December 26, 2007

Fritch's Big 12 Bowl Tour: Part 1

Who would've thought the Big 12 team to kickoff the bowl season would be Texas? Well, the No. 17 Longhorns will look to continue their trend of postseason success when they face No. 12 Arizona State on Thursday night in the Holiday Bowl. Call it an appetizer. D. Scott Fritchen hopes to help you to get your bowl season kicked off right as he takes a look at Texas, Texas A&M, Colorado and Oklahoma State during this first installment of his Big 12 Bowl Tour with a look at four later bowls involving league teams left to come.

Big 12 Bowl Games


No. 17 Texas (9-3) vs. No. 12 Arizona St. (10-2)

Thursday, Dec. 27 (ESPN, 7 CST) • San Diego

Key wins

Key losses


TCU, at Okla St, Texas Tech

Kan St, v. Okla, at Texas A&M



at Ore, USC

The Longhorns and Sun Devils (2nd Pac-10) meet for the first time. It will mark the Longhorns' fourth appearance in the Holiday Bowl and their first since 2003. Their three previous games at the Holiday Bowl were decided by a total of 17 points and they have lost their last two times at Qualcomm Stadium. Texas will be making its school-record 10th straight postseason appearance and has won five of its last six bowl games and is 6-3 in bowls under Mack Brown. It will look to bounce back after it was a five-game winning streak end in a 38-30 loss at Texas A&M in which it gave up 362 passing yards, gave up a fake field goal for a TD and committed three turnovers. Arizona State will make its school record-tying fourth straight bowl appearance and returns to the Holiday Bowl for the first time since it lost to Kansas State in 2002. Dennis Erickson was the 2007 Pac-10 Coach of the Year and is the first to win the award at three different Pac-10 schools. This season he became the second coach in the 30-year history of the Pac-10 to win seven league games in his first season with a school. The Sun Devils come off a 20-17 win against Arizona but haven't won consecutive games since October. They held Arizona to 44 yards on the ground and forced three turnovers in holding the Wildcats to their fewest points since a 20-13 loss to USC on Oct. 13.

A Texas win means: Brown improves to 6-1 in his last seven bowls, the best of any coach during the stretch with at least one BCS bowl appearance. Texas finishes with at least 10 wins for the seventh straight season.

An Arizona State win means: Erickson finishes an impressive first season carrying a head of steam in giving the Sun Devils their first 11-win season since 1996, which equals the second-most wins in the program since 1975.

Who's hot for Texas: RB Jamaal Charles, who despite gaining 92 yards in a loss to Texas A&M on Nov. 24, still averaged 5.4 yards per carry and had a TD. Charles has 736 yards on 89 carries (a hefty 8.2 yards per attempt) and eight TDs in the last four games.

Who's hot for Arizona State: QB Rudy Carpenter, who completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 1,285 yards with 7 TDs and 1 INT in the last five games. In all, Carpenter has one interception in his last 174 passing attempts and hasn't been picked-off in three straight games.

D. Scott's stat: 1.8 - Average points allowed by Arizona State in the fourth quarter this season.

D. Scott's pick: Arizona State 27, Texas 25


Texas A&M (7-5) vs. Penn State (8-4)

Saturday, Dec. 29 (ESPN, 7 CST) • San Antonio

Key wins

Key losses



at Mia, at Okla, at Mizzou


Wisc, Ind

at Mich, at Ill, at Ohio St, at Mich St

Defensive coordinator and interim head coach Gary Darnell fills in after Dennis Franchione's resignation and the Aggies face Penn State for the first time since the 1999 Sylvania Alamo Bowl. Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions issued a 24-0 shutout in that contest and have won eight of their last 10 bowls. Texas A&M beat Texas to snap a three-game losing streak and finished the regular season with the second-toughest schedule in the nation and went 3-4 against bowl-bound teams. It won once away from College Station, a 36-14 victory at Nebraska, but has been outscored by an average of 33-19 on the road this season. The Aggies have struggled in their last two postseason games - losing 45-10 to California last season in the Holiday Bowl and 38-7 to Tennessee in the 2004 Cotton Bowl. Paterno will coach in his 500th career game, becoming just the second major college coach ever to do so, and is the all-time leader in bowl wins (22) and appearances (34). His winning percentage (68.2) is third among coaches with at least 12 bowl visits. The Nittany Lions come off a 35-31 loss at Michigan State on Nov. 17 but have won five of their last seven. Paterno has won 51 of his last 62 (82.2 percent) non-conference games. Penn State is 6-2 against current Big 12 teams in bowl games with both losses coming against Oklahoma.

A Texas A&M win means: The Aggies post at least eight wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1998-99 and new coach Mike Sherman likely comes to College Station with a happy bunch eager to get in the South hunt in 2008.

A Penn State win means: Paterno posts his third straight nine-win season and returns for 2008 after fielding one of the youngest squads in his tenure. Penn State will lose just three senior starters and based on the starting lineup against Michigan State figures to return 21 starters, including 10 on defense, nine on offense and both specialists.

Who's hot for Texas A&M: QB Stephen McGee, who is the second Aggie to reach 3,000 yards in total offense in a single season (2,147 pass, 858 rush) and has tossed just 10 interceptions in 699 career pass attempts. He has thrown 8 TDs and 3 INTs in his last five games.

