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It went down to the wire Saturday in the first Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, but Bowling Green picked up a 33-28 win over South Alabama, which was making its first bowl appearance.

Here’s a closer look at how the Falcons did it:

How the game was won: At the wire. The second half was a back-and-forth affair. South Alabama took its first lead of the game with 1:20 remaining, and it looked like all the Jaguars needed to do was not have any major defensive breakdowns. Then it had a major defensive breakdown as Bowling Green receiver Roger Lewis got past safeties Terrell Brigham and Roman Buchanan for a 78-yard score.

Then, Bowling Green needed exactly what South Alabama needed a play before -- hold and don’t have any major defensive breakdowns. Unlike the Jaguars, the Falcons did just that. On the next snap, Jude Adjei-Barimah intercepted South Alabama quarterback Brandon Bridge.

Game ball goes to: Bowling Green quarterback James Knapke. The sophomore threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns. He came up with clutch play after clutch play and was able to keep the offense together after losing one of his best receivers -- Ronnie Moore -- to a targeting ejection in the third quarter.

Tough break ... literally: There's a pretty good chance South Alabama coach Joey Jones broke his nose during the fourth quarter, when one of his players flew out of bounds. The player slid on his back, but his feet flung up, and Jones -- who looked to be in a position to help slow the player down -- ended up taking a cleat to the face.

Rethinking that: Midway through the fourth quarter, with Bowling Green up by six and on fourth-and-goal at the South Alabama 1-yard line, the Falcons decided to try a field goal instead of going for a touchdown. It was Tyler Tate’s first attempt at a field goal of 19 or fewer yards this season, and he pulled it wide left. As a result, South Alabama received the ball on the 20-yard line. Looking back, it really was a tough call to make: If the Falcons had gone for it and made it, great; if they had gone for it and missed it, at least that would’ve been an extra 20 yards the Jaguars would’ve needed to travel. Considering Tate was 21-of-26 heading into that kick and he had made two field goals prior, it wasn’t a bad call, but it’s one of those plays on which if the Falcons had lost, it would’ve been looked back on as one in which Bowling Green should’ve taken a smarter risk.

Best play: Talk about clutch. With Bridge’s impressive second half and the Jaguars looking like they could go on a run, Adjei-Barimah came up with his first interception of the season -- the one that sealed the win for the Falcons.

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Big plays helped Air Force finish its big turnaround in the 2014 season.

The Falcons (10-3) scored from 55 and 58 yards out while churning their way to a 38-24 win over Western Michigan (8-5) in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Saturday night. After winning only two games a year ago, Troy Calhoun’s team completed the biggest about-face in college football against a Broncos team that also took a major step forward in 2014.

Along with the 55-yard run in the first half and the 58-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter, Air Force also set up a short touchdown run by faking a punt on fourth down and throwing a rare deep ball on the next play. The Falcons finished with 361 total yards of offense and improved to 9-0 this year when rushing for at least 200 yards.

Western Michigan is still searching for its program’s first bowl victory, but it was far more competitive in Year Two under coach P.J. Fleck than with the group that won only one game last season. The Broncos’ offense stalled to start the second half. Freshman standout Jarvion Franklin, who averaged 127.1 rushing yards per game in the regular season, managed only 21 against the Air Force defense. Sophomore Corey Davis caught three long touchdown passes in the losing effort.

Game ball goes to: Sophomore fullback Shayne Davern stepped up to provide a spark on offense and special teams for Air Force in the absence of leading rusher Jacobi Owens, who missed the bowl game due to a foot injury. Davern ran for touchdowns on back-to-back carries in the first half – a 1-yarder and a 55-yard sprint through the middle of the Broncos' defense. On the following drive, he picked up 8 yards on a fake punt that led to another touchdown and served as a turning point in the game.

What it means: Calhoun tied a bow on one of the more impressive coaching jobs during his eight-year run at Air Force. The Falcons, who won 10 games for the first time since 1998, can comfortably claim to be the best football program among the military academies after falling behind Navy in recent years. Western Michigan also heads into the offseason with an optimistic outlook. Young talent such as Franklin, Davis and sophomore quarterback Zach Terrell bodes well for the future in Kalamazoo.

