Today's bowl games

December 23, 2006|By Orlando Sentinel

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Matchup -- East Carolina (7-5) vs. South Florida (8-4)

Site -- Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.

Time, TV -- 1 p.m., ESPN2

Key stats -- South Florida redshirt freshman QB Matt Grothe is 12th nationally in total offense (258.5 ypg). East Carolina is 81st nationally in rushing offense (120.7 ypg).

The game -- This game likely will turn on how well East Carolina TB Brandon Fractious plays. He was hot down the stretch, when the Pirates won five of six. But if South Florida can shut him down, it will roll. Grothe has played far beyond expectations; he makes too many mistakes trying to make a big play. He doesn't get much help from his tailbacks, but he has a deep and talented group of speedy wide receivers. South Florida had 31 sacks, so look for the Bulls to try to take advantage of a young offensive line (three freshman starters).

The line -- South Florida by 4 1/2 .

New Mexico

Matchup -- New Mexico (6-6) vs. San Jose State (8-4)

Site -- University Stadium, Albuquerque

Time, TV -- 4:30 p.m., ESPN

Key stats -- San Jose State is 15th nationally in rushing offense (184.3 ypg). New Mexico is 44th nationally in rushing defense (122.0 ypg) and has allowed just 10 rushing TDs.

The game -- If there ever was a bowl game to skip, this is it. New Mexico won one game over a Division I-A opponent with a winning record, San Jose State none. New Mexico is playing at home, where the Lobos are 3-4 this season.

The line -- New Mexico by 3 1/2 .

Armed Forces

Matchup -- Tulsa (8-4) vs. Utah (7-5)

Site -- Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

Time, TV -- 8 p.m., ESPN

Key stats -- Tulsa is sixth nationally in passing defense (152.5 ypg). Utah is 36th in passing offense (226.9 ypg).

The game -- This has the potential to be an interesting, high-scoring matchup. Both have solid quarterbacks, Tulsa with Paul Smith and Utah with Brett Ratliff. Smith is complemented by TB Courtney Tennial, a transfer from Oklahoma, but there is no true go-to receiver. The defense - which uses a 3-3-5 set - was solid until the final third of the season, when the Golden Hurricane lost three of its final four regular-season games. Utah uses a variation of the spread offense; it has struggled to run the ball consistently, but the Utes still average 28.2 points. Ratliff has 22 TD passes, and he has a deep group of receivers, led by Derrek Richards and Brent Casteel. DB Eric Weddle, who plays cornerback and strong safety, had six interceptions and leads the defense. In their five losses, the Utes have given up an average of 296.0 yards in the air.

The line -- Utah by 1.

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