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Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt stated on Monday that he will be opening up the starting job at running back the SEC runner-ups will begin preparations for their battle in the Outback Bowl versus the Michigan State Spartans on January 2nd.
Talented but oft injured freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell continued to struggle with a left ankle injury against LSU in the SEC Championship last Saturday. Crowell finished with just 15 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas, Ken Malcome, Branden Smith and Brandon Harton have all carried the ball for Mark Richt's offense. Samuel, Thomas and Smith have all started at running back along with Crowell who is considered as the No. 1 RB on the Georgia depth chart.
The Michigan State Spartans will bring the Big Ten's number one rushing defense into the Outback Bowl, so all hands on deck will be needed for the rushing attack to succeed.
This time a year ago the Auburn Tigers were on cloud nine, as their birth into the 2011 BCS national championship against the Oregon Ducks would lead them onto a wild ride that saw Cameron Jerrell Newton finish the journey that he started at the beginning of the season. A wild ride that saw Nick Fairley become one of the most feared defenders in America. A wild ride that saw freshman sensation Michael Dyer pull off one of the more miraculous runs in college football history.
Auburn's 22-19 national championship win propelled their program into the next stratosphere, and along with it comes higher expectations and a bulls-eye from everyone in the country. Those expectations and bulls-eye, along with the major voids on both sides of the ball called for a fall back to reality. A 7-5 record isn't the worst thing in the world for an extremely young team, and head coach Gene Chizik realizes that a win in a respected bowl game like the
Peach Bowl Chick-Fil-A Bowl can give his team the confidence to shine brightly in 2012 and beyond.
Of course, the Tigers will still technically wear the crown of "defending champs" until January 9th, and for Mike London's bunch out of Charlottesville a big time win for his Virginia Cavaliers over the crown holders would be a huge hurdle for a team that wants to be on the rise. The Fighting Wahoo's were one of the biggest surprises in the country, finishing at 8-4 and achieving their first bowl bid since 2007. (This is their first appearance in the
Peach Bowl Chick-fil-A Bowl since 1998)
This game will be about who can impose their will on the other team. While Auburn figures out their quarterback conundrum, their running game has been nothing short of stellar. Michael Dyer continues to perform at a high level and Onterrio McCalebb is always a threat to break a long one. Virginia will lean on the defensive prowess of Chase Minnifield and Matt Conrath to slow down Auburn's fast break offense. Both players were first-team All-ACC selections and will look to have futures past their playing careers at UVA.
This should shape up at one of the more compelling bowl games this season, but the big question of course is...who will win? One guarantee I can make, it'll be the team wearing blue and orange.
Utah has given up only 19.7 points a game this season, 18th best in the nation, but they've done it primarily against sub-standard competition. Of their seven wins, only one came against an above-.500 team, a 54-10 pounding of their archrival BYU in September before the Cougars made a QB switch that turned their season around.
With a chance to win the Pac-12 South on the last week of the regular season, Utah fell 17-14 to 3-10 Colorado, who ranked 109th in the country in total offense and 110th in total defense.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is looking for their first bowl victory under Paul Johnson, as his triple-option offense has not been as effective against opponents who have over a month to prepare for it.
The Yellow Jackets averaged 34.9 points a game, 19th best in the country, and defending a run-first attack should be fairly unfamiliar to a Ute team used to playing in the more pass-happy Pac-12.
Utah will have opportunities against a Georgia Tech defense that is giving up 25.8 points a game, 60th best in the country. They are led offensively by junior RB John White IV, who has rushed for 1,404 yards and 14 TD's on 4.8 yards a carry.
Despite running a far more traditional offense under coach Kyle Whittingham, the Utes are almost as unproductive through the air as the Yellow Jackets, ranking 99th in the country in passing yards. Junior QB Jon Hays took over the team half-way through the season, completing 57% of his passes for 1,266 yards, 9 TD's and 7 INT's in nine games.
In a match-up of two teams coming off losses in their respective conference championship games, the No. 18 Georgia Bulldogs are two-point favorites over the No. 13 Michigan State Spartans in the Outback Bowl.
Georgia's offense, which averages 32.2 points a game, will be tested by Michigan State's defense, which gave up only 17.5 points, 9th best in the nation.