Best play: The nail in Western Michigan’s coffin came with just under 10 minutes remaining. Air Force junior Dexter Walker scooped up Terrell’s fumble and raced 58 yards for an easy score. The touchdown gave the Falcons a 14-point lead and took the air out of a Broncos comeback. Three plays earlier, Western Michigan returned a punt for a touchdown that would have tied the game, but it was called back for an illegal block.

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A breakdown of what went down as No. 22 Utah took down Colorado State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl 45-10.

How the game was won: A fast, strong start that was sustained throughout all four quarters. In the first period, Utah scored 21 points on the heels of quarterback Travis Wilson’s 5-of-6 passing for 71 yards and one touchdown (as well as a Wilson rushing touchdown). The Utah defense held Colorado State in check throughout. The Rams (10-3) got 10 points in the first quarter but none the rest of the way. The Utes held them to 12 yards rushing for the day and allowed them to convert only 1 of 10 third downs.

Game ball goes to: Wilson. He finished with 158 passing yards (17-of-26) and one touchdown. He added 91 yards on the ground and three touchdowns on just five carries. He made big plays for the Utes, putting him in the front-runner spot for the starting job in 2015.

However, for a moment it looked like it was going to be more of the same for the Utes (read: more quarterback injuries and games with a back and forth between Wilson and another QB), as early in the third quarter Wilson left briefly with a lower leg injury. This prompted Utah coach Kyle Whittingham to put junior quarterback Jason Thompson into the game. However, unlike previous games, it didn’t last long. Wilson shook off the injury and got back on the field, making big rushing plays for the Utes (9-4).

It was over when: The Rams struggled to find any kind of an offensive spark, save their first-quarter scoring drive in which they went 77 yards on five plays, ending in a 39-yard receiving touchdown. When Colorado State didn’t strike early after halftime, the game seemed out of reach and was completely over when Garrett Grayson fumbled an early fourth-quarter snap on second-and-10. Wilson scored on the ensuing play, rushing for a 12-yard touchdown.

Stat of the game: 347 -- that's the difference in rushing yards between the Utes and the Rams. Utah was led by Devontae Booker, who finished with one rushing touchdown and 162 rushing yards -- his seventh 100-yard rushing game in the Utes' last 10. Meanwhile, the Utah front seven -- led by All-Everything defensive end Nate Orchard -- kept Colorado State's rushing attack in check. Coming into this bowl game, the Rams were averaging 172 rushing yards a game. To hold a team like that to just 12 yards is quite the feat.

Best play: We’re going with two -- a pair of trick plays (one from each team) that came early in the game.

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This was the Utes’ first play. Whittingham wasn’t joking around and he wanted to come out guns blazin’, so he did just that. Thompson ended up with the ball on a reverse early in the first quarter, threw a lateral to Wilson, who then connected with wide receiver Kaelin Clay on a first down. It was only a 17-yard completion but in the grand scheme of things this certainly set the tone for the Utes offensively.

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And two can play that game. Though this was the Rams’ only touchdown, it was a flashy and memorable one. Grayson threw to wide receiver Charles Lovett who threw a lateral back to Grayson, who then took the ball the final 42 yards to the end zone. This score pulled Colorado State within a TD of the Utes and, like Utah, set a tone early. Though, unlike the Utes, the Rams just weren’t able to sustain it.
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Utah State put the finishing touches on a double-digit-win season by defeating UTEP 21-6 in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl on Saturday at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Let's take a glance at how it went down:

How the game was won: Utah State won this game with its defense. The Aggies held UTEP to 275 total offensive yards and held sophomore UTEP running back Aaron Jones to just 88 yards and 3.5 yards per carry. Jones was averaging 112 rushing yards per game coming into the bowl. The Aggies were fantastic on third downs -- UTEP converted only five of 20 chances -- and held UTEP to just 3.9 yards per play. Zach Vigil and Nick Vigil combined for 16 tackles, and Brian Suite led the team with 10.

Game ball goes to: True freshman quarterback Kent Myers. The Aggies' fourth quarterback this season guided Utah State to a 5-1 mark in his time as a starter. He started the game with a nice touchdown run, and though he was knocked out briefly after taking a big hit, he returned to direct the Aggies to 14 more points. He finished with 70 rushing yards and a touchdown, and 68 passing yards.

