New Year’s Day Bowl Preview Capsules |

New Year’s Day Bowl Preview Capsules

Associated Press

Outback Bowl

Friday, Jan. 1

Northwestern (8-4) vs. Auburn (7-5), 11 a.m. (ESPN)

Line: Auburn by 8.

Series Record: First meeting.

What’s At Stake

Northwestern is in a bowl game for just the eighth time. The Wildcats are 1-6 all time, with the lone win coming in 1948, when they beat California in the Rose Bowl. It’s the school’s first New Year’s Day game since 1996. Auburn is making its 35th bowl appearance, first under coach Gene Chizik, who was hired in December 2008. The Tigers are 19-13-2, including wins in their past two bowl games following the 2006 (Cotton) and 2007 (Chick-fil-A) seasons.

Key Matchup

Northwestern QB Mike Kafka vs. the Antonio Coleman-led Auburn defense. Kafka was the third-leading passer in the Big Ten at 241.5 yards per game and second in the league in total offense behind Purdue’s Joey Elliott. Coleman has nine sacks for Auburn, which allowed 191.8 yards per game passing. Walter McFadden leads the Tigers with four interceptions. Defensively, Northwestern needs to contain the run. Auburn RB Ben Tate rushed for 1,254 yards and eight touchdowns. His backup, Onterio McCalebb, averaged 5.5 yards per carry and has four TDs rushing.

Players to Watch

Northwestern: WRs Zeke Markshausen and Andrew Brewer have played a major role in the Wildcats’ success. Markshausen has 79 receptions for 774 yards and three TDs. Brewer is averaging 16.2 yards per catch on 49 receptions for 792 yards and seven TDs.

Auburn: QB Chris Todd has thrown for 2,377 yards and a Tigers’ single-season record 21 touchdowns. He has had three games with four TDs passes and has only been intercepted six times in 297 attempts. WR Darvin Adams is the Tigers’ leading receiver with 48 catches for 855 yards and 10 TDs. Terrell Zachery has averaged 19.4 yards per reception and has five TDs.

Facts & Figures

Northwestern is appearing in bowls in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1995 and 1996. The Wildcats are in a New Year’s Day game for the third time, and fourth-year coach Pat Fitzgerald has been part of each trip. The first two (1996 Rose, 1997 Citrus) were as a player. … After a 5-0 start lifted Auburn into the Top 25, the Tigers lost five of seven down the stretch. … Northwestern is on a three-game winning streak that includes upsets of Iowa and Wisconsin. … Auburn is making its third appearance in the Outback Bowl, first since the 1996 game, when the Tigers lost 43-14 to Penn State.

Capital One Bowl

Friday, Jan. 1

No. 11 Penn St. (10-2) vs. No. 13 LSU (9-3), 1 p.m. (ABC)

Line: Penn State by 2 1/2.

Series Record: Penn State leads 1-0.

Last meeting: 1974 Orange Bowl, Penn State 16-9.

What’s at Stake

It’s been a relatively quiet season for Penn State, especially after a September loss to Iowa dropped coach Joe Paterno’s team out of the national title hunt. A victory over LSU would give this season’s Nittany Lions squad a signature win. The Tigers, like Penn State, could use a victory as a springboard for the 2010 season. LSU could finish with double-digit wins for the fourth time in coach Les Miles’ five seasons in Baton Rouge.

Key Matchup

LSU passing game vs. Penn St. defense. Injuries have whittled LSU’s running back depth to the point where former fourth-stringer Stevan Ridley is starting. The Nittany Lions’ secondary will be busy defending the Tigers’ biggest threat in 6-foot-3 WR Brandon LaFell (10 TDs). Protecting QB Jordan Jefferson will be key for an inconsistent offense against the Big Ten leader in sacks.

Players to Watch

LSU: Jefferson. The first-year starter appears to have LSU back on track this season at quarterback, though there have been ups and downs. Penn State has had some success against mobile QBs, but failed to bottle up Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor in a November loss.