Of course, most of that defensive success came in Big Ten play, as the Spartans only non-conference opponent of note, Notre Dame, defeated them 31-13.
The Outback Bowl will be the latest in a long-running feud between fans of the Big Ten and the SEC, the two most popular conferences in college football. Many Southern fans believe that players from the Midwest can't compete with the team speed in the SEC, an idea that gained weight after Florida's stunning upset of Ohio State in the 2006 national championship game.
Offensively, Michigan State is led by senior QB Kirk Cousins, a 6'3 205 senior who completed 65% of his passes for 3,016 yards, 34 TD's an 7 INT's.
Cousins, a three-year starter, will try to reverse the Spartans' recent bowl history under coach Mike Dantonio. Michigan State has lost four consecutive bowl games, including a 49-7 drubbing to Alabama in last year's Capital One Bowl.
The Bulldogs' young defense, after giving up 35 points to Boise State and 45 to South Carolina in their first two games, has improved as the season has progressed. They are currently ranked 17th in total defense, giving up an average of 19.2 points a game.
However, they haven't faced a passing attack as potent as the Spartans since those first two games, as SEC powers like Florida, Tennessee and Auburn went through down seasons that featured turmoil at the QB position.
After going through a two-year down-swing, this is the first post New Year's Day Bowl for Georgia since the 2008 Capital One Bowl, when they beat the Spartans 24-12 in Matthew Stafford's last college game.
Auburn has come back to earth after their BCS National Championship last season, while Virginia has exploded in Mike London's rookie season as head coach. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl will feature a Tiger team looking for an identity post-Cam and a Wahoo team that surprised the ACC but didn't quite reach the levels of the conference elite (a 34-0 loss to rival Virginia Tech confirms that).
Game date, time: 7:30 pm ET, Saturday, December 31
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
TV channel: ESPN
2010 winner and loser: FSU 26 - South Carolina 17
2011 Virginia Highlights: Mike London's inaugural season started with little fanfare - at 2-2, the Wahoos lost to eventual C-USA Champion Southern Miss and dropped their first conference game to North Carolina. But the Cavs would draw national attention during a 6-1 run through the meat of their schedule, and entered their season finale against Virginia Tech with a chance to play the in the conference title for the first time in school history before the Hokies would win in a 34-0 blowout.
2011 Auburn Highlights: The defending BCS National Champions were expected to be basement dwellers this season, and nearly were right out of the gate: The Tigers avoided a devastating first-week scare against Utah State and handled themselves well in the SEC, despite losing Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. Their most notable win of the season was a three point upset of would-be SEC East Champion South Carolina, but eventually the expected "reloading phase" came to be a reality, in blowout losses to LSU, Georgia and Alabama.
What To Watch For: Virginia's rushing defense against Auburn's running game. The absence of Newton was certainly felt (AU is below 100th nationally in passing and total offense), but the Tigers can run the ball. Michael Dyer is averaging 103 yards a game and has scored 10 touchdowns this season. Virginia's defense has quietly become one of the ACC's best, and are allowing only 128 yards rushing a game. Both teams will want to manage the clock above all else.
The game will be widely be viewed as another referendum on the Big Ten's competitive viability with the SEC. Sparty got rolled last year by the Alabama Crimson Tide, and Georgia's 2011 defense is just a notch behind what Bama's was last year. Then again, MSU has a very good defense of its own. So this game will be like 37-34.
Two of the nation's top five defenses, making for the only game outside of the BCS National Championship Game to match such highly ranked Ds. Georgia's offense ranks No. 39, while MSU's ranks No. 60.
As projected and reported, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Utah Utes will play in the 2011 Sun Bowl. It's one of the few ACC bowl games that didn't get thrown into chaos by the Sugar Bowl selecting the Virginia Tech Hokies as an at-large for some reason, as the Sun had had its eye on the Jackets for several weeks now.
It's a rematch of the 2005 Emerald Bowl, which Utah won, 38-10.
In their first season as a BCS-conference team, the Utes started out with four Pac-12 losses in a row before nearly taking the conference's South division title. You could say they've found their momentum, but giving the Colorado Buffaloes a rare victory away from Boulder is no way to express momentum. A confounding team.