What it means: The Aggies, who were making their fourth consecutive bowl appearance, won their third straight bowl game. More importantly, Utah State secured the second 10-win season in school history (the first came in 2012). A tip of the cap to coach Matt Wells and the job he did this season, as this team had to survive the loss of three quarterbacks to season-ending injuries and navigate the season's home stretch with Myers. Even when Myers was knocked out briefly Saturday after a sack (shown below), Ronald Butler came in and broke off a 61-yard run to get the Aggies in field goal range before the half.

video Best play: Utah State's first touchdown was an impressive one, with good play design and great execution. The Aggies had three receivers to the right side of the formation, motioned a running back in that direction and Myers made a quick fake in that direction, sending a pack of UTEP defenders to the wide side of the field. Myers kept the ball, sprinted upfield, made a nice move to make a defender miss, and sprinted 48 yards for a touchdown to give Utah State a lead it would never relinquish.

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Video: Terrance Broadway wins fourth bowl game

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
3:34
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Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Terrance Broadway talks about the past four years with the Ragin' Cajuns and his final bowl game win.

Video: Mark Hudspeth proud of Ragin' Cajuns, Terrance Broadway

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
3:30
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Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth talks about quarterback Terrance Broadway's impressive career with the Ragin’ Cajuns and what winning the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl means to him.
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Louisiana-Lafayette kicked off bowl season by beating Nevada 16-3 on Saturday in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

Here is how the Ragin' Cajuns were able to win:

How the game was won: ULL quarterback Terrance Broadway completed his first 14 passes (he finished 26-for-31 for 227 yards) and led the Ragin' Cajuns to points on their first two possessions. The defense made the early 10-0 lead stand up by keeping Nevada’s offense in check all afternoon.

Game ball goes to: James Willis and the ULL defense. The Ragin' Cajuns' defensive coordinator and his players did an excellent job of neutralizing Cody Fajardo and the Wolf Pack offense. Fajardo finished 14-for-29 for 124 yards (plus 51 rushing yards) and Nevada mustered just 216 yards of total offense -- nearly 200 yards below its per-game average.

What it means: This is the fourth straight season that ULL finished in the New Orleans Bowl, and the fourth time the Ragin' Cajuns left the Superdome with a win. Nevada joins San Diego State, East Carolina and Tulane among ULL's vanquished opponents in the game. The Ragin' Cajuns are the first team to win the same bowl in four straight seasons.

Best play: When ULL quickly drove 77 yards for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession, it looked like it might be another high-scoring New Orleans Bowl. Instead, Broadway’s 17-yard scoring pass to C.J. Bates was the game’s only touchdown.

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In the 100 days leading up to signing day 2015, RecruitingNation will be looking back at our ESPN recruiting rankings from 2006 to the present and counting down the best player of the past 10 years at each ranking position, No. 100 to No. 1.

Morgan Moses, No. 48 in 2009 class

Moses picked the Virginia Cavaliers over Tennessee and North Carolina in what was a huge win for the Cavaliers keeping one of the nation's top prospects home in 2009. He attended Fork Union Miliary Academy in 2009 as a post-graduate before enrolling at Virginia in 2010.

As a true freshman in 2010, the 6-foot-6, 330-pound Moses appeared in 11 of 12 games, starting seven games with six being at right tackle. He became just the third true freshman in Cavaliers history to start at offensive tackle, and earned various Freshman All-American team honors.

In 2011, Moses started all 13 games, all of them coming at right tackle earning a spot on multiple All-ACC postseason teams.

As a junior, Moses started 11 of Virginia’s 12 games earning All-ACC honorable mention from the league coaches. It was his third straight season as the starting right tackle in Charlottesville.

Moses made the move to left tackle and earned All-ACC second team by league coaches after starting 12 games. He was invited to the Senior Bowl following the 2013 season.

Moses was selected by the Washington Redskins in the third round, No. 66-overall, in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Honorable mention: Channing Ward, No. 48 in 20102 class. Ward selected Ole Miss over Auburn and LSU out of Aberdeen High in Miss. It was a huge in-state win for the Rebels over SEC foes. Ward has been a solid player in the Ole Miss defensive line rotation for three seasons, recording 74 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Amari Cooper and Marcus MariotaGetty Images, AP PhotoRoughly two-thirds of the coaches in the country believe Amari Cooper and Alabama will meet Marcus Mariota and Oregon in the championship game.

No. 1 Alabama was the overwhelming favorite to win the College Football Playoff in ESPN’s weekly poll of the FBS head coaches, #1QFor128.