Penn State: QB Daryll Clark. The record-setting signal-caller has a 21-4 record as a starter, yet some fans and columnists have questioned his subpar showing in the four losses. He’s got one big-game test left, though Clark says he’s not worried about his legacy in Happy Valley.

Facts & Figures

The teams’ only other meeting at the 1974 Orange Bowl resulted in a 16-9 win by Penn State for the program’s first 12-0 season. … Coach Joe Paterno is wrapping up his 60th season on the Nittany Lions’ sideline, counting his 16 years as an assistant. … Paterno is major college football’s leader in wins (393) and bowl wins (23). … LSU and Florida each have 99 wins this decade, most in the Southeastern Conference. … Miles is 4-0 in bowl games at LSU.

Gator Bowl

Friday, Jan. 1

Florida State (6-6) vs. No. 18 West Virginia (9-3), 1 p.m. (CBS)

Line: West Virginia by 2 1/2.

Series Record: Florida State leads 2-0.

Last meeting: 2005 Gator Bowl, Florida State 30-18.

What’s at Stake

No Florida State team has ever clamored to finish 7-6, until now. The last thing the Seminoles want is to send coach Bobby Bowden into retirement on a loss, and with a losing record. But it’ll take more than overwhelming sentiments – hundreds of former players will be there to send Bowden off, as will tens of thousands of FSU fans – for the Seminoles to find a way to get past the Mountaineers, who’ve lost to Bowden in both previous meetings, both of which came in the Gator Bowl. West Virginia is bidding for its fourth 10-win season in the past five years, plus a fifth straight postseason victory.

Key Matchup

West Virginia RB Noel Devine vs. Florida State’s run defense. Over the past three years, West Virginia is 12-2 when Devine rushes for at least 100 yards, 16-1 when he runs for a touchdown and 12-8 when he doesn’t score. Tough to ignore those trends, and also tough to ignore the fact that Florida State ranked 108th this season (out of 120 teams) in rushing defense, giving up a staggering 203.9 yards per game this season. In fact, since Oct. 10, the Seminoles have allowed 1,803 yards on the ground – more than 66 teams have given up all season. If Devine, whom Florida State coveted out of high school, runs wild Friday, Bowden’s farewell game might be over quickly.

Player to Watch

Florida State: DB/KR/PR Greg Reid. Special teams always seem to play a big role in bowl games, and Florida State’s best freshman already has 945 yards returning punts and kickoffs this season. Opponents are catching on, too, since Reid has gotten the chance to return only three punts since Oct. 31. The Mountaineers might not throw his way much, either.

West Virginia: PK Tyler Bitancurt. Keeping with the special teams theme, Bitancurt has missed two kicks all season, and one of those was an extra point. There’s a chance of rain on Friday in Jacksonville, Fla., possibly making Bitancurt’s role even more important to West Virginia, which has won its past two games by – you guessed it – a field goal.

Facts & Figures

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart played for Bowden, when major college football’s second-winningest coach led the Mountaineers in the 1970s. … The game is expected to set a Gator Bowl attendance record. … Florida State is 22-14-2 in bowl games, West Virginia is 13-15. … West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown is 11-3 as a starter. … Florida State and West Virginia have had one common opponent this season – both lost to South Florida.

Rose Bowl

Friday, Jan. 1

Ohio State (10-2) vs. Oregon (10-2), 5 p.m. EST (ABC)

Line: Oregon by 4.

Series Record: Ohio State leads 7-0.

Last meeting: 1987, Ohio State 24-14.

What’s at Stake

Two strong programs that finished the regular season playing outstanding football will meet in two long-overdue returns to the Rose Bowl. Oregon hasn’t been there since 1995, while Ohio State hasn’t made it to Pasadena since 1997. The Buckeyes are eager to end their three-game losing streak in bowl games, while the Ducks hope for a memorable cap to the season in which they broke USC’s stranglehold on the Pac-10 title. The game matches two programs with markedly different approaches, with Ohio State’s traditional approach contrasting neatly with Oregon’s inventive takes on everything from offense to uniforms.

