2012 Bowl Previews: Minor Bowls, Part II

In the second installment of his bowl previews, Joe Healy takes a look at six more minor bowl games.

Thank you for finding your way back to my 2012 college football bowl previews. For those that missed part I of my preview of the minor bowl games, please go back and check it out.

Carrying on…

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. SMU, Dec. 24, 2012, 8:00 PM Eastern Time

The Hawaii Bowl is a game that will feature one of the most overlooked quarterbacks in the nation and one of the most disappointing quarterbacks in the nation.

The underrated quarterback is Fresno’s Derek Carr. The younger brother of former Bulldog quarterback and first overall pick David Carr has thrown for 3,742 yards with 36 touchdowns and only five interceptions.

Running back Robbie Rouse has been no slouch either. He has rushed for 1,468 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The disappointing quarterback is SMU’s Garrett Gilbert. After a couple of lackluster seasons at the University of Texas, Gilbert made the decision to transfer to SMU to try to right the ship under June Jones and his quarterback-friendly offensive system. Gilbert has continued to struggle, however. He struggled to complete 50% of his passes and he threw nearly as many interceptions as he did touchdowns.

Thankfully for SMU, running back Zach Line has picked up much of the offensive slack. The powerful back rushed for 1,207 yards and 12 touchdowns.

For me, this game is a mismatch. Fresno State has the better offensive and defensive unit and SMU might have trouble getting up for this game considering how disappointing their season was.

Little Caesar’s Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan, Dec. 26, 2012, 7:30 PM Eastern Time

In the first installment of my minor bowl previews, I discussed my theory that a team’s performance in bowl games has as much to do with motivation as it does talent and coaching. If that’s true, something will have to give in this game.

In the case of Central Michigan, you can certainly understand why they might have trouble getting excited about this game. Whereas many teams get to travel to places like Hawaii, San Diego and Miami to play their bowl games, the Chippewas are traveling just over two hours down the road to Detroit to play this game. To top things off, they are playing a 7-5 team from the Sun Belt Conference.

Western Kentucky is playing in the program’s first bowl game, but they are having to deal with the distraction of losing their head coach, Willie Taggart, to USF.

Both teams are led by their running games. Central Michigan features workhorse back Zurlon Tipton. The junior has rushed for 1,391 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Not to be outdone, Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews has rushed for 1,609 yards and 11 touchdowns.

I think it will be a game of firsts for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Not only will they make their first appearance in a bowl game, but they will go home with their first bowl win.

Military Bowl Pres. by Northrop Grumman: San Jose State vs. Bowling Green, Dec. 27, 2012, 3:00 PM Eastern Time

The San Jose State Spartans might be the best team no one is talking about. They manage to stay within three points of Stanford in their season opener, feature a quarterback with nearly 4,000 passing yards, a receiver with over 1,100 receiving yards and they finished the regular season in the top 25.

The aforementioned quarterback is David Fales. The Salinas, California native has thrown for 3,798 yards and 31 touchdowns. Maybe most impressively, he has completed just over 72% of his passes. His top receiving target is Noel Grigsby, who has hauled in 73 yards for 1,173 yards.

Bowling Green is no slouch, either. Their defense will likely be a tough unit for the SJSU offense to crack. The defense has averaged giving up only 15.8 points per game. Leading way on the defense is Chris Jones. The senior from Brownsburg, Indiana has had a monster season that includes 19 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. Jones is far from alone on that side of the ball. Eight other players have three sacks or more on the season.

This game is a minor bowl game because of the teams involved, but I think this is going to be a really fun game to watch. I’ll go with the Spartans dynamic passing game, but it’s a toss up to me.

Belk Bowl: Duke vs. Cincinnati, Dec. 27, 2012, 6:30 PM Eastern Time

The Duke Blue Devils are one of the better stories in college football this season. After having not been in a bowl game since 1994, David Cutcliffe’s bunch fought their way to 6-6 and a birth in this bowl game.

Leading the Blue Devils on offense is quarterback Sean Renfree. The battle-tested signal caller threw for 2,755 yards and 18 touchdowns. On defense, Duke leans on cornerback Ross Cockrell, a junior who led the team with five interceptions. All that is good news for Duke.

The bad news is that the Blue Devils are running into a really good Cincinnati team.

The Bearcats boast a stingy defense that allows opponents only 17.2 points per game. It is a group effort for Cincy on defense, but if you had to pick out standouts, they would be defensive lineman Dan Giordano and linebacker Walter Stewart. Both players had five sacks on the season. Eight different players on the defense had interceptions.

As much as I would like to see Duke pull out a bowl win, I just can’t see it happening. None of the Blue Devils six wins were against particularly stiff competition and they looked bad in losses against the ranked teams on their schedule. Go with the Bearcats.

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Ohio vs. Louisiana-Monroe, Dec. 28, 2012, 2:00 PM Eastern Time

It is truly a year of firsts in the Sun Belt Conference. Western Kentucky is making their first appearance in a bowl game and so is Louisiana-Monroe.

The Warhawks burst onto the scene early this season when they took down (then) eighth-ranked Arkansas, took Auburn to overtime and then only lost to Baylor by five.

Much of that success is thanks to the play of veteran quarterback Kolton Browning. On the season Browning threw for 2,830 yards and 27 touchdowns. On top of that, he led the team in rushing and rushing touchdowns.

Like ULM, the Ohio Bobcats are led by a veteran quarterback, but unlike Browning, Tyler Tettleton wasn’t asked to do nearly as much. He was simply asked to manage the game and not turn the ball over and he succeeded, as he only threw three interceptions all season.

The bulk of the offensive load fell to running back Beau Blankenship. The junior rushed for exactly 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The safe money is with experience in this matchup. Ohio’s roster is filled with guys that have plenty of bowl game experience.

Russell Athletic Bowl: Rutgers vs. Virginia Tech, Dec. 28, 2012, 5:30 PM Eastern Time

Both teams will come into this bowl game thinking about what could have been.

Rutgers will come in disappointed that they couldn’t turn their 7-0 start to the season into a Big East championship and bid in a BCS bowl game.

Virginia Tech will come in disappointed that they are not in a BCS bowl game for the fifth time in six seasons.

Defense will be the name of the game in this one. The Rutgers defense is fourth in the nation in points allowed per game. The unit is led by senior linebacker Khaseem Greene. In the regular season, he tallied 125 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and two interceptions.

The Hokies defense isn’t as stout as that of the Scarlet Knights, but they can certainly hold their own. Linebacker Jack Tyler leads the way with 112 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss. Linebacker Bruce Taylor leads the team with 5.5 sacks.

Offensively, the Hokies will look to quarterback Logan Thomas to make some plays. In the regular season, Thomas threw for 2,783 yards and 17 touchdowns. Those numbers aren’t too bad, but the completion percentage just over 52% and the 14 interceptions are. Thomas has the talent to lead the Hokies to big things and to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, but he hasn’t quite shown it yet.

I’m going with Rutgers here. Their defense will be just too good for a Virginia Tech offense that really hasn’t gotten going this season.

Joseph Healy writes for The Fan Manifesto. You can follow him on Twitter at @Joe_On_Sports. You can follow the entire FanMan team here.





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