Also, nearly one-third of the coaches who voted believed the selection committee did not pick the best four teams for the inaugural playoff.

Of the 128 FBS head coaches, 107 participated in the poll, conducted by ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.

Alabama was picked by 60 percent of the coaches to win the playoff, followed by No. 2 Oregon (28 percent). No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Ohio State each received 6 percent of the votes to win the national title.

In the semifinal matchups, Alabama was chosen over Ohio State by a 90-10 percent margin in the Sugar Bowl, while Oregon was selected over Florida State by 73-27 percent margin.

Of the possible title matchups in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12, Alabama-Oregon was picked by 67 percent of the coaches, followed by Alabama-Florida State (24 percent), Oregon-Ohio State (5 percent) and Florida State-Ohio State (4 percent).

The coaches who voted believed the selection committee correctly picked the best four teams (69 percent yes, 31 percent no).

The voting among the coaches from the Power 5 and Group of 5 conferences were fairly similar for the most part.

Despite Big 12 co-champion TCU falling from No. 3 to No. 6 in the final ranking, a higher percentage of Power 5 coaches believed the selection committee picked the correct four teams (72 percent yes, 28 percent no) compared to the Group of 5 coaches (67 percent yes, 33 percent no).

The biggest discrepancy was picking the Oregon-Florida State semifinal winner. Only 67 percent of the coaches from the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12) who voted chose Oregon to beat FSU, compared to 77 percent of the coaches from the Group of 5 conferences (American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt).

Another significant difference between the Power 5 and Group of 5 coaches was picking the national champion. Alabama was picked to win by more of the Group of 5 coaches (62 percent) than the Power 5 coaches (58 percent). Oregon had a higher percentage of Power 5 coaches (32 percent) picking the Ducks than the Group of 5 coaches (24 percent).

Also among the Group of 5 coaches, No. 4 Ohio State (8 percent) actually received more votes to win the title than No. 3 Florida State (6 percent). Of the Power 5 coaches, 7 percent picked Ohio State to win the title and 3 percent Florida State.

Vote breakdown

Did the selection committee pick the best four teams?
Yes: 69 percent
No: 31 percent

How the Power 5 coaches voted:
Yes: 72 percent
No: 28 percent

How the Group of 5 coaches voted:
Yes: 67 percent
No: 33 percent

Who will win the College Football Playoff?
Alabama: 60 percent
Oregon: 28 percent
Florida State: 6 percent
Ohio State: 6 percent

How the Power 5 coaches voted:
Alabama: 58 percent
Oregon: 32 percent
Florida State: 7 percent
Ohio State: 3 percent

How the Group of 5 coaches voted:
Alabama: 62 percent
Oregon: 24 percent
Ohio State: 8 percent
Florida State: 6 percent

Who will win the Rose Bowl semifinal?
Oregon: 73 percent
Florida State: 27 percent

How the Power 5 coaches voted:
Oregon: 67 percent
Florida State: 33 percent

How the Group of 5 coaches voted:
Oregon: 77 percent
Florida State: 23 percent

Who will win the Sugar Bowl semifinal?
Alabama: 90 percent
Ohio State: 10 percent

How the Power 5 coaches voted:
Alabama: 91 percent
Ohio State: 9 percent

How the Group of 5 coaches voted:
Alabama: 89 percent
Ohio State: 11 percent

Who will meet in the College Football Playoff final?
Alabama-Oregon: 67 percent
Alabama-Florida State: 24 percent
Oregon-Ohio State: 5 percent
Ohio State-Florida State: 4 percent

The moment Malik Jefferson picked Texas

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
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MESQUITE, Texas -- Three crazy days, Mike Jefferson says. That's how his brother got here. In truth, it wasn't that long.

Malik Jefferson's decision to commit to Texas was reached in just a few hours on Wednesday. Three crucial conversations that night convinced the state's most coveted recruit where he was going.

The first one: The Jeffersons' long-awaited family meeting. Going into that talk, Mesquite Poteet's ESPN 300 star insists he wasn't seriously leaning toward any of his three finalists. But he wanted to get this done. He needed clarity.

[+] EnlargeMalik Jefferson
Max Olson/ESPNFamily and friends contributed to Malik Jefferson's decision to pick Texas. So did uncertainty at Texas A&M and Texas coach Charlie Strong's leadership.
His parents and two brothers did exactly what Malik expected. They argued that playing for Charlie Strong and the Longhorns was by far his best option and laid out every reason why.