Key Matchup

Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli vs. Ohio State S Kurt Coleman. The matchup of the Ducks’ speedy spread offense against the Buckeyes’ hard-hitting defense is likely to garner most of the attention. Masoli’s running ability and surprisingly strong arm will challenge a Buckeyes defense that hasn’t seen anybody like him – except in practice with QB Terrelle Pryor. If the Buckeyes focus on Oregon’s running game with Masoli and RB LaMichael James, the Ducks will try downfield throws to challenge Coleman, Ohio State’s all-conference safety and team MVP.

Players to Watch

Ohio State: QB Terrelle Pryor. The sophomore QB flirted with Oregon before choosing Columbus, where his two seasons have been impressive in the win column, but not the mind-blowing dominance many expected from the touted runner/passer. Against an Oregon defense that has been beaten soundly at times this season, the stage is set for Pryor’s breakthrough performance.

Oregon: RB LaMichael James. The freshman sensation exceeded all expectations when he took over for suspended star LeGarrette Blount, rushing for 1,476 yards and 14 touchdowns as the engine that sets up everything else in the Ducks’ offense. The undersized tailback must fight to find running room against Ohio State’s defensive front, but success will make everything else easier.

Facts & Figures

The five-time Big Ten champion Buckeyes have a five-game winning streak, while Oregon has won 10 of 11 since its season-opening loss to Boise State. … The Ducks have won their last two bowl games, while Ohio State famously lost the Fiesta Bowl last season after back-to-back defeats in the national title game. … Oregon coach Chip Kelly says Blount will play against Ohio State, but didn’t say how much. Blount was reinstated from an eight-game suspension for punching a Boise State player, and he played in the Ducks’ Civil War win over Oregon State. … Ohio State’s defense has allowed just 11 touchdowns in its past 43 quarters while ranking in the NCAA’s top 10 in five defensive categories.

Sugar Bowl

Friday, Jan. 1

No. 5 Florida (12-1) vs. No. 4 Cincinnati (12-0), 8:30 p.m. (Fox)

Line: Florida by 13.

Series Record: Florida leads 1-0.

Last meeting: Oct. 20, 1984, Florida 48-17.

What’s at Stake

Cincinnati, playing in its second straight BCS bowl, tries to cap a perfect season after losing coach Brian Kelly to Notre Dame. Florida is hoping to bounce back from a disheartening loss to Alabama in the SEC title game and end the program’s most anticipated season with a victory in what will be QB Tim Tebow’s farewell.

Key Matchup

Cincinnati QB Tony Pike vs. Florida’s defense. Pike missed four starts after damaging a plate in his non-throwing arm Oct. 15, but made a triumphant return Nov. 27 against Illinois. He threw for 399 yards and six touchdowns. Now, he faces a defense that has been one of the best in the nation most of the season, but struggled in a 32-13 loss to Alabama.

Players to Watch

Florida: DE Carlos Dunlap, the team’s top pass rusher, returns after being suspended for the SEC title game following his arrest on drunk driving charges. Dunlap has 35 tackles and seven sacks, and teammates said he was sorely missed against the Tide.

Cincinnati: WR Mardy Gilyard leads the team with 2,061 all-purpose yards. He has 75 catches for 1,032 yards and 10 touchdowns this season and should get a more favorable matchup away from Florida’s best defender, Joe Haden.

Facts & Figures

Florida coach Urban Meyer was a backup cornerback at Cincinnati when these teams met for the first time in 1984. The Gators won 48-17. … Try to follow this: There are six head coaches involved in this game. Meyer is coaching Florida, then giving way to interim coach Steve Addazio during his indefinite leave of absence. The Gators also have new Louisville coach Charlie Strong running the defense. On the other side, former head coach Brian Kelly got the Bearcats to the Sugar Bowl then left for Notre Dame. He has stayed in contact with interim coach Jeff Quinn, who has accepted the head job at Buffalo. And new Cincy coach Butch Jones already has moved into his office and is expected to be at the game. … The Gators are 3-1 in bowl games under Meyer. … Cincinnati’s senior class has more wins than any other in school history. … Florida’s senior class has more wins that any other in SEC history.