211 rush yards, 11 TD’s

Washington: QB – Jake Locker – 2,209 pass yards, 17 TD’s, 9 INT’s

- What Will Happen:

Despite the fact that Washington finished the season strong and Nebraska is a practically a ticking time bomb, always on the verge of self-destruction, I do expect talent to win out. The bottom line is the Huskies are just a mediocre team which vastly underachieved this season. Locker didn’t have the season we expected him too, and I don’t think we’ll see him make up for it in one game – Not when he’s going up against one of the finest secondaries in the country. Between that and the fact that Washington won’t be able to slow down Helu and Rex Burkhead on the ground, it all adds up to a Big Red victory… Prediction: Nebraska

Check back later in the week as I preview the next round of games…

Questions? Comments? Email me: ckeefe@wfan.com

Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter: @CaseyKeefeWFAN

pixy Caseys Call: College Football   Lets Go Bowling