The talk was neither brief nor easy. The arguments were impassioned, the voices at times raised. Malik knew the family debate, while vitally important to his process, wasn't going to be pretty at times.

"Everything was kind of intense," father Michael Jefferson Sr. said. "Very intense."

He and wife Teresa insisted throughout that Malik needed to appreciate the big-picture pros of Texas. They were all-in on the disciplined culture Strong is cultivating, as well as the value of a degree from Texas for the rest of his post-football life.

"We butted heads a little bit," Malik said Friday following his commitment ceremony. "I just had to understand what my parents were telling me."

UCLA, the family agreed, was ultimately just too far away. Texas A&M, his father argued, offered too much uncertainty, starting with its still-unresolved defensive coordinator vacancy. Malik was still on the fence about those concerns.

The biggest factor tugging him to become an Aggie? His friendships with Kyler Murray, Christian Kirk, now-former pledges Daylon Mack and Damarkus Lodge, and several other leaders of the A&M recruiting class.

"I wanted to play with those guys so bad, my gosh," Malik said. "Those are my brothers. We talked every day."

Though he agreed with the case his parents and brother Mike made for Texas, Malik felt he had to give A&M one last shot. So once the tense family discussions wrapped up, he called Kevin Sumlin.

The linebacker wants to keep the contents of that conversation to himself, out of respect for a coach he's admired throughout this two-year process. Simply put, Malik says, the conversation did not go well. He needed to know who his coordinator and position coach would be. That question couldn't be answered.

"Malik is very emotionally invested in things," Mike Jefferson said. "When he feels betrayed in any type of way, you're setting yourself up for failure. I think A&M not contacting him about the defensive coordinator had a major influence."

He moved on. Texas seemed like his best and most logical option, but Malik still needed a little more convincing. So, late Wednesday night, he went over to DeAndre McNeal's house.

The four-star receiver had quietly made up his mind earlier in the week. In fact, he'd been leaning toward Texas ever since attending the Red River Showdown game in October.

But he played coy when Malik showed up, pretending to care more about the pepperoni pizza he was eating.

"What are we going to do?" Jefferson asked.

McNeal says he elected to answer that by singing: "The stars at night are big and bright/deep in the heart of Texas."

"When I said that, he jumped out of his chair and shouted, 'Is that what what you're thinking? Heck yeah!' We went berserk," McNeal said. "He actually broke the chair. My mom got on him about that."

"I didn't think he would say that," Jefferson confessed. "It was a great surprise."

Malik went home, prayed and slept on his choice. In the morning, his mother wanted to know if he'd made up his mind. So he decided to surprise her: he walked up to her and held up a Texas banner.

Later that day, McNeal called Strong to deliver the good news.

"He jumped out of his seat and threw a block party on the 40 Acres," McNeal joked.

Jefferson, at last, had found closure in a thrilling but exhausting recruitment. And Strong had his first gigantic recruiting victory as a Longhorn.

"The No. 1 player in Texas chooses a 6-6 school?" Michael Jefferson Sr. said. "Why did he choose a 6-6 school? It's because of the coach, because of the leadership."

But it was the family and the best friend that sealed the deal.
Three things to watch in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: South Alabama versus Bowling Green.

1. A bunch of firsts

For seven decades, there wasn't even a football program at South Alabama, so it's pretty darn impressive that the program has reached the postseason in only its second season as an FBS member. But don't expect the Jaguars to be caught up with the bright lights. They have a point to make. Last season they recorded six wins but weren't selected for a bowl game. Now that they've (A) again recorded a six-win season and (B) made a bowl game, they're going to make sure they make it a memorable one and prove they deserve to be here.

This is also the first bowl game for both coaches. Bowling Green coach Dino Baber has never coached in an FBS bowl game, though he did go to the FCS playoffs during his two seasons with Eastern Illinois. South Alabama coach Joey Jones has never coached in a bowl game. However, during his playing career at Alabama (1980-83) he made four trips to bowl games, winning three.

2. Finishing strong after bad slides

Both of these teams badly need a win to help alleviate the pains of the late season. Bowling Green lost its final three games by an average of 19 points, while South Alabama lost four of its last five by an average of 18 points. A win here would make the offseason a little less difficult, and whichever team is on the losing end, well, it's going to be a long, frustrating offseason.

