NCF Nation: Texas Bowl first take
Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Missouri take by Big 12 blogger Tim Griffin: Missouri was one of the Big 12’s hottest teams down the stretch, but fell to the conference’s lowest bowl affiliation as it was jumped by Iowa State and Texas A&M. Texas Bowl officials might not be complaining too much considering the interesting contrast they will receive in their game against Navy.
Danario Alexander was the conference’s most explosive offensive player in the final month of the season, emerging as the nation’s leader in receiving yards per game (137 yards per game) and third in receptions (8.92 receptions). Sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert played strong during a three-game winning streak to finish the season and completed the year by passing for 3,302 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The Tigers ranked 109th in pass defense, but that shouldn’t be a concern against Navy, which ranks third in rushing but next to last nationally in passing. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo is familiar with bowl games after directing the Midshipmen into bowl games in each of his three seasons as a coach.
Navy's rushing attack is keyed by junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who rushed for 913 yards and 23 touchdowns, which ranks second nationally. It will mark the first time these teams have played since Missouri claimed a 21-14 victory in the 1960 Orange Bowl.
Navy take by Independents and others blogger Graham Watson: Navy came into this season not knowing whether it would be able to keep its streak of eight-win seasons alive.
The Midshipmen have won at least eight games every year since 2003, but this year’s schedule was supposed to be the toughest the Midshipmen have faced in quite some time.
Those feelings were assuaged in late October when the Mids defeated Wake Forest without their starting quarterback or slotback. They went on to defeat Notre Dame and currently have eight wins with a game against Army still remaining.
If Navy wins out, it would be the first 10-win season since 2004, but that won’t be easy against a Missouri team that has one of the most potent offenses and dangerous receivers in the country. Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and receiver Danario Alexander probably would be likened to Notre Dame with quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate. But unlike Notre Dame, Missouri has a pretty good rushing defense allowing just 96.42 yards per game.
For the first time since 2004, Navy will not finish as the nation’s best rushing team, but it ranks third with 279.67 yards per game.
A lot of Navy’s success this season is because of junior quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who has rushed for 913 yards and passed for 860 yards and accounted for 27 of the Midshipmen’s 46 total touchdowns this season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
Dec. 30, 8 p.m., (NFL Network)
The Texas Bowl pits two offensively similar teams in Western Michigan and Rice in what could be one of the highest scoring affairs of the bowl season.
The Broncos have won nine games for the first time since 2000 and a win in the Texas Bowl would give the Broncos 10 wins for the first time in the program's history. This after finishing 5-7 a season ago.
Western Michigan is a little more diverse than Rice because it employs a true ground game with running back Brandon West, who is 30 yards short of 1,000 for the season. Also, quarterback Tim Hiller has thrown for 3,527 yards and 34 touchdowns and has favorite targets in receiver Jamarko Simmons and tight end Branden Ledbetter.
The Owls have won six straight, seven of their last eight, and boast the 10th-best total offense in the country. Quarterback Chase Clement and receiver Jarett Dillard have more touchdown connections than any duo in NCAA history. Clement is third in the country in total offense, accounting for 369.4 total yards per game.
And the Owls' best-kept secret is tight end James Casey, who in Rice's last game against Houston, had three rushing touchdowns, a receiving touchdown and a touchdown pass.