Today's bowl games

College football

January 01, 2007

Outback

Matchup -- Penn State (8-4) vs. No. 17 Tennessee (9-3)

Site -- Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

Time, TV -- 11 a.m., ESPN

The line -- Tennessee by 4

The game -- Penn State has won with defense and Tennessee with offense, so the teams will pit strength against strength. On the flip side, the Volunteers' defense is better than the Nittany Lions' offense, which has scored 17 or fewer points six times. Tennessee QB Erik Ainge (2,722 yards, 19 touchdowns, 66.9 completion percentage) was reborn this season under new offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, and the Vols' tailback-by-committee approach has been OK. Junior WR Robert Meachem (67 catches, 11 touchdowns) finally lived up to his immense high school billing. The Vols' linebackers, headed by Marvin Mitchell, should get a workout against a good rushing attack. FS Jonathan Hefney is the leading tackler (93) and interceptor (five). Penn State's superb linebackers are headed by Dan Connor (103 tackles, five sacks, two picks) and Paul Posluszny (108 tackles). Only three teams threw for more than 200 yards against the Nittany Lions, who had 38 sacks.

Cotton

Matchup -- No. 10 Auburn (10-2) vs. No. 22 Nebraska (9-4)

Site -- Cotton Bowl, Dallas

Time, TV -- 11:30 a.m., chs. 45, 5

The line -- Auburn by 1 1/2

The game -- The Huskers overachieved a bit, the Tigers underachieved a bit. The Huskers need to throw well to win, while the Tigers must run the ball and control the clock if they are to win. Huskers QB Zac Taylor (25 TDs, seven picks) has been solid all season despite not having a true go-to receiver. While the Huskers' secondary is shaky, so is Auburn QB Brandon Cox, who was mediocre for much of the season. WR Courtney Taylor is the only receiver of note. The defense played well all season except for the Nov. 11 loss to Georgia. The Tigers gave up only 10 TD passes - but they came up with just nine picks. Auburn allowed more than 17 points twice, and the Tigers lost both games.

Gator

Matchup -- Georgia Tech (9-4) vs. No. 13 West Virginia (10-2)

Site -- Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville

Time, TV -- 1 p.m., chs. 13, 9

The line -- West Virginia by 11

The game -- A nice matchup of a good defense (Tech's) against a good offense (WVU's). But the game has lost some luster because of the academic ineligibility of Tech QB Reggie Ball. As shaky as Ball was throughout his career, he was the only quarterback to take a significant snap for the Jackets this season. Can new QB Taylor Bennett, who attempted 29 passes, get the ball to WR Calvin Johnson (67 catches, 13 TDs) against a weak WVU secondary? He'd better, or TB Tashard Choice (1,304 yards, 10 TDs) may end up being Tech's only offensive source today. LBs KaMichael Hall and Phillip Wheeler (eight sacks) better be on the top of their game against the Mountaineers' option attack. WVU TB Steve Slaton (144.4 ypg, 16 TDs) should start despite a nagging thigh injury. QB Pat White (ankle) won't be 100 percent but is expected to play.

Capital One

Matchup -- No. 12 Arkansas (10-3) vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (11-1)

Site -- Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.

Time, TV -- 1 p.m., chs. 2, 7

The line -- Arkansas by 2

The game -- There should be a lot of running plays on the field and a lot of red in the stands. Both teams will run often. While Arkansas is No. 4 in rush offense, it's No. 106 in pass offense (150.5 ypg). The Hogs' main man is sophomore TB Darren McFadden (119.9 ypg, 14 TDs), a big guy (6 feet 2, 212 pounds) with tremendous speed. He's ably backed up by Felix Jones (78.3 ypg, four TDs). Wisconsin's main guy is stocky redshirt freshman TB P.J. Hill (5-11, 242), who has rushed for 1,533 yards and 15 TDs. QB John Stocco, who missed the final two regular-season games with a shoulder injury, is expected back in the lineup. The wide receivers are mediocre, but sophomore TE Travis Beckum (56 catches) is a rising star. LT Joe Thomas is a stud and a sure top-10 pick in April's draft.

Rose

Matchup -- No. 3 Michigan (11-1) vs. No. 8 Southern California (10-2)

Site -- Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

Time, TV -- 5 p.m., chs. 2, 7

The line -- Pick 'em

The game -- Both teams harbored hopes of being in the national title game. USC must get good play from QB John David Booty (2,956 yards, 25 TDs), who has struggled at times against good defenses. WRs Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith might be the best duo in the nation (123 catches, 18 TDs). Michigan's offense is keyed by TB Mike Hart (126.3 ypg, 14 TDs), who has had nine 100-yard games this season. QB Chad Henne remains inconsistent, but if he is able to use play-action, he will carve up the Trojans. WR Mario Manningham (nine TDs) heads a nice receiving corps. The defense allowed just two opponents to rush for more than 100 yards and just two to throw for more than 250 yards.

Fiesta

Matchup -- No. 9 Boise State (12-0) vs. No. 7 Oklahoma (11-2)

Site -- University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

Time, TV -- 8:30 p.m., chs. 45, 5

The line -- Oklahoma by 7

The game -- One of the most intriguing games of the postseason, as Boise State is only the second non-BCS league team to make it to the BCS. Does Boise have the speed and athletes to hang with Oklahoma? The Broncos have gaudy stats in nearly every important category and a stud tailback in Ian Johnson (146.6 ypg, 24 TDs). QB Jared Zabransky has been solid (20 TD passes), and there's a good group of receivers. There's a big, physical line (averaging 6 feet 4 and 308 pounds). Boise is seventh in the nation in rush defense (82 ypg) and 14th overall (273.8), with T Andrew Browning (eight sacks), LB Korey Hall (105 tackles, six picks) and SS Marty Tadman the standouts. Oklahoma should have the services of star TB Adrian Peterson (983 yards, 10 TDs), who has missed seven games with a broken collarbone. Boise must stymie the Sooners' rushing attack.

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