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SEC, Big 12, & ACC Bowl Primer: Pre-January 1 Edition


12/27 – Kentuckvs. Clemson - Music City Bowl  (8:30pm EST – ESPN)

12/28 – Georgia vs. Texas A&M - Independence Bowl  (5pm EST – ESPN2)

12/31 – Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech – Chick-fil-A Bowl  (7:30pm EST – ESPN)

The SEC will only have three of its ten bowl contests before the New Year, but each team in that trio provides an interesting storyline with their coaching situation. Kentucky will kick it off in the Music City, their third postseason appearance in Nashville in the last four years. There has been speculation around the Bluegrass Statethat this could be Rich Brooks' last game at UK. Expect an emotional Wildcat club either way, as they face the challenge of trying to stop Clemson super-weapon C.J. Spiller.

Georgia ended a frustrating season on a high note with their victory over ACC Champ and in-state rival Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs will try and carry that momentum into their matchup with Texas A&M. The Aggies spread passing attack will be a huge challenge fora UGA defense that saw three assistants on their side of the ball fired after the season. Mark Richt has still not hired a new coordinator on defense, and that could become a big issue in trying to slow down A&M.

The last college game in 2009 will be a very emotional contest in Atlanta, as Tennessee and Virginia Tech play for the first time since 1994. Despite the gap in meetings, the fan bases see this contest as a unique regional rivalry. Lane Kiffin has lost two offensive assistants to promotions since the season ended, and he will need to have the Vols well-prepared to face a Bud Foster-led defense that is known for frustrating quarterbacks. Two great tailbacks in UT's Montario Hardesty and VT's Ryan Williams will be featured in this game, and the team that wins that running battle should be the victor on New Year's Eve.

BIG 12

12/28 – Texas A&M vs. Georgia - Independence Bowl  (5pm EST – ESPN2)

12/30 – Nebraska vs. Arizona – Holiday Bowl  (8pm EST – ESPN)

12/31 – Oklahoma vs. Stanford – Sun Bowl  (2pm EST – CBS)

12/31 – Missouri vs. Navy – Texas Bowl  (3:30pm EST – ESPN)

12/31 – Iowa State vs. Minnesota – Insight Bowl  (6pm EST – NFL Network) 

Big 12 teams will play five of their eight bowl contests before New Year's Day. Texas A&M will look to become the second team in the league to beat Georgia this season, and a win over any SEC squad is always valuable.  Nebraska will have to fight off their conference title game disappointment when they head out west to take on Mike Stoops' Arizona club. All eyes will be on Husker defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who many prject as the #1 pick in April's NFL Draft.

Oklahoma had a rough year, especially will all the injuries to key players, but their defense still played well. The Sooners D will face the challenge of stopping Stanford's Toby Gerhart, the nation's second-leading rusher. Missouri will also need to stop the run when they face Navy at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The Midshipmen were third in the country in rushing, but the Tigers will counter with a solid passing attack. Keep an eye on Mizzou wideout Danario Alexander, who led the country in receiving yards with 1,644.

And how about the job Paul Rhoads did in his first season at Iowa State? The Cyclones will play in their first bowl game since 2005 when they take on the Golden Gophers. A win over the Big Ten from a 6-6 ISU squad would look very good when fans and media compare leagues duing the postseason.


12/26 – North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh - Meineke Car Care Bowl  (4:30pm EST – ESPN)

12/26 – Boston College vs. USC - Emerald Bowl  (8pm EST – ESPN)

12/27 – Clemson vs. Kentucky - Music City Bowl  (8:30pm EST – ESPN)

12/29 – Miami vs. Wisconsin – Champs Sports Bowl  (8pm EST – ESPN)

12/31 – Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee – Chick-fil-A Bowl  (7:30pm EST – ESPN)

Five of the seven ACC bowl teams will play before the New Year, and the league will be looking to get back some respect that was lost at the end of the season. North Carolina will kick off the league's postseason in front of a home-state crowd in Charlotte. Butch Davis' bunch has been about defense all year, and they will be challenged mightily by Pitt freshman sensation Dion Lewis. The first year running back was third in the country with 1,640 yards on the ground this season.

BC will head out west to meet a USC team that is reeling from a subpar season and the news that three players will be ineligible for the game. With star corner Josh Pinkard injured and tailback Joe McKnight's eligibilty also in question, the Eagles may be able to pull off the upset in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Clemson will head to Nashville with the goal of getting back on track against Kentucky. The ACC went 0-3 against the SEC in the final week of the season, including the Tigers 34-17 loss against in-state rival South Carolina. Watching each team's "all over the field" weapon (Clemson's C.J. Spiller and UK's Randall Cobb) should be a treat in the Music City.

Miami will make the short commute to Orlando to take on Wisconsin. The key to this game will be protecting sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris, who has been bothered with a thumb injury. The 'Canes lost All-ACC left tackle Jason Fox to injury, so keeping the sack-happy Badgers off Harris will be a necessity. On New Year's Eve, Virginia Tech will favored to beat an upstart Tennessee club that returns to a bowl after a year's absence. Both teams will try to pound the ball on the ground and play solid defense, but the Hokies' special teams advantage could be big in this one. Look for a very motivated Virginia Tech bunch who does not want to end the season like it started: with a loss to an SEC team in the Georgia Dome.

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