Friday, January 1, 2010
International Bowl preview
By Brian Bennett
A brief primer on Saturday's International Bowl game between South Florida (7-5) and Northern Illinois (7-5):
WHO TO WATCH: B.J. Daniels. The South Florida quarterback is a boom-or-bust player. He can make eye-popping plays or head-scratching freshman mistakes. Putting him on the turf indoors at Toronto's Rogers Centre should allow Daniels to use his speed on scrambles and quarterback keepers -- he is, after all, the Bulls' leading rusher. South Florida fans would love to see Daniels have a big game and gain some positive momentum going into his sophomore year, when most of the offense returns intact.
WHAT TO WATCH: These teams are actually very similar statistically, with Northern Illinois a better offensive team. Of course, the Huskies haven't played as strong a schedule as South Florida, but they did win at Purdue. They rank 17th nationally with more than 200 rushing yards per game, and running back Chad Spann has scored 19 rushing touchdowns. A big key will be whether their offensive line can handle the Bulls up front in what is the last game for star defensive end George Selvie and possible NFL early entree Jason Pierre-Paul.
WHY WATCH: It's hard to keep a straight face and sell this game as terribly interesting. But South Florida is a box-of-chocolates team; you never know what kind of effort you'll get from the Bulls. If they're fully invested into this long trip to a foreign climate, they should have too many athletes for Northern Illinois to handle. The scrutiny of Jim Leavitt may also intensify if he can't manage to beat a 7-5 MAC team in a bowl.
PREDICTION: I've got to believe that South Florida is too fast and talented to lose this game, no matter how little it may actually want to be there. Bulls win 31-16.