Sunday, December 30, 2007

Humanitarian Bowl Preview

Fresno State vs. Georgia Tech Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ESPN2
Boise, Idaho
Line: GT -6, 54.5

Fresno State (8-4, 6-2)
The Bulldogs are bowling for the 8th time in the last 9 years under Pat Hill. The coach who bears an uncanny resemblance to the guy on Orange County Choppers has beaten 11 BCS teams and will be looking for his second victory over Georgia Tech in a bowl game. Fresno State played Texas A&M to overtime this year and also had narrow losses to Boise St and Hawaii.

Best Win: @ Nevada 49-4

Worst Loss: @ Oregon 21-52

Record vs Bowl Teams: 1-4

Schedule Strength: 90th

HC Record Hill in Bowl Games: 3-4

Georgia Tech (7-5, 4-4)

The Yellow Jackets had high hopes after starting the season with a 33-3 win at Notre Dame, but by early October those hopes had quickly faded to a 3-3 record. Tech finished the season with another 7-5 record and another loss to Georgia. A combination of these led to the firing of Chan Gailey and the hiring of Paul Johnson who will take over after the bowl game. Interim HC Jon Tenuta will coach the Jackets for the bowl and then will be looking for employment elsewhere as Johnson has already hired a new DC.

Best Win: vs Clemson 13-3

Worst Loss: vs Va Tech 3-27

Record vs Bowl Teams: 1-5

Strength of Schedule: T-59th
HC Tenuta Record in Bowl Games: 0-0

Fresno State Offense:
Fresno's offense has good balance and averages over 200 yards rushing and passing on the season. Their top tailback Ryan Matthews is out with an injury, so expect to see Clifton Smith and Lonyae Miller with most of the carries. Tom Brandstater has shown good accuracy at QB completing over 60% of his passes. Brandstater has thrown 14TD to just 5 Int on the year.

Georgia Tech Defense:
You can expect Tenuta, who is also the DC for this game, to put his stamp on his one and only game as Head Coach at Georgia Tech and that means a lot of blitzing. The Jackets routinely blitz one or two linebackers hoping to force the opposing QB into bad decisions. Georgia Tech leads the nation in sacks with 48 on the year. Because of blitzing, Tenuta's
defensive backs are usually in one on one coverage that could yield some big plays for opposing offenses. If the Bulldogs are going to move the ball, it better be through the air because Tech allows just 104 ypg and 2.9 ypc rushing.

Georgia Tech Offense: Tashard Choice is the horse that makes Tech go on offense. The senior is enjoying his second straight year 1,000 yard rushing season despite missing one full game and half of two other games. The same cannot be said for Tech's passing attack which has been anemic at best. The Jackets have just 8TD passes on the year. QB Taylor Bennett is completing less than 50% of his passes and has 9 INT to just 6TD. Freshman Josh Nesbitt will also see action at QB in running situations.

Fresno State Defense:
Against BCS league teams, Fresno gave up over 750 yards rushing and 10TDs in three games. The pass defense is not much better giving up 227 ypg with just 3 picks on the year. These numbers are skewed a little bit since the Bulldogs did play Nevada and Hawaii this year. The best defender for Fresno is LB Marcus Riley.

This is one is pretty clear cut in Fresno's advantage. Georgia Tech is in a coaching
transition - many of the coaches will be moving on next year including Tenuta and the coach they were all recruited by (Gailey) is gone. Teams in coaching transitions are 0-5 so far in bowl season. Also, Tech had high hopes coming into this year, but is in Boise in 30 degree temperatures for their bowl game, not Miami or Atlanta or Jacksonville. Fresno has beaten 11 BCS teams under Pat Hill and does not back down from anyone.

Georgia Tech is the more talented team and Tenuta's bowl preparations could buck a trend of lackluster performances under the previous regime. This bowl game is at 11AM ET and Tech has had trouble in early starting games this year. Still with the new coach coming on board and speculation of assistants retained or let go there is a lot of talk around the program that does not involve this bowl game. This plays right into the hands of Fresno. For Georgia Tech to win this game, then they need to ride Tashard Choice down the field. History tell us that the Yellow Jackets play to the reputation of their opponent.

Fresno State 28 Georgia Tech 17
Fresno State Wins, Covers, Under

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