Thursday, December 31, 2009
Capital One Bowl preview
By Chris Low
Breaking down the Capital One Bowl on Friday (ABC, 1 p.m. ET) between LSU (9-3) and Penn State (10-2):
WHO TO WATCH: It’s sounding more and more like this could be John Chavis’ final game as LSU’s defensive coordinator. Georgia coach Mark Richt is coming hard after Chavis as his defensive coordinator and is prepared to make Chavis one of the highest-paid coordinators in the country. Chavis wouldn’t talk about the Georgia job during a news conference on Wednesday, and it’s doubtful that LSU will let him walk without putting up a fight to keep him. In one season in Baton Rouge, Chavis has restored the edge to the Tigers’ defense. LSU is 12th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 16 points per game. The Tigers only gave up 18 touchdowns in 12 games and played well enough defensively to win all three of the games they lost.
WHAT TO WATCH: Even though LSU played better in the offensive line down the stretch, the Tigers still gave up an SEC-high 35 sacks. They were also 11th in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 129.6 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. It goes without saying that the Tigers will have their hands full against a Penn State defensive front seven that’s outstanding. The Nittany Lions are tied for seventh nationally with 35 sacks and haven’t allowed more than 24 points in any game this season.
WHY TO WATCH: Penn State coach Joe Paterno just keeps chugging along. At this rate, he may coach into his 90s. The guy is amazing, and the way he’s restored the luster to Penn State’s program the past few years is equally amazing. Paterno holds the record for most bowl appearances (35) and wins (23). The Nittany Lions lost in last season’s bowl game, falling 35-24 to Southern California in the Rose Bowl. They haven’t lost consecutive bowl games since the 1975 and 1976 seasons. Since then, Penn State has played 26 bowl games without losing two in a row. LSU hasn’t exactly been shabby in bowl games under Les Miles. The Tigers have won four in a row by an average margin of 28.3 points per game.
PREDICTION: LSU’s offense has been hard to figure all season. The Tigers have not played up to their talent level, although injuries at running back have certainly been a factor. Neither team is likely to score many points, and look for LSU to stop Penn State’s running game and make the Nittany Lions one-dimensional. Miles seems to bring out the best in his teams come bowl time. There’s no reason to think that’s going to stop now. LSU 21, Penn State 16.