NCF Nation: Capital One Bowl first take
Jan. 1, 1 p.m., (ABC)
Penn State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Penn State's BCS bubble burst Sunday, but the Nittany Lions still have an excellent chance to notch a signature victory on New Year's Day.
Two of college football's most storied programs meet for just the second time at the Capital One Bowl. Penn State beat LSU in the 1974 Orange Bowl, which capped head coach Joe Paterno's eighth season at the helm. Paterno boasts 23 bowl victories, an NCAA record, and he aims for his 14th season of 11 or more wins against the Tigers.
Penn State's defense has been its calling card all season, as the Lions rank in the top eight nationally in yards allowed (277.1 ypg), points allowed (11.8), tackles for loss (8.25 per game) and sacks (2.9 per game). You can bet Big Ten defensive player of the year Jared Odrick and star linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee will be geared up to face an LSU offense that has endured its struggles this fall and will be without standout running back Charles Scott (fractured collarbone).
The Lions' Spread HD offense was both dominant at times this fall and dormant against elite defenses in both Ohio State and Iowa. LSU's defense provides another very tough test for Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and, most importantly, an offensive line that has taken some time to jell.
Penn State makes its fifth appearance in the Capital One/Citrus Bowl and its first since 2002. The Lions are 1-3 in the Orlando game.
LSU take by SEC blogger Chris Low: The wolves were howling in Baton Rouge following LSU’s 25-23 loss to Ole Miss on Nov. 21 when Les Miles and the Tigers’ offensive staff butchered the end of that game with their clock management. Miles was roasted by the fans and the media.
That next week, the Tigers were again on the ropes, but they showed their mettle by rallying in the final minute of regulation and beat Arkansas 33-30 in overtime to change the complexion of this season. A home loss to end the regular season, particularly coming off that Ole Miss debacle, would have made for a long offseason no matter what happened in the bowl game.
But, now, the Tigers have a chance to win a 1oth game and get one more chance to improve offensively. That’s been the sticking point, because John Chavis’ defense in his first year as LSU’s coordinator has played well enough to win every game the Tigers have played this season.
Injuries have decimated LSU’s running back stable, and the Tigers are down to Stevan Ridley. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson has struggled with his overall awareness, and LSU has also given up an SEC-high 35 sacks.
The Tigers are 11th in the SEC this season in total offense (309.7 yards per game). That’s 130 yards fewer per game than what they averaged in 2007 when they won the national championship.
Michigan State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Michigan State will play in a January bowl game for the first time in nine seasons, and the Spartans can take an important step in their evolution by knocking off preseason No. 1 Georgia.
The Spartans had to be encouraged after watching Georgia's last performance, in which the Bulldogs surrendered 409 rushing yards in a loss to Georgia Tech. Running the ball is what Michigan State does best, and the Spartans boast one of the nation's top backs in senior Javon Ringer, who leads FBS in carries (370) and ranks third in rushing average (132.5 ypg).
Georgia undoubtedly will load up to try and stop Ringer, so Spartans senior quarterback Brian Hoyer needs to step up. Hoyer struggled the last time he stepped on the field at Citrus Bowl Stadium, throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl.
Michigan State does a good job of controlling the clock, and it will need to do whatever possible to keep Georgia's offense off the field.
The Spartans defense has performed well for most of the season, but it really struggled against elite offensive skill players from Cal, Ohio State and Penn State. Georgia's dynamic backfield of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno will test Michigan State, which was mediocre statistically.
Georgia take by SEC blogger Chris Low: There was so much hype for Georgia in the preseason that it was going to be impossible to live up to all the gaudy expectations.
The Bulldogs went into the season ranked No. 1 in the polls, but even before they lost their first game, there was trouble. Starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant went down with a season-ending knee injury during a scrimmage.
It was the start of an injury plague that tormented the Bulldogs (9-3) all season long. They went from the national championship race and SEC championship race to the middle of the Eastern Division standings.
They head into their Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl matchup with Michigan State on the heels of their most disappointing game of the season. Georgia Tech rolled up 409 yards rushing with its option offense and beat Georgia 45-42 on Senior Day at Sanford Stadium. Think the Spartans might give it to Javon Ringer a few tiimes?
Poor tackling was the norm for the Bulldogs this season, and they ended the regular season by giving up 38 or more points in four of their last five games.
The problems on defense wasted one of the more complete efforts by a Georgia offense in a long time. Even coach Mark Richt admitted that threesomes like Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and A.J. Green don't come around every year.