Bowl Previews for Dec. 28
Ohio (8-4) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (8-4), 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Louisiana-Monroe by 7.
Series Record: First meeting
What’s at stake: Louisiana-Monroe wants to make a good impression after advancing to the postseason for the first time since moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1994. The Warhawks haven’t won nine games in a season since 1993. Ohio is in a bowl game for the fourth straight season and trying to win nine games for the third time in four years.
Key matchup: Ohio RB Beau Blankenship against ULM’s defense. The 5-foot-9, 202-pound Blankenship has had a breakout season for the Bobcats, rushing for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s rushed for at least 100 yards eight times this season, including a season-high 269 yards against Massachusetts on Sept. 29.
Russell Athletic Bowl
Rutgers (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6), 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Virginia Tech by 2
Series Record: Virginia Tech leads 11-3.
What’s at stake: Rutgers has won five consecutive bowl games and is making its eight bowl appearance in school history. The Scarlet Knights are looking to shake off the disappointment of missing out on a BCS berth, and are also hoping to notch their first 10-win season since 2006. Virginia Tech is looking to end its 2012 season on a high note after stumbling to their first single-digit win season since 2003. Still, the Hokies are making their 20th consecutive bowl appearance, joining only Florida State and Florida as teams to do that over the past two seasons.
Key matchup: Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas had his ups and down this season, throwing for 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, after losing top targets Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale to graduation.
He’s still a big threat in the air or on the ground, though, where he led the team in rushing yards (526) and touchdowns (nine).
He’ll matchup with a stout Rutgers’ defense that features the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in senior LB Khaseem Greene. The Scarlet Knights also ranked 14th in the nation in total defense, surrendering 321.25 yards per game.
Meineke Car Car Bowl
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (7-5), 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Line: Texas Tech by 13
Series Record: Texas Tech leads 1-0.
What’s at stake: The Red Raiders return to a bowl after having their 18-season bowl streak snapped last year. They want to end the season on a high note after a tumultuous month in which coach Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati. Texas Tech hired Kliff Kingsbury, but will be led by interim coach Chris Thomsen in the bowl. Minnesota is in a bowl for the first time since 2009.
The Gophers are looking for their first bowl win since 2004.
Key matchup: Texas Tech QB Seth Doege against Minnesota’s defense. Doege is fourth in the nation in yards passing with 3,934 and his 38 touchdown passes are second in the country. The Gophers rank 11th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 178.5 yards a game, and they’ve given up 300 yards passing only once this season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Minnesota: RB Donnell Kirkwood. He leads the team with 849 yards rushing, and his three 100-yard rushing games this season are the most since Amir Pinnix had five in 2006. He had a season-high 152 yards rushing in a 17-3 win against Illinois.
Texas Tech: WRs Darrin Moore and Eric Ward. Moore has 81 catches for 948 yards and Ward has 75 catches for 974 yards. Moore has 13 touchdown receptions and Ward has 11. If the pair can both reach 1,000 yards receiving, they’ll be the first Tech duo to reach the mark since Danny Amendola and Michael Crabtree in 2007. Ward is averaging 124 yards receiving a game over the last five games. Moore is the third Red Raider in the last 12 years to have 10 touchdown receptions in Big 12 play.