>Northern Illinois vs. Fresno State
This game will be an interesting one in the fact that Northern Illinois will be playing with an interim coach because their head coach left to become the coach at Minnesota two days after their loss in the MAC title game to Miami (OH). How the team will react is to be seen.
After an unblemished 8-0 conference record in the regular season, the Huskies earned their first ranking since 2003 and second overall. It was very short-lived, however, as they suffered their first loss to a MAC team in the conference championship game. Soon after their coach, Jerry Kill, left to take over the head coaching duties in Minnesota. The Gophers are going to have to stop a vaunted Huskie rushing attack. Their 265 yards per game rank them seventh in the NCAA and their 38 ppg is 13th. The running attack is headed by the running back-quarterback tandem of Chad Spann (1,293 yds, 20 TD) and quarterback Chandler Harnish (764 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns, 2.230 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns and only five interceptions).
While the Bulldogs’ statistics don’t jump out at you like NIU’s, they are a very balanced attack, throwing for 214 yards per game and rushing for 157. Ryan Colburn has thrown for 2,529 yards and 21 touchdowns, while his backfield mate Robbie Rouse has rushed for nearly 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. The offense will be tested against a Northern Illinois defense that is giving up 19 points per game. In their wins, Fresno State is averaging 32.ppg, while scoring only 25 ppg in their four losses.
>BYU vs. UTEP
The New Mexico Bowl features a team from the Mountain West (BYU) and Conference USA (UTEP). UTEP comes into this bowl as possibly one of the few teams that had a losing record in conference play, after finishing 3-5, en route to a 6-6 record. After starting the season 5-1, the Miners lost five of their next six games, including three games in which they lost by 10 points of fewer, two of those being by four and three points, respectively.
The Miners don’t do anything amazing and are middle of the road in all of the major statistics. They are 60th in passing yards (220 yd/pg), 69th in rushing yards (150 yds/gm), 70th in scoring offense (26 pts/gm) and 58th in points allowed (25 pts/gm). The offense is led by quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, who has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 19 touchdowns. His favorite target is Kris Adams, who has 44 catches for 917 yards and 11 touchdowns.
BYU is the complete opposite of their opponents. They started 1-4, before winning five of their next seven to finish 6-6 and third in the Mountain West. The Cougars are led by their defense and running game. The defense is ranked 33rd in the country in total defense, after giving up only 339 yards per game.
The offense isn’t too shabby either and has been quite stellar on third downs, converting on 45 percent of their opportunities, good enough for 27th in the country. And all of this is done behind freshman quarterback Jake Heaps. Heaps has thrown for 2,052 yards and 11 touchdowns in his rookie campaign. His favorite target is JJ Di Luigi, who is also the team’s leading rusher. He has rushed for 819 yards and seven touchdowns, while hauling in 42 passes for 422 yards.
>Ohio vs. Troy
Despite playing in the MAC, Ohio has got to be one of the hottest teams coming into the bowl season. Since October 2nd, the Bobcats have won six of their last seven games, their only setback coming in their season finale to Kent State. This is the second straight bowl appearance for Ohio,which has never won a bowl game (five all-time appearances).
The Bobcats rely on their running game. Their 169 ypg ranked 39th in the nation. It is spear-headed by a tandem of Vince Davidson (509 yards, six touchdowns) and Phil Bates (508 yards and three touchdowns). Three others have rushed for over 200 yards including quarterback Boo Jackson, who is third with 325 yards and leads the team with seven rushing touchdowns.
The Trojans, on the other hand, are one of the most prolific passing offenses in the country. Their 290 passing yards per game ranks 12th nationally and combined with their 151 rushing yards per ga,e they rank 24th in total offense with 441 yards per game. Corey Robinson leads the offensive attack, having thrown for 3,339 yards and 24 touchdowns, while completing 62 percent of his passes. The great thing about the offense is that they spread it out. The top four wide receivers have 489 receiving yards or more and three of the four have caught five touchdowns. Two others have caught three scores.