>Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
Northwestern has lost all seven bowl games it has played since winning its first one — the 1949 Rose Bowl. The Wildcats (7-5) are making their third consecutive postseason appearance despite losing five of seven games after starting 5-0 for the second time in three years.
The Wildcats will be without All-Big Ten quarterback Dan Persa after he suffered an Achilles’ tendon injury in a victory over Iowa. So redshirt freshman Evan Watkins, who has started the two games since Persa went down, will be starting what is probably the biggest game of his young career. Watkins has thrown for 258 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions in those two games.
While Watkins will likely target Jeremy Ebert, who led the Big Ten with 919 receiving yards, Northwestern could be without its top three rushers. Leader Mike Trumpy may sit out due to a wrist injury suffered in the Illinois loss, and the Wildcats definitely won’t have Persa or Arby Fields, who led the team in rushing in 2009 but recently decided to transfer. But if Trumpy has to sit, Northwestern can rely on senior Stephen Simmons, junior Jacob Schmidt and true freshman Adonis Smith. Unfortunately the three have combined for only 419 yards and four touchdowns. Schmidt has all the touchdowns.
Quarterback Taylor Potts is a big reason Texas Tech is making its 11th consecutive bowl appearance. He’s completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 3,357 yards with 31 TDs and nine interceptions. The senior has helped Texas Tech rank eighth in the FBS in passing with 314.8 yards per game while averaging 32.1 points, including 99 over its final two games — non-conference victories over Weber State and Houston.
Northwestern also must contend with Potts’ former teammate at Abilene High School, Lyle Leong. The senior has a team-high 808 receiving yards and is second in the FBS with 17 touchdown receptions. But he isn’t the only big-play threat. Detron Lewis has a team-best 79 receptions for 803 yards and six scores. Lewis caught 10 passes for 114 yards and a TD in last season’s bowl win.
While Texas Tech is a pass-first team, this is the 11th straight season it has had a quarterback throw for at least 3,000 yards, it may be running backs Baron Batch and Eric Stephens who are the difference in the game against the Wildcats, who allowed 848 rushing yards and 10 TDs over the last two games.
Prediction: Watkins struggles against the Red Raiders and Potts leads an aerial attack that ambushes the Wildcats. Tech 35-14.