International Bowl Preview
International Bowl (Toronto)
Noon EST, ESPN2
Rutgers vs. Ball State
A contrast of offensive styles in this one, as the Scarlet Knights will hope to give the Cardinals a heavy dose of junior RB Ray Rice. Rice finished the regular season with 1732 yards on the ground and is a challenge for any defense to stop, much less one that's ranked 99th against the run. While Mike Teel has improved throwing the football this season, and he does have a couple of talented targets in Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt, Rutgers will lean heavily on Rice as they have all year long.
When Brady Hoke's offense has the ball, look for QB Nate Davis to throw the ball often, most frequently hooking up with WR Dante Love and TE Darius Hill. Davis threw for 3376 yards and twenty-seven touchdowns to only six picks. However, Rutgers is the second best team in the nation against the pass, allowing only 160.5 yards per game. A good pass defense begins with a solid pass rush, so look for linemen Eric Foster and Jamaal Westerman (who happens to be a native of Brampton, ON) among others to put pressure on the sophomore signal-caller.
The two teams come into this game with slightly different goals. Rutgers, thought by many to be a contender for the Big East title when the season began, haven't met those expectations and blew an 18-point lead in their regular season finale at Louisville. On the other side is a Ball State program playing in their first bowl game since 1996. The Cardinals have never won a bowl, arriving in Toronto with an all-time record of 0-4-1. While Ball State's offense definitely has the capability to make this one interesting, I'm not sure if they have the ability to stop Ray Rice. I like Rutgers to win this one.
And congratulations to Kansas on winning the FedEx Orange Bowl Thursday night. Interesting how the Jayhawks beat Virginia Tech at their own game so to speak, making a few key plays on special teams that sealed the deal. You may not respect their schedule, but they played "someone" and won, finishing 12-1 on the year. Give them their due.