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2008 Valero Alamo Bowl Preview

#16 Northwestern (9-3, 5-3; Big Ten) vs. #25 Missouri (9-4, 5-3; Big XII)

December 29th, 2008 @ 8:00 PM (EST) – ESPN – San Antonio, Texas

The Valero Alamo Bowl game will be a very interesting matchup between two teams with very different expectations in the first of three Big Ten-Big XII matchups during the bowl season. Northwestern comes in with a stellar defense and a good passing attack while Missouri features one of the country’s best offenses, led by one of last year’s Heisman finalists, quarterback Chase Daniel.

Northwestern has exceeded pretty much everyone’s expectations this year and their 9-3 record is a good indicator of their progress. The Wildcats offense is a solid group which has the ability to move the ball both on the ground and through the air. Two quarterbacks will see playing time, though senior C.J. Bacher should see the lion’s share of the snaps. Junior Mike Kafka is a very dangerous runner when he lines up under center, which could give Missouri trouble. The Wildcats will only be better with the expected return of senior tailback Tyrelle Sutton, who missed a lot of time with a broken wrist. However, Northwestern’s true strength lies on the defensive side of the football, especially on the defensive line. Junior Corey Wootton and senior John Gill will both be playing on Sundays in the near future and the Wildcats have opponents to less than two touchdowns five times this season and are the 23 rd best scoring defense in college football.

Missouri, on the other hand, enters the game with a two game losing streak and will have to pick themselves back up after entering the year with BCS bowl plans. Senior Chase Daniel had another great year, throwing for 4,000 yards and 37 Touchdowns. Tailback Derrick Washington is sure to break 1,000 yards on the season and wide reciever Jeremy Maclin is a 1 st round NFL draft pick whenever he leaves Mizzou. However, Missouri’s defense is not very good. The Tigers are the 116th rated pass defense in Division 1-A college football and have allowed 27.5 points per game this season. Against the five teams they played that have been ranked, that number jumps up to a whopping 45.6 points! That is definitely not a good sign for Gary Pinkel’s team.

Missouri and Northwestern’s only common opponent was the Illinois Fighting Illini, who both teams defeated. Missouri beat them 52-42 on the season’s opening day while Northwestern ruining Illinois’ bowl hopes with a stifling 27-10 victory on the season’s final day. The difference in the scores shows the contrast between the two teams’ respective playing styles.

This game is going to feature a lot of points scored. While Northwestern isn’t the offensive juggernaut that Missouri is, they’re going up against a much weaker defense. However, I really like the matchup of Northwestern’s solid defensive line against Missouri’s offensive line and I think it is safe to say that Gill and Wootton will be spending a lot of time in the backfield. While Northwestern won’t have an answer for Jeremy Maclin outside of double-teaming him, I think that the Wildcats will be able to slow down the Missouri offense enough to keep this game close into the 4 th quarter. In the end, I just can’t trust a Missouri team that plays such poor defense going up against Northwestern’s stout unit. I also think that Northwestern will have a huge emotional edge compared the disappointed Tigers (this is their first bowl game since 2005, while Mizzou won the Cotton Bowl last year and expected much bigger things this year) and bowl games can often times be decided by which team is most excited to play the game. I’m picking the Wildcats in a surprise upset because of their defensive prowess and Missouri’s inability to force the Wildcats to turn the ball over. This game will culminate in another untimely Chase Daniel interception late in the game to give Northwestern their first bowl win in sixty years.

Alamo Bowl Pick: Northwestern 34 - Missouri 30


by Matt Baxendell Staff Writer

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