The Utes are No. 110 in the country in offense, but No. 30 in defense.
The Sugar Bowl went ahead and cleared up the Chick-fil-A Bowl's one big conundrum: how to avoid a rematch or two recent repeat teams. By taking the frequently Atlantan Virginia Tech Hokies in a surprise move, the Sugar left the Chick-fil-A with the choice of the Virginia Cavaliers to pair with the Auburn Tigers, a team that pretty much plays in the Georgia Dome every chance it gets.
Virginia and Auburn represent two of the most exciting young teams in the country," said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO. "With these two teams, we have two top-tier coaching staffs, incredible fan bases and great history and tradition. We're expecting an unmatched atmosphere and a real battle in Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The game is set for New Year's Eve in Atlanta. UVa and Auburn haven't played in more than a dozen years, with only a split pair of meetings in their history.
The Outback Bowl is taking the time to prepare a delicious meal for you, but it's time for a peek into the kitchen. It sounds like were getting exactly what we ordered: the Georgia Bulldogs against the Michigan St. Spartans.
@marcweiszer As everything indicated, it's Georgia vs. Michigan State in Outback Bowl, according to Detroit News. Official announcement at 8:20 p.m.
It's not the bowl the Dawgs had hoped for, but it's a January bowl against a Big Ten division champ. Last year, Sparty headed to Florida and got dismantled by the Alabama Crimson Tide, an outcome UGA fans are already surely hoping to see a repeat of.
Game date, time: 1:00 pm ET, Monday, January 2nd
Location: Tampa, Florida
TV channel: ABC
2010 winner and loser: Florida, Penn State
CBS Sports college football writer Bryan Fischer is reporting that Auburn and Virginia will match up in this year's Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on December 31 at the Georgia Dome.
Virginia's inclusion in the game was reportedly made possible by Virginia Tech being selected to play in the Sugar Bowl. That bumped the Cavaliers up to represent the ACC in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and to take on the Tigers.
Virginia finished with an 8-4 record this season but missed out on a trip to the ACC Championship game after it lost to Virginia Tech 38-0 in its regular season finale. The Cavaliers knocked off both Georgia Tech and Florida State during the regular season.
Auburn finished 7-5 this season and a distant fourth in the SEC's western division. The Tigers lost four of its last seven games including losses to Georgia and Alabama down the stretch.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are expected to accept a bid for the 2011 Sun Bowl, according to CBS Sports, as has been plotted for some time. Their opponent will be Pac-12 foe Utah, according to the El Paso Times. Before the game, it had looked to come down to Utah or Cal for the other spot.
It's the first trip to the El Paso, Texas bowl for the Jackets since 1970, when defensive tackle Rock Perdoni was the game's MVP. That probably won't happen this time around. It's also a rematch of the 2005 Emerald Bowl, a resounding Utes victory.
Tech is on a six-year bowl losing streak, most recently dropping the Independence Bowl against the Air Force Falcons. The good news, however, is that the Jackets still boast the country's fourth-longest bowl participation streak at 15 years, a mark they share with theGeorgia Bulldogs.
Game date, time: 2:00 p.m. ET, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011
Location: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Tx.
TV channel: CBS
2010 winner and loser: Notre Dame def. Miami Hurricanes, 33-17
While things are shaky at the top of the BCS standings as to who will face off versus the LSU Tigers in the national championship game in New Orleans, things have become relatively crystal clear for the Georgia-based schools, based on the latest 2011 bowl projections.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, all signs point to the boys from Atlanta making a trip down to El Paso, Texas to play in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Their likely opponents will be the Utah Utes of the Pac-12, a 7-5 team who just missed out on playing on the conference championship.
For the Georgia Bulldogs, now 10-3, their valiant attempt at pulling off the upset versus LSU in the SEC title game was thoroughly squashed in the second half in a 42-10 loss. However, their reward for their successful 2011 turnaround season will likely be a New Years' Day bowl game. Georgia could look to face off versus the 10-3 Michigan State Spartans, who similarly lost in their conference title game versus Wisconsin on Saturday, in the Capital One Bowl game in Orlando.