By Casey Keefe
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Now that the New Mexico, Humanitarian and New Orleans bowls are over with, the real bowl season begins. I don’t mean to hype the upcoming slate of games up too much because the matchups aren’t that impressive, but they will provide a nice taste of what’s to come.

Here’s a look at what the week holds…

Tonight: Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl – Southern Miss (8-4) vs. Louisville (6-6)

– Matchup:

Louisville was projected to finish last in the Big East conference, yet managed to trek their way to a surprising 6 win season. The defense (19 points allowed) led the way for the Cardinals. It was the opposite for Southern Miss who was powered by a strong offense which really clicked throughout the second half of the season. This is a matchup of strength against strength, and the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s bowl is at stake!

– Players To Watch:

Louisville: RB – Bilal Powell – 1,330 rush yards, 13 total TD’s

Southern Miss: QB – Austin Davis – 2,898 pass yards, 18 TD’s, 6 INT’s

– What Will Happen:

On paper Southern Miss is probably the better team, and they’re not too far removed from the shooting tragedy that left Martez Smith paralyzed from the waist down. Some would think that incident would help spark an emotional effort from the Golden Eagles, which I’m sure it will, but I doubt it’ll be enough to overcome the Cardinals.

Louisville has a lot of experience in close games, which this one is sure to be. Southern Miss’ defense is very poor, allowing an average of 30 points per game. Quarterback Justin Burke and the aforementioned Powell will surely make their presence felt.

The biggest difference however will be the Cardinals staunch defense which matches up very favorably in this one. Southern Miss’ offense is sure to struggle… Prediction: Louisville

Wednesday: Las Vegas Bowl – Boise State (11-1) vs. Utah (10-2)

– Matchup:

This is a great matchup between two teams who looked to be headed for bigger and better things for much of the season. Kyle Brotzman’s meltdown at Nevada cost the Broncos a BCS spot. Utah on the other hand had been flying high before their 47-7 disaster against TCU. Needless to say, this matchup will feature two of the better teams that were shut out of the BCS.

– Players To Watch:

Boise State: QB – Kellen Moore – 3,506 pass yards, 33 TD’s, 5 INT’s

Utah: RB – Eddie Wide – 683 rush yards, 11 TD’s

– What Will Happen:

Despite the firepower on offense, I think the Utes are in for a long day here. Losing quarterback Jordan Wynn to a shoulder injury really hurts matters for Utah. In steps Terrance Cain who will be facing a ticked-off Boise State defense who (along with the whole team) is livid about being denied a BCS spot, and will look to make someone pay – That someone will be Cain and his fellow Utes.

Remember the last big game Utah played – the 47-7 loss at home to TCU. Well, this Broncos team is just as good, if not better than the Horned Frogs. Heisman finalist Kellen Moore heads an offense which features the explosive receiving tandem of Austin Pettis and Titus Young. Utah won’t be able to slow them down, an offense which averages 47 points per game.

We know all about Utah’s offensive weapons, but I doubt they’ll be able to keep up on the scoreboard with Moore and company – not without Wynn, and not when facing such a nasty defense as the Broncos. Boise State winning this game is one of the surest locks of the bowl season… Prediction: Boise State

Thursday: Poinsettia Bowl – Navy (9-3) vs. San Diego State (8-4)

– Matchup:

This is a solid matchup featuring two dynamic and exciting offenses. The styles are vastly different, but both are tough to defend. Needless to say, whichever defense plays best will go a long ways towards deciding this game. If you like yards gained and points scored,tune into this one.

– Players To Watch:

Navy: QB – Ricky Dobbs – 1,380 pass yards, 12 TD’s, 5 INT’s, 860 rush yards, 13 TD’s

San Diego State: RB – Ronnie Hillman – 1,304 rush yards, 14 TD’s

– What Will Happen:

San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley has a deep receiving score to spread the ball around too, with the main targets being Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson. The most dangerous weapon however is running back Ronnie Hillman who will be a horror to deal with for the Midshipman’s defense. They will be able to score plenty of points, but not as many as Navy.

San Diego State hasn’t seen anything like they will come Thursday. Ricky Dobbs – who seems like he’s been playing at Navy for 20 years – runs the option to perfection. The Aztecs are not prepared for what they’ll be facing, and what puts Navy over the top in my opinion is Dobbs improved passing ability. San Diego State’s defense will be on their heels all day long – and by the end of the game won’t know what hit them… Prediction: Navy

Friday: Hawaii Bowl – Hawaii (10-3) vs. Tulsa (9-3)

– Matchup: Much like the game above, this one looks to be a high scoring affair. Both quarterbacks – Hawaii’s Bryant Moniz and Tulsa’s G.J. Kinne – put up video-game like numbers. The Rainbow Warriors have the advantage of playing in their home-state, which will no doubt provide a boost on several levels. With a few weeks of preparation under the belts of both, defensive game plans will be crucial.

– Players To Watch:

Hawaii: QB – Bryant Moniz – 4,629 pass yards, 40 total TD’s, 11 INT’s

Tulsa: QB – G.J. Kinne – 3,307 pass yards, 35 total TD’s, 10 INT’s

– What Will Happen:

Obviously this will be a battle of the offenses. Despite not being anywhere near an elite unit, I expect Hawaii to win the battle up front on defense and be able to apply pressure on Kinne. Of course, Kinne has the ability to scramble, but Hawaii’s linebackers are athletic enough to take away any outside lanes.

There are two major difference factors in this game… 1. The fact that Tulsa’s defense is god awful, allowing 30 points per game. They’ll know what’s coming, they just won’t be able to stop it… 2. Hawaii playing at home is such a significant advantage – more fans, less travel time, less distractions, etc. It all adds up to a Rainbow Warriors victory… Prediction: Hawaii

Check back next week for my continued coverage of the bowl season…

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


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