NO. 15 TENNESSEE (9-3) VS. NO. 22 TEXAS A&M (7-4), 11 A.M.
Tennessee is 23-21 in bowls and Texas A&M is 13-14. Tennessee leads the series 1-0, winning the 1957 Gator Bowl 3-0. The Vols are 1-4 in bowls since 1998, giving up 31 points per game in the losses. The Aggies are 1-8 in bowls since 1991, including four Cotton Bowl defeats. Coming off embarrassing Peach Bowl losses the past two seasons, UT coach Phil Fulmer needs a better result here. He'll have to do it with third-string QB Rick Clausen (658 yards passing, four TDs, five INTs), with freshman Brent Schaeffer (broken collarbone) possibly available as backup but Erik Ainge, who started six games, out with a separated shoulder. All-America OT Michael Munoz (shoulder surgery) won't play. RB Gerald Riggs Jr. looked terrific in the SEC title game, shredding Auburn for 182 yards and two TDs (including an 80-yarder) on just 11 carries. A shaky defense (88th in nation vs. pass, 236.0 ypg, 19 TDs given up, 15 INTs) has crumbled, yielding 104 points, 1,275 yards in past three games. Versatile Aggies QB Reggie McNeal (sixth in the nation with 3,250 total offense, 13 TD passes, eight TD runs, three INTs) could have a field day against the Vols. A&M is fourth in nation in turnover ratio (22 forced, eight given up). The defense did have problems down stretch, giving up 128 points in a 1-3 finish.
CAPITAL ONE BOWL
NO. 12 LSU (9-2) VS. NO. 11 IOWA (9-2), 1 P.M.
LSU's bowl record is 17-17-1 and Iowa is 10-8-1. This is the first meeting between the teams. Since going 10-24 in coach Kirk Ferentz's first three years, the Hawkeyes are 29-6 the past three years while sharing the Big Ten title twice (Iowa totaled two Big Ten titles from 1957-2001). The teams have combined to win 13 straight (seven for Iowa, six for LSU). This is the farewell for LSU coach Nick Saban, who is headed for the Miami Dolphins. The Tigers have excelled in close contests, going 4-1 in games decided by four points or fewer. Saban has used senior QB Marcus Randall and freshman JaMarcus Russell with no real rhyme or reason all season, though Randall did have breakout game (252 total offense, two TD passes, two TD runs) in the season-ending romp at Arkansas. Ferentz has done an amazing job patching the Hawkeyes together after losing four RBs to season-ending injuries. QB Drew Tate (218-of-343, 2,499 passing, 18 TDs, 12 INTs, two TD runs) has basically kept the offense afloat while the opportunistic defense (third in nation with 31 turnovers forced) makes game-changing plays. LBs Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge (combined 205 tackles) are underrated and DT Jonathan Babineaux almost single-handedly took apart Wisconsin with seven tackles (three for loss), two sacks, fumble recovery.
NO. 13 MICHIGAN (9-2) VS. NO. 6 TEXAS (10-1), 4:30 P.M.
Michigan is 18-17 in bowls and Texas is 20-21-2. In the final three games of the season, the Wolverines defense gave up 1,395 yards and 94 points to Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio State. It's the first meeting of the team with the winningest record in Division I history (Michigan) and the third winningest (Texas). The Wolverines must bounce back from a disappointing effort vs. Ohio State. Freshmen QB Chad Henne (2,516 passing, 21 TDs, 12 INTs) and RB Michael Hart (led Big Ten with 1,372 rushing, nine TDs) have been spectacular along with senior WR Braylon Edwards (third in nation with 87 catches, 12 TDs). Pollsters seemed to listen to Texas coach Mack Brown's pleading and narrowly jumped the Longhorns over Cal in the final BCS standings. The Longhorns did run off six straight wins after the usual loss to Oklahoma, this one 12-0 on Oct. 9 in Dallas. QB Vince Young (52-of-79, 698 passing, two TDs, four INTs, three TD runs in past four games) has improved down the stretch, RB Cedric Benson (fourth in nation with 1,764 rushing, 19 TDs) and LB Derrick Johnson (led nation with six forced fumbles, led Big 12 with 15 tackles for loss) are legitimate NFL first-round picks.
NO. 5 UTAH (11-0) VS. NO. 19 PITTSBURGH (8-3), 8:30 P.M.
Utah is 6-3 in bowls and Pitt is 10-13. This is the first meeting between the teams. The Utes' 15-game win streak is the longest since Utah won 15 straight from 1928-30. This one is the lame-duck bowl as Utah's Urban Meyer is headed to Florida and Pitt's Walt Harris to Stanford. Having turned the Utes into the first team in a non-BCS league to play in a BCS game, Meyer's departure is much more amicable. Utes QB Alex Smith (second in nation in QB rating, 185-of-280, 2,624 passing, 28 TDs, four INTs, 563 rushing, 10 TD runs) was a Heisman finalist after guiding a balanced offense that ranked third in nation in scoring (46.2 ppg) and total offense (502.7 ypg). S Morgan Scalley (third in nation with six INTs) and LB Spencer Toone (107 tackles) are the backbone of the defense. Despite guiding the Panthers to their first BCS game, Harris is bolting after not getting along with the Pitt administration on several issues. His work with QB Tyler Palko (115-of-193, 1,582 passing, 16 TD passes, two INTs in past five games) has been outstanding. WR Greg Lee (61 catches, nine TDs) has NFL talent. So-so defense must play the best game of the season.
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