Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Monday, December 29, 2008
Valero Alamo Bowl preview


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After an embarrassing start, the Big Ten resumes postseason play tonight as No. 23 Northwestern faces No. 21 Missouri in the Valero Alamo Bowl (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). Here's a quick look at the matchup.

WHO TO WATCH: Northwestern's offensive backfield of quarterback C.J. Bacher and running back Tyrell Sutton plays its final game after three patchy seasons. Bacher has had several monster games in his career, and he might need another to keep pace with Missouri's high-powered offense. But the senior struggles with mistakes, throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions in each of the last two seasons. Sutton, the Wildcats' best all-around player, returns to the field for the first time since Oct. 25.

WHAT TO WATCH: A Wildcats defensive line that led the Big Ten in sacks (33) needs to put pressure on Missouri senior quarterback Chase Daniel, who ranks fifth nationally in total offense and completes 74 percent of his passes. Defense has been Northwestern's calling card this season, and standout end Corey Wootton has to step up for the Wildcats to have a shot at the upset.

WHY TO WATCH: A bowl victory is the one objective Northwestern hasn't achieved despite fielding a very respectable program since 1995 (three Big Ten titles, six bowl appearances). The Wildcats are heavy underdogs, but they've exceeded expectations this season and arguably have more to play for than a Missouri team that entered the fall with BCS bowl hopes. Tonight marks the final game for Daniel, tight end Chase Coffman and most likely dynamic wide receiver/return man Jeremy Maclin.