3. Quarterback play

Both of these teams feature some pretty good quarterback talent, even though you probably haven't heard of these quarterbacks since they aren't in Power 5 conferences. Bowling Green's James Knapke is just a sophomore, but he threw for 2,805 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Part of what comes with that youth, though, are the mental mistakes, which he has had his fair share of, throwing 12 picks. But this extra practice time to build chemistry with his young receivers (three of his top four receivers are freshmen or sophomores) could be seen when Knapke takes the field Saturday.

South Alabama quarterback Brandon Bridge has completed only 52 percent of his passes this season, but he has been a bit more clean -- compared to Knapke -- when it comes to picks. Bridge has just six interceptions to his 14 touchdowns and 1,648 passing yards. Bridge is a senior, so he'll be looking to make a statement as he gets ready for what's beyond Jaguars football.
The nightcap of bowl season's opening day is in Boise, Idaho, a meeting between the MAC's Western Michigan (8-4) and the Mountain West's Air Force (9-3). Here's a brief primer of what you need to know about the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

The Turnaround Bowl: There will be no unhappy customers in Boise this weekend. Both teams are happy to be bowling anywhere. No teams made a bigger leap in the right direction in 2014 than Air Force and Western Michigan. Both programs won seven more games than they did when finishing last in their respective conferences last year.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, in his eighth year coaching the Falcons, rerouted his program by shifting his lineup to get more veteran leadership on the field. The Broncos' second-year coach, P.J. Fleck, took the opposite approach -- relying on fresh talent to spur better results. Fleck, 33, is the youngest coach in the FBS and has infused some of that youthful spirit and energy into his locker room. His "Row The Boat" mantra is catching on in Kalamazoo.

Meet RB Jarvion Franklin: Western Michigan's star freshman from Tinley Park, Illinois, has been a catalyst for the team's improvement. His 1,525 rushing yards this season put him among the top 10 backs in the country and second among rookies behind Oklahoma's Samaje Perine. Franklin provided 24 of Western's 29 rushing touchdowns. Only Melvin Gordon and Jay Ajayi reached the end zone more often this season. Franklin will have a chance to introduce himself to a larger audience Saturday evening against the Falcons.

Playing keep-away: Air Force's approach with the triple-option offense provides headaches for any defense not used to seeing it on a regular basis. The Falcons ran the ball more often than any other team in the country this season. Seven players on the roster had at least 30 carries, led by Jacobi Owens with 204. The deep and steady running game helps to limit opportunities for opponents. Meanwhile, Western Michigan plays defense with its offense at times. Fleck's team finished 10th nationally in time of possession (33:14) this season, which helped its defense give up fewer than 24 points per game.
Three things to watch in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl:

1. How does Colorado State look after the departure of Jim McElwain?

Shortly after McElwain was named Mountain West Coach of the Year he left for the SEC and he's already making waves at Florida, picking up his first commitment from Daniel Imatorbhebe on Tuesday. But where does that leave the Rams? They still have a potent offense, averaging nearly 500 yards, but will the focus still be there for this bunch? Offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin, the man responsible for that high-powered offense and its output, will be leading Colorado State in the postseason. Can the Rams avoid distraction and keep on doing what they've been doing? We'll see.

2. Utah's pass rush against Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson

Grayson threw for 3,779 yards and 32 touchdowns this season, but he has not faced a pass rush quite like Utah's. First, there's Nate Orchard, who won the Ted Hendricks Award (best defensive end in college football), after recording 17.5 sacks this season. But he's not the only guy quarterbacks need to worry about. Defensive end Hunter Dimick recorded 10 sacks this season, and Pita Taumoepenu, Lowe Lotulelei, Jason Fanaika and Jared Norris all recorded at least four sacks apiece.

