The 2012 Beef ‘O’ Brady's Bowl features two equally matched squads. Ball State (9-3) takes on Central Florida (9-4) at Tropicana Field in Saint Petersburg, Florida on Friday night.
DraftNasty insider Justin VanFulpen gives us a look at the pro prospects on display in tomorrow's New Mexico Bowl.
For the 3rd time now in the last 5 meetings, Navy again took it to Notre Dame and earned the victory. These losses were some of the most embarrassing for Notre Dame during the previous Charlie Weiss era, and are not the way Brian Kelly wanted to start his own tenure v. Navy. On the opposite sideline, Todd Graham and his Golden Hurricanes are looking at this trip to South Bend as the start of a brand new season. Tulsa came into this season with C-USA title aspirations, and at this point that's not out of the question. Tulsa sits just a game behind the western division leader Houston Cougars, and with a win this Saturday in South Bend, they could gain the confidence needed to make a run all the way to the C-USA title game.
In a battle for C-USA West supremacy the Houston Cougars (2-1 in conference) will travel to Dallas, TX to take on the SMU Mustangs (3-0 in conference). Both teams are reeling as they come off games that both thought they should have won. Houston lost last week in the Bayou Bucket Classic against cross town rival Rice, while SMU let Navy come from behind and beat them in Annapolis. While neither team has quite had the overall season they both expected, they are both in a position to win their conference division and have a shot to win their conference title. Houston obviously is still somewhat reeling from the loss of QB Case Keenum, while SMU is still waiting on their young QB Kyle Padron to find the consistency he needs to catapult them to the next level. An SMU victory here would give them a comfortable 2 game lead on all other C-USA West teams, while a Houston victory would give them first place just ahead of SMU.
The Battle of the Iron Skillet is a fierce rivalry game that not many people outside of the state of Texas really know about. SMU and TCU have met 89 times since their first game in 1915, with TCU leading the overall series 41-39-7. From 1972 through 1986, SMU had a 15-game winning streak until the death penalty struck the Mustangs. From there the tide suddenly turned in TCU’s favor and since renewing the rivalry in 1989 (once SMU football came back) TCU has gone 15-5 over the last 20 games that have been played (teams did not play in 2006). This year, TCU enters the game as the #4 ranked team nationally, undefeated, and on the war path marching towards an undefeated season and a hopeful shot at the National Championship. On the opposite sideline, SMU appears to have finally righted the ship and enters the game 2-1.
Outside of Frank Beamer, I'm not sure there is a coach in the country right now that needs a win more than UCLA’s Rich Neuheisel. Neuheisel, a former Bruins QB, came in as the glorified savior of the program. He was going to right the ship and return them to glory, but so far his career record is 11-16 at UCLA. The pressure is on for Neuheisel to win now, and he looks at the visiting Houston Cougars as the team to turn his season around. On the opposite sideline is the high flying Kevin Sumlin. He’s been one of the hottest names in coaching since coming over from Oklahoma in 2008. He was a finalist for last year’s Bear Bryant award and since coming to Houston he has accumulated a 20-9, record and a bowl berth in each of his previous two seasons. Sumlin brings his electrifying Cougars into LA after running roughshod over UTEP last week and they are fresh off their first top 25 ranking of the season. The Cougars are riding high but will a trip to LA end a potentially special season before it even gets rolling?
Houston will be looking for revenge on Friday night as they welcome UTEP to town on the heels of last season's shootout loss. RB Donald Buckram, who ran for 262 yards and 4 TD’s in last year’s game, may or may not be available after being held out of last week’s game with a knee bruise and is day to day heading into Friday night’s affair. Houston is coming off an absolute dominate performance of Texas State last Saturday. Heisman hopeful QB Case Keenum had 5 TD’s in the first half before calling it a day. UTEP on the other hand struggled to find its rhythm against Arkansas Pine-Bluff early on, being down 7-0 midway through the first quarter. Starting QB Trevor Vittatoe looked out of rhythm and the whole offense really lacked a consistent identity without its star RB. After Saturday’s shaky start, I expect Buckram to not only play but to start on Friday night.
Nothing has come easy for Tommy Tuberville in his first season in Lubbock. Even after the very highly covered ousting of former coach Mike Leach, he has had to deal with a QB battle, a slight shift of offensive focus back to running the ball and a completely new defensive scheme. When his team travels to Dallas on Sunday, I can guarantee you that Coach June Jones will be looking to continue making things hard for Tuberville as his Mustangs take on the Red Raiders. Jones is trying to oversee SMU’s rise from the ashes as they look this year to solidify themselves as a Conference USA power player. Kyle Padron will lead the Mustangs after playing as a true freshman last season, while on the other side Taylor Potts emerged from a hard fought QB battle to lead his team for his senior season. One thing is certain, expect both teams to come out slinging as they both averaged over 35 pass attempts a game (Texas Tech-51.4 and SMU-36.3) last season offensively.
Southern Miss is known for two things. The first of which is their current streak of 16 straight winning seasons and the second? The fact that every summer former Golden Eagle Brett Favre will come to Southern Miss’s campus to throw the ball around before deciding whether to retire or come back yet again. Coach Larry Fedora took over for former head coach Jeff Bower in 2008 and in that time has gone 14-12, which just won’t cut it for a team that was expected to take off when he was hired. Bower was forced to resign due to complacency, despite having built this program up during his 17 year tenure as head coach and being named C-USA’s All-Decade Coach in 2007. Fedora has not minced words this preseason about the importance of the 2010 season, and in Mid-July when he spoke about his week one game with South Carolina he said, "So every college football fan in the entire country will be watching us -- watching the Golden Eagles beating South Carolina." Fedora has since backed off those comments, but this is the type of attitude that the Golden Eagles need and the type of thinking that could carry them back to Conference USA championship status.
Trevor Vittatoe JR 6’2” 220 UTEP
-One of my favorite prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft. Mike Price’s best prospect at QB since Drew Bledsoe. In blowout loss to Texas last season completed 25 of 47 passes for 262 yards. In two years, the Redshirt Junior has a 58 TD/16 INT ratio and should only improve this season with the return of his top two wideouts. He played the entire 2008 season with a painful ankle injury and impressed the coaching staff with his toughness. His entire offensive line is comprised of juniors and seniors. Vittatoe has a howitzer for an arm and although his release is quirky, it is lightning quick. Better pro prospect than former Miner QB Jordan Palmer.