Friday, December 28, 2007

Liberty Bowl Preview

Central Florida vs. Mississippi State Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. ESPN
Memphis, Tenn.
Line: UCF -3, 55.5


Central Florida (10-3, 7-1)
The Knights won Conference USA landing them a Liberty Bowl Berth. George O'Leary's club did not shy away from out of conference competition this year playing Texas close and beating NC State on the road. They are led by junior running back Kevin Smith who needs 181 yards to break the NCAA single season rushing record held by Barry Sanders.
Best Win: vs Tulsa 44-25
Worst Loss: @ So. Fla 12-64
Record vs Bowl Teams: 4-3
Schedule Strength: 69th
HC O'Leary Record in Bowls: 3-3

Mississippi State (7-5, 4-4)
Sly Croom was feeling some heat before the season began, but an early win at Auburn set the tone for the Bulldogs run to a bowl game. The Bulldogs capped the season with a second straight victory over Alabama and a come from behind win over rival Ole Miss. Ed Ogeron was "Croomed" afterwards.
Best Win: @ Auburn 38-17
Worst Loss: @ South Carolina 21-38
Record vs Bowl Teams: 2-3
Schedule Strength: T-45th
HC Croom Record in Bowls: 0-0

Central Florida Offense:
It starts and ends with Smith. One couldsay he got those rushing numbers against weak competition, but the junior got 149 yards against Texas and 217 vs NC State. Why throw when you have Smith? Good question and the Knights are smart enough not too very often. QB Kyle Israel has just 6TDs on the season to 5 Ints.

Miss St Defense:
Darren McFadden is the best back the Bulldogs have seen this season so far and they limited the Heisman runner up to just 88 yards. Croom's crew has given up 100+ yards to just 3 backs this year. The pass defense is also good ranking 10th in the nation with 182.2 ypg. This defense is the reason Miss St is in a bowl game.

Miss St Offense:
Miss State would have liked to rely on TB Anthony Dixon more this season, but he been banged up with injuries most of the year. Dixon will have a chance to eclipse 1000 yards in the bowl game. QB Wesley Carroll is just a freshman and his play down the stretch was erratic throwing 4INTs against Arkansas in a loss.

Central Florida Defense:
UCF is very respectable against the run allowing just 132 ypg. The news is not as good against the pass where the Knights rank 85th allowing just under 250 ypg. Teams like to pass against this defense, but that could be tricky because this group has 23 INTs on the year.

Motivation:
I think this game is one where both sides will bring it. UCF wants to prove they are worthy against an SEC team. Miss State wants to finish off their comeback season on a high notes; 8-5 will go down in history, but 7-6 won't. I would also think the Bulldogs may feel a little slighted being the underdogs to a Conference USA team.

Prediction:
Miss State doesn't have much on offense and that could really come back to hurt them as high powered offenses are the trend this bowl season. They will need to create turnovers and limit Smith's touches to win this game.

Central Florida 33 Miss State 23
UCF Wins, Covers, Over

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