3. Do the special teams of Utah continue to star?

It isn't very often that special teams get a lot of attention. But when your lead returners bring back every one in seven punts for a touchdown, when your punter wins the Ray Guy Award, and your kicker is a former U.S. ski team member (who's also a former Mormon missionary and a proud father), then your special teams unit gets a lot of attention. It made the difference in several games for the Utes this season, and with Colorado State's special teams (63rd nationally in kickoff return defense, 68th nationally in punt return defense) the same could be true on Saturday.
Are you ready for some bowl games? Our brief December hiatus comes to an end Saturday with four games, the second of which comes at 2:20 p.m. ET when Utah State and UTEP square off in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. What should we expect from these teams, what do they bring to the table and what should we watch for? Let’s take a glance:

What's at stake: Utah State (9-4) is in a bowl for the fourth consecutive season and is looking for its third consecutive bowl victory. The four straight appearances is a school record for the Aggies and a win would secure a 10-win season for only the second time in school history. UTEP hopes to put a bow on a nice turnaround season in El Paso, Texas, as the Miners (7-5) are vastly improved after managing only two wins in 2013 and are enjoying their first winning season since 2005. The Miners' five-win improvement is fifth best in the FBS.

Players to watch: UTEP sophomore running back Aaron Jones has 1,233 rushing yards this season, averaging 112.1 per game (fourth in Conference USA and 23rd in the country). He has 14 total touchdowns and 1,517 all-purpose yards, which puts him ninth in school history. Utah State senior linebacker Zach Vigil leads the Mountain West in tackles for loss per game (1.5) and is ninth nationally in tackles per game (11.2). He needs just one half of a tackle for loss to match the school's career record for tackles for loss (43).

Strength versus strength: As is evident from Jones' numbers, UTEP runs the ball well. The Miners are 32nd in the country in rushing yards per game offensively, posting 212.7 yards per game. Utah State's rushing defense is strong, as the Aggies rank 26th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (129.3). Whichever unit wins this battle will be key to deciding the game's winner.

Notable: Utah State has seen season-ending injuries occur to three of its quarterbacks: senior Chuckie Keeton (knee), senior Craig Harrison (knee) and sophomore Darell Garretson (wrist). The current starter, true freshman Kent Myers, is the fourth quarterback to start for Utah State, and the Aggies are 4-1 with him at the helm.

They'll look good: Utah State will have nice, clean-looking white jerseys with blue trim, while UTEP will go bold with the orange and blue combination (with orange helmets to boot). If nothing else, the teams will run up and down the field in some nice threads.

The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl is known for high-scoring games, and that trend should continue on Saturday when Nevada (7-5) and Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) meet in the Superdome.

Let’s take a look at three key factors between two teams with prolific offenses and underwhelming defenses preparing to kick off bowl season:

Quarterback battle: One of the most intriguing aspects of this game is the showdown between dual-threat quarterbacks Cody Fajardo of Nevada and Terrance Broadway of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Fajardo (2,374 passing yards, 18 TDs, 11 INTs) is a fine passer, but his running ability is what makes him most dangerous. His 997 rushing yards are second among FBS quarterbacks and he has run for 13 touchdowns this season.

Broadway’s numbers (2,074 passing yards, 12 TDs, nine INTs, plus 634 rushing yards and three scores) aren’t in that league, but he’s no slouch himself. Plus, he has a bit of a home-field advantage in this game. This is the fourth straight season that the Ragin' Cajuns will end the season in the New Orleans Bowl -- they won the previous three -- and Broadway was the game’s MVP in 2012, when he passed for 316 yards and ran for 108 in a 43-34 win against East Carolina.

Stopping the run: The defense that does a better job of slowing the opponent’s running game will likely have an edge.

Paced by Elijah McGuire (1,165 rushing yards, 14 TDs) and Alonzo Harris (737 yards, 12 TDs), ULL is averaging 228.4 rushing yards per game. Meanwhile, Fajardo and Don Jackson (932, seven TDs) helped the Wolf Pack average 215.2 YPG on the ground.

The Cajuns seem to have the advantage here, as they defended the run a bit better than a Nevada defense that ranks 103rd nationally in total defense at 450.1 yards allowed per game.

Boise breakdown: These teams actually have a common opponent. Both of them lost to Boise State early in the season, although the losses came in entirely different fashions.

Nevada lost a 51-46 shootout against the rival Broncos, with Fajardo tossing three touchdown passes and running for two scores, but the results were nowhere near as close when ULL played on Boise's famous blue turf. The Cajuns lost 34-9 and mustered a season-low 241 yards of total offense (67 on the ground) on Sept. 20.

Both teams lost to Boise, but the fact that Nevada played a much more competitive game against their lone common opponent might be a positive sign for the Wolf Pack in this matchup.

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