December 27, 2007

Alabama-Colorado: How they match up

MATCHUP BOX






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Alabama


Position


Colorado

John Parker Wilson struggled mightily over a four-game losing streak to end the regular season, but his final statistics are remarkably similar to those of CU's Cody Hawkins. With a month off from game action and an offensive line that has re-settled to its original lineup, Wilson can play from a clean mental slate. The way his season ended, he will need to.

QB

For a freshman under six feet tall playing in the Big 12 Conference, Cody Hawkins had a remarkable season. His 15 interceptions showed his youth, but his 19 touchdown passes led a much-improved offense. Like Wilson, Hawkins' completion percentage is in the mid-50s with a yardage total just over 2,500 yards.



Edge:
EVEN


The Crimson Tide will return to its original starting lineup up front for the bowl game, with Antoine Caldwell back at center. In its five games together this season, that line played poorly only once - against Florida State. The interior part of the line will have its hands full with CU LB Jordon Dizon, a Butkus Award finalist.

OL

Colorado's line allowed 19 sacks, a pretty strong number considering the Buffaloes threw the ball 436 times and didn't always have enough of a running game to keep defenses honest. It starts a true freshman at tackle in Ryan Miller, who was a home-state five-star prospect a year ago. Opposite Miller, tackle Tyler Polombus was a second-team All-Big 12 pick. Guard Kai Maiava is another freshman.



Edge:



It will be interesting to see how carries are distributed here, given the rest that has been afforded to Terry Grant. Most likely, the mix of Grant and Glen Coffee that Alabama fans saw early in the season will be the order for the bowl game as well. If Grant's speed and explosiveness - utterly absent in his last action against ULM - has returned, it could be a big day for the UA ground game. For now, however, it remains a question mark.

RB

Hugh Charles is 11 yards short of a 1,000-yard season, and while Colorado averaged only 127 yards per game on the ground, Charles' effectiveness with a 5.3-yard average can't be questioned. With his season slowed by injury early, he had only nine yards entering CU's fourth game. Then, Charles went on a tear of four 100-yard games in a row, including a season-high 171 against Kansas State.



Edge:



With DJ Hall, the Crimson Tide has had the best receiver on the field in just about every game it has played. Sunday will be no different. Whether Alabama can get him enough touches to do serious damage is another matter. Now 53 yards short of 1,000 for the season, Hall's production sputtered down the stretch as defenses blanketed him with heavy safety help. Matt Caddell has been solid as a third-down option this year. Mike McCoy could use a big game after somewhat of a late-season disappearance.

WR

Colorado spreads the ball to all sorts of receivers, with eight different Buffaloes finishing the year with at least 100 yards and nine finishing with at least 10 catches. Scotty McKnight paced the pack with 43 receptions for 488 yards. The Buffs rely much more heavily on their tight ends in the passing game than Alabama does, as four CU tight ends combined for 53 catches on the year.



Edge:
EVEN


With Wallace Gilberry playing his final game in the UA uniform, his motor will be running at full throttle. One more sack would put him in double digits for the season. The noseguard combination of Lorenzo Washington and Brian Motley has been decent considering neither is built like a true noseguard. A big game from Brandon Deaderick, who may be Alabama's top pass rusher in 2008, would be a good sign for the Kentucky native.

DL

Defensive tackle George Hypolite is CU's playmaker up front, leading the defensive line in tackles with 44, sacks with six and TFLs with 11. He was named first-team All-Big 12 by both the Associated Press and conference coaches. Production from ends Alonzo Barrett and Maurice Lucas hasn't been as strong - they combined for only three sacks on the year, and average 3.0 and 2.5 tackles per game, respectively.



Edge:



Alabama LB text.

Opponent LB text



Edge:



The Alabama secondary was one of the only units to play pretty well over the last three games of the season, holding quarterbacks from Mississippi State and Auburn to pedestrian numbers. Rashad Johnson will seek his seventh interception against Colorado, and leads the team in tackles with 81. Watch for a big game from Simeon Castille, especially if he plays the "star", or nickelback, position. With a freshman opposing quarterback in a pass-first offense, Castille will be keyed up for a strong finish to his career.

DB

Colorado CB Terrence Wheatley was named first-team All-Big 12 by every conceivable source, and was a third-team All-American by Rivals.com. He picked off a team-high five passes and broke up 10 others. Daniel Dykes ranked second on the team in tackles with 83 and is CU's run support leader from the secondary. As a group, however, Colorado was soft here, allowing opponents 261 yards per game through the air.



Edge:



With Javier Arenas back at full health for the return game, Alabama's special teams take on a much more dangerous look. Arenas will look to break a return for a touchdown in his second consecutive Independence Bowl. Kicker Leigh Tiffin is 2 for 2 from distances of 50-plus. Punting has been a problem for UA for most of the year.

Special Teams

Kevin Eberhart converted field goals at a 65 percent clip for the Buffaloes this season, and like Tiffin, he has shown a 50-yard leg. Punter Matt DiLallo averaged 40.1 yards, not especially impressive given the thin air of his home games. Wheatley and Charles have been a strong kickoff return tandem, while Chase McBride had a strong 9.6-yard average on punt returns.



Edge:




Prediction: Alabama 16, Colorado 14






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