Friday, January 1, 2010
Papajohns.com Bowl preview
By Brian Bennett
A brief primer on Saturday's Papajohns.com Bowl battle between Connecticut (7-5) and South Carolina (7-5):
WHO TO WATCH: Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon. The UConn running backs combined for more than 2,100 yards and 27 touchdowns this season. The Huskies' passing game greatly improved in the second half of the year, but the game plan still begins with running the ball. Todman and Dixon will have to get it down against a stout SEC defense that ranked in the top 15 nationally in yards allowed this season. South Carolina has played some excellent running backs in the SEC this year but might not have faced a tandem this good.
WHAT TO WATCH: Forget about strength against strength. The real question in this game is weakness versus weakness. UConn couldn't stop anybody late in the year and turned most of its games into shootouts. The Gamecocks, despite Steve Spurrier calling plays, had one of the most impotent offenses in the SEC and the country this season, though they dropped 34 points on Clemson in a season-ending win. Which team can get the most out of its disappointing side of the ball?
WHY TO WATCH: UConn is one of the best stories in college football this season, rebounding from the tragic death of cornerback Jasper Howard in October to make the postseason. There will be a lot of nonpartisan fans rooting for the Huskies. Beyond that, Randy Edsall has a strong young nucleus returning next year and could use this game as a springboard. It's another chance for the Big East to prove itself against the SEC, and with these teams featuring a clash of styles, it should be an interesting matchup.
PREDICTION: Todman and Dixon should find some running room, but I don't know if Zach Frazer and the passing game can solve the South Carolina secondary. UConn should play with a lot of emotion, but give the ol' Ball Coach this much time to prepare and you're asking for trouble. South Carolina wins 34-28.