NCF Nation: Bowl Games

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Tennessee, in its first postseason appearance since 2010, scored on four straight possessions to open the TaxSlayer Bowl en route to a 45-28 thumping of Iowa in Jacksonville, Florida.

The energized Volunteers, behind sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs and freshman running back Jalen Hurd, piled up 461 yards against the Hawkeyes, who dropped to 7-6 and lost a third consecutive bowl game.

The Vols also finished 7-6, but with a much different feel after winning three of four games, sparked by Dobbs, to close the regular season.

The Tennessee victory evened the Big Ten-SEC bowl duel at two wins apiece after New Year’s Day victories by Missouri over Minnesota, Wisconsin over Auburn and Ohio State over Alabama.

With five freshmen and three seniors in its starting lineup, Tennessee can eye a move up the SEC ladder. After the resounding win Friday, it figures to start next season among the favorites in the East.

Game ball goes to: Dobbs, who picked up where he left off in November. He completed his first eight passes as the Vols led 28-0 less three minutes into the second quarter. He finished with 129 yards on 16-of-21 passing with 76 rushing yards, bringing his total-offense figure over five starts to end the season to 1,408 yards. He was responsible for 15 touchdowns in that stretch, including three against Iowa.

How the game was won: The decisive nature of Tennessee’s plan from the start presented a stark contrast to the Hawkeyes, who alternated quarterbacks by series through the first half. Starter Jake Rudock and backup C.J. Beathard, around whom concerns of a transfer exist, both failed to find rhythm in the offense. Rudock, in fact, completed just one pass in the first half, yielding to Beathard in the third quarter. And Iowa’s bread-and-butter running game appeared no more organized. Meanwhile, the Vols simply leaned on Dobbs and Hurd, who rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns.

Stat of the game: In building its quick, four-touchdown lead, Tennessee averaged 11.2 yards on 23 plays through the first 17:58 of clock time. Of those 23 plays, nine gained more than 10 yards. In that same span, Iowa averaged 4.3 yards per play with three gains of more than 10 yards.

Best play: Leading 14-0 after its defense forced a three-and-out with Rudock at the helm for Iowa late in the first quarter, Tennessee dialed up the trickery. Running back Marlin Lane took a lateral from Dobbs, ran to his right and pulled up, hitting wide-open Vic Wharton for a 49-yard strike.

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Kickoff Extra: Bowl Selection Show

December, 8, 2014
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ESPN.com's college football experts Ted Miller, Adam Rittenberg and Mark Schlabach join host Chantel Jennings for a special edition of the Kickoff Show to discuss Sunday's bowl selections and answer your questions.

3-point stance: Image issues

December, 24, 2013
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1. To recap, we’ve got an argument at Boise State over whether the starting quarterback urinated off the hotel balcony, and an assistant coach at Colorado State who yelled a gay slur at the opposing quarterback in the middle of a game. At least Ram defensive line coach Greg Lupfer, after being suspended without pay for two weeks, had the sense to realize he is lucky to still have a job. This is not how the Mountain West Conference wishes to be known during the holiday season. Or any other time of the year.

2. The Hyundai Sun Bowl is doing exactly what bowls should do and, these days, rarely can: match two teams that have never played one another. UCLA has played 31 games against teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but none of them against Virginia Tech. Bowls these days exist to sell tickets, so they emphasize regional matchups. But in the pioneer days of bowling, intersectional matchups helped give the bowls an identity. To me, that makes the Bruins and the Hokies a special game.

3. Gus Malzahn has gotten a lot of attention for the turnaround that he engineered at Auburn, which went from winless in the SEC in 2012 to playing for the crystal football in 2013. Dave Doeren of North Carolina State has gotten significantly less attention for his variation of what Malzahn did -- in reverse. Doeren led Northern Illinois to an 8-0 record in the Mid-American Conference in 2012. He moved to North Carolina State this season and went 0-8 in the ACC.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl preview

December, 23, 2013
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A glance at the lone game on Monday’s schedule, a clash between Ohio (7-5) and East Carolina (9-3) in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl (TV: ESPN, 2 p.m. ET).

Who to watch: Shane Carden might have been working well outside of the spotlight compared to the rest of the nation’s most prolific quarterbacks, but he has earned the right to be in that conversation with another eye-popping statistical season leading the attack for the Pirates. The junior ranks sixth in the country in passing yardage with 3,866 in the regular season, two spots ahead of a pair of guys with Heisman Trophies on their mantles in Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel. While Carden gets nowhere near the acclaim, he has steadily picked apart defenses all season, throwing for more than 300 yards in seven games thanks in part to a productive partnership with junior wide receiver Justin Hardy that generated 105 receptions, more than 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns.

What to watch: With almost no bowl history to speak of until 2007, coach Frank Solich has turned the Bobcats into a fixture of the postseason recently, hitting the road around the holidays for five straight seasons -- and playing some pretty entertaining affairs along the way. Ohio won a thriller two years ago over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and backed that up with a blowout win over Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl. The Bobcats will need a defense that has had its ups and downs to play like the unit that allowed a total of three points in consecutive outings in September and not the one that was gouged for 49 and 44 points in losses to Bowling Green and Kent State.

Why to watch: For starters, the Bobcats and Pirates have the stage all to themselves, and with only one bowl on the docket, they offer the only college football fix of the day. But beyond that, East Carolina has an offense built to put up fireworks and provide some entertainment. And under Solich, the Bobcats have rarely backed down from a challenge and have proved to be a motivated bunch in bowl games recently.

Prediction: East Carolina 41, Ohio 27

Video: Big Ten spring meetings

May, 16, 2012
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Adam Rittenberg recaps the day at the Big Ten spring meetings, where the future postseason format and bowls were hot topics.

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