Monday's Early Action
December 30, 2013
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Armed Forces Bowl
Matchup: Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-4) vs. Navy Midshipmen (8-4)
Venue: Amon G. Carter Stadium
Location: Fort Worth, TX
Time/TV: 11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN
Sportsbook.ag Opening Line: Navy 6 ½, Total: 54 ½
Middle Tennessee and Navy meet in Monday's Armed Forces Bowl as each program attempts to win its first bowl game since 2009.
The Blue Raiders put together their best season since 2007 thanks to a strong rushing attack, and finished third in the Eastern Division of the C-USA conference. They had a five-game winning streak to finish off the season and won their final three games by an average of 33.3 PPG. Middle Tennessee has played in three bowl games since 2006, going 1-2 SU and ATS while losing its most recent bowl, a 35-21 defeat in the GoDaddy.com Bowl against Miami (OH) in 2011.
The Midshipmen once again were among the top teams in the nation at running the ball with their option offense and also finished the season off in strong fashion, winning their last four contests. Navy had a big win on Nov. 22 when it defeated San Jose State on the road in triple overtime by a score of 58-52, and ran for 432 yards with Navy QB Keenan Reynolds running for an NCAA record seven touchdowns. Navy has had little success in bowl games recently though, with a 1-3 SU and ATS record since 2008 while suffering an embarrassing 62-28 loss against Arizona State in the Fight Hunger bowl last season.
This game will mark the first time that these two programs have met in their history. The Blue Raiders are 14-4 ATS (78%) after allowing 125 or less passing yards in their last game since 1992, while the Midshipmen are 71-36 (66%) against non-conference opponents since 1992. There are no significant injuries on either side for this game.
Middle Tennessee rushed the ball for more yards on the season than they did passing it. The team ranked 25th in the nation with 208.3 YPG on the ground thanks to multiple contributions from their running game. Their leading rusher on the season was HB Jordan Parker who ran for 741 yards (5.1 YPC) and scored six rushing touchdowns. He missed two games towards the end of the season and ran the ball only nine times in the team’s final two games, but managed 88 yards (9.8 YPC) and a touchdown in that time. Joining Parker in the backfield is HB Reggie Whatley (631 rushing yards, 6.8 YPC, 3 TD) who had only 10+ attempts in five games on the season, but ran for more than 100 yards in three games.
QB Logan Kilgore threw for 2,289 yards (7.1 YPA) and 16 touchdowns, but struggled with turnovers (11 interceptions). He is coming off a season-high 325-yard passing game where he threw two touchdowns and an interception in a winning effort against UTEP. The trio of WRs Tavarres Jefferson (532 yards), Marcus Henry (528 yards) and Kyle Griswould (359 yards) combined to catch more than half of the passes on the year (52%) and 12 of the 17 receiving touchdowns.
LB Stephen Roberts (60 tackles, 2 INT) and the Blue Raiders held their opponents to 26.4 PPG and only 14.8 PPG over their last four regular-season contests.
Navy once again used its option offense to beat teams by running the ball, finishing the season with 322.0 YPG on the ground (2nd in the nation) while being near the bottom in passing yards (91.5 YPG, 122nd in the nation). QB Keenan Reynolds was the team’s leading rusher with 1,260 yards (4.5 YPC) and ranks second in the nation with 29 rushing touchdowns. He put up huge games over the team's past four contests, averaging 165.3 YPG on the ground and totaling 15 touchdowns, including a record-breaking, seven-touchdown rushing performance against San Jose State on Nov. 22. While Reynolds did not throw often, he made the most of his attempts, throwing for 1,038 yards (8.6 YPA) and eight touchdowns while keeping turnovers to a minimum with only two interceptions.
After Reynolds, the Midshipmen had seven different players who rushed for between 250 and 400 yards while totaling 14 rushing touchdowns between them. Navy had only two wide receivers that totaled more than 10 receptions on the year. WR DeBrandon Sanders had 12 receptions for 217 yards (18.1 avg.) and one touchdown, while WR Casey Bolena totaled 13 receptions for 164 yards (12.6 avg.) with none going for a score.
LB Cody Peterson (135 tackles) led the defense, which allowed opponents to score 25.9 PPG on the season, including holding their rivals, Army, to seven points in the final game of the season.
Music City Bowl
Matchup: Mississippi Rebels (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-5)
Venue: LP Field
Location: Nashville, TN
Time/TV: 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Sportsbook.ag Opening Line: Ole Miss -3, Total: 56 ½
A winner of five consecutive bowl games, Ole Miss is slightly favored against Georgia Tech’s option offense in Monday's Music City Bowl in Nashville.
The Rebels had a strong stretch in the middle of their season that included a win against then-No. 6 LSU, but they closed the season with back-to-back losses to Missouri and Mississippi State. The Yellow Jackets lost two of their last three contests, though the losses were to strong foes in Clemson and Georgia. Ole Miss finished 6-6 ATS while the Yellow Jackets were 5-7 ATS.
They both finished the season cold, with Georgia Tech failing to cover in four of their last five, and Ole Miss not covering in three of their final four. While the Rebels boasted a difficult schedule all year and one of the nation’s most prolific passing attacks, they’ll have to handle the Georgia Tech rushing attack that racked up 312 YPG, fifth most in the nation. These two programs have not met since the Rebels routed the Yellow Jackets 41-18 in the 1971 Peach Bowl. Georgia Tech won the other two previous meetings.
Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace (3,090, 17 TD, nine INT) had a solid year under center, completing 64.4% of his passes. He struggled in the team’s final two losses, however, failing to throw for a touchdowns, but tossing four interceptions. But he did perform well in some marquee matchups, completing 30-of-39 passes against LSU. Three receivers have more than 500 yards for the Rebels, with Donte Moncrief (53 catches, 825 yards, 5 TD) leading the way, and Ja-Mes Logan (44 catches, 583 yards, 3 TD) and Laquon Treadwell (67 catches, 557 yards, 5 TD) also posing threats.
Three running backs divide the carries in this pass-first offense. I’Tavius Mathers (505 yards, 6.2 YPC, 3 TD) has the most yards, while Jeff Scott (7.4 YPC, 493 yards, 2 TD) gets the most YPC and Jaylen Walton (97 carries, 470 yards, 6 TD) has the most scores.
Running the triple-option, the Yellow Jackets offense mainly keeps the ball on the ground, and has four different players with at least 450 rushing yards. One of those players is QB Vad Lee, who struggled as a passer with 10 TD, 9 INT and a poor 47.2% completion rate. On the ground, he averaged only 2.9 YPC, but racked up 489 yards and eight touchdowns.
The team’s leading rusher was David Sims (5.6 YPC, 846 yards, 11 TD) while Robert Godhigh (10.1 YPC, 694 yards, 6 TD) racked up the biggest plays. Zach Laskey (458 yards, 5.8 YPC, 7 TD) rounds out the leading rushers. Godhigh was also the team’s top receiving threat with 21 catches for 420 yards and two touchdowns. DeAndre Smelter (345 yards, 4 TD) also made some big plays through the air.
The Yellow Jackets defense gives up only 3.4 YPC, but allows a hefty 7.5 yards per passing attempt.
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