Who's hot for Penn State: LB Dan Connor, who has double-digit tackles in his last four games, including 18 against No. 1 Ohio State and Temple, and averages 15.0 tackles during the stretch. Connor also has 14.0 tackles for a loss, including 6.5 sacks and has six pass break-ups this season.

D. Scott's stat: 0 - Wins by Penn State when it allows 100 yards rushing. The Nittany Lions rank No. 6 in rush defense (87.9) but were generous in losses to Michigan (166), Illinois (216), Ohio State (200) and Michigan State (145). The Aggies rank No. 13 in rushing (215.5) and have been stuffed just twice against Miami (98) and Kansas (74) - both losses.

D. Scott's pick: Penn State 30, Texas A&M 21


Colorado (6-6) vs. Alabama (6-6)

Sunday, Dec. 30 (ESPN, 7 CST) • Shreveport, La.

Key wins

Key losses



at Kan St, Kan, Mizzou, at Iowa St


Ark, Tenn

Ga, Fla St, UL Monroe, at Auburn

While Colorado and Alabama meet for the third time in history, the Big 12 has become familiar to the Crimson Tide, who will face a Big 12 opponent for the third straight year in a bowl. This one comes down to one dreaded word: Avoid. The Buffaloes will try to avoid their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1983-84; the Crimson Tide for the first time since 1956-57. Colorado bounced itself into a bowl with a 65-51 win against Nebraska and showed marked improvement under second-year coach Dan Hawkins. The Buffaloes suffered a 14-13 loss to Georgia in Hawkins' first season and haven't beaten a SEC team since LSU in 1971. Alabama has played in more bowls (55) and has more bowl wins (30) than any team in college football history and makes its fourth straight postseason appearance. It suffered a 34-31 loss against Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl last season. The Crimson Tide, who were No. 16 three weeks into the season, have lost four straight (including an embarrassing 21-14 home loss to UL Monroe) and Nick Saban will try to avoid his first five-game losing streak in 12 seasons as a college coach.

A Colorado win means: Hawkins boasts the biggest turnaround in school history by a coach between year one and year two. Actually, win or lose, this has been a key step in Hawkins' rebuilding the Colorado program.

An Alabama win means: Saban, college football's highest-paid coach, avoids an even-bigger hot seat as a win might soothe a little bit of the boosters' ire during the offseason. But only a little bit.

Who's hot for Colorado: QB Cody Hawkins, who has tossed 6 TDs and 1 INT in his last five games after starting the season with 12 TDs and 14 INTs. Hawkins has thrown a school-record 424 passes and is second with 239 completions and has thrown 70 straight without a pick.

Who's hot for Alabama: WR D.J. Hall, who averages a SEC second-best 78.9 yards per game and needs three receptions to break the school-record (65) for receptions in a season and 53 yards to become the first in school history to post two 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Hall is the school's all-time leader in receptions (190) and receiving yards (2,865).

D. Scott's stat: 65 - Points scored by Colorado in its last game Nov. 23 against Nebraska. Alabama put up 70 points … in its last four games.

D. Scott's pick: Colorado 32, Alabama 21


Oklahoma State (6-6) vs. Indiana (7-5)

Monday, Dec. 31 (NFL, 5 CST) • Tempe, Ariz.

Key wins

Key losses


Texas Tech, Kan St

Ga, at Troy, at Texas A&M



Mich St, Northwestern

Oklahoma State is making its fifth bowl appearance in six years, tied for its best stretch in history, and its second straight under Mike Gundy. Meanwhile, Bill Lynch is the first coach to send Indiana bowling in a debut season, as the Hoosiers are making their first postseason appearance since 1993. That was the last time they posted at least seven wins. The last time these teams met, it resulted in a 7-7 tie in 1930 in Bloomington. It should be different this time around, as both teams average more than 30 points a contest and have reached 40 points a combined nine times. The Cowboys are winless in nine games against Big Ten teams not named Iowa and are 0-2 in bowl games against the league. For the second straight season, the Cowboys are one of the top two most-balanced squad on offense, as they average at least 235 yards both passing and rushing. They will look to regroup after producing just 307 total yards in a 49-17 loss at No. 10 Oklahoma on Nov. 24. Indiana closed its regular season with an emotional 27-24 win against Purdue.

An Oklahoma State win means: Gundy is smiling after capping the regular season with three losses in the last four games against the likes of No. 14 Texas, No. 5 Kansas and No. 10 Oklahoma. A winning season is always important and the Cowboys already return firepower for 2008.

An Indiana win means: Lynch earns eight victories in his debut season, tied for the most by any first-year coach at Indiana since 1905. Lynch earlier signed on to remain head coach through 2012 and a win just adds momentum.

Who's hot for Oklahoma State: RB Dantrell Savage, whose 108-yard, 1-TD effort was the lone bright spot against Oklahoma, but who enters with nine straight 100-yard rushing games and has scored 6 TDs in the last six games.

Who's hot for Indiana: DE Greg Middleton is the nation's sack leader with 16.0 (1.3 per game) and the sophomore first-year starter and Ted Hendricks Award finalist closed out the regular season with a career-high 2.5 sacks against Purdue.

D. Scott's stat: 64.5 - Winning percentage in bowls for Oklahoma State (11-6), which is tops in the Big 12 and third nationally.

D. Scott's pick: Oklahoma State 38, Indiana 24

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