Sunday, December 30, 2007

Game Preview - 2007 Humanitarian Bowl


Fresno State (8-4) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5)

Fresno State’s Tom Brandstater has completed 61.2% of his passes this season, along with 2,369 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Being efficient and effective in a "run-first" system, Brandstater has shown he can manage his offense quite well, leading to a team average of 32.2 points per game. His statistics will hardly ever wow your eyes while reading the box score, however he is capable of having a big game against a BCS opponent. Against Texas A&M, Brandstater completed 21 of 31 pass attempts, had 261 yards passing, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. However, the Bulldogs lost in 3OT 47-45. Furthermore, against Kansas State, Brandstater completed 23 of 29 passes, had 313 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. The Bulldogs went on to win 45-29. If Brandstater gets some time in the pocket, he will have a big day.

Georgia Tech's senior quarterback Taylor Bennett (6-3, 215) has rarely been asked to do much of anything this year. His best game this year came against Maryland in a 28-26 loss, where he was 22 of 34 passing, 309 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions. Another quarterback comes in to take some reps for Tech. Freshman Josh Nesbitt (6-1, 204) has 47 carries for 302 yards rushing and no touchdowns. Nesbitt mostly comes in to run the ball, but has completed 4 of 11 passes, 82 yards passing with 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. However, Bennett is the main man at quarterback. Bennett has only completed 49% of his passes this year, with 6 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. With former wide receiver Calvin Johnson in the lineup during Bennett's first start of his career in Tech's bowl game last year, it looked as though Bennett, then a junior, would fit in nicely for senior Reggie Ball. Bennett was 19 of 29 passing, 326 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception against West Virginia in a 38-35 loss in the Gator Bowl. But, that was last year.
Edge: Bulldogs

Running Backs
Sophomore Anthony Harding went over 100 yards rushing for the second time in as many games in the Bulldogs' season finale against New Mexico State, rushing for 121 yards on 28 carries and 1 touchdown. Against Georgia Tech, if senior Clifton Smith (473 yards, 5.8 yards per carry, 3 touchdowns) rushes for at least 27 yards, and Harding (403 yards, 3.9 yards per carry, 4 touchdowns) rushes for 97 yards, the Bulldogs will have 4 running backs over 500 yards rushing this season. The 'Dogs leading rusher, freshman Ryan Mathews (866 yards, 6.0 yards per carry, 14 touchdowns), is injured with a torn chest muscle he sustained against New Mexico State. Sophomore Lonyae Miler (571 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 7 touchdowns) will likely get the bulk of the carries, with Harding getting some carries as well. Look for Clifton Smith to get a few direct snap plays with him lining up at quarterback, as well as some standard carries. Senior fullback Nate Adams, won't get a carry, but is very good at opening the running lanes. The running back by committee scheme, along with injuries, has worked well for Fresno State. The 'Dogs have compiled 2,456 rushing yards and a 4.7 yards per carry average as a team.

Look for Georgia Tech to rely heavily on the production of All-ACC senior running back Tashard Choice. Georgia Tech has been looking to Choice (6-1, 205) to carry their team all season long. And he hasn't disappointed. A future first day NFL draft pick, Choice has 1,310 yards rushing, 5.3 yards per carry, and 10 touchdowns. Freshman Jonathan Dwyer (6-0, 197) has found the end zone quite often, considering his backup role. Dwyer has 7 touchdowns on only 70 carries. However, most of his success came early in the year. During his first 4 games, Dwyer had 256 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. And during his last 6 games, he had 118 yards rushing, and only 1 touchdown. Two other running backs, senior Rashaun Grant (231 yards rushing, 1 touchdown) and sophomore Jamaal Evans (120 yards, 2 touchdowns) have also seen action this year. But both most likely wont get much action in the bowl game. Grant is questionable with an ankle injury. The Yellow Jackets have amassed 2,430 rushing yards and an average of 4.8 yards per carry this season.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Wide receiver Marlon Moore and tight end Bear Pascoe will be targeted the most by Brandstater. Moore, a sophomore, leads the team with 41 receptions, 614 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Moore has risen to the occasion this season, especially of late, having 240 yards receiving the past 2 games. Pascoe is second on the team with 39 receptions, 481 yards, and 4 touchdowns. However, Pascoe hasn't scored a touchdown since the 3OT loss to Texas A&M when he had 3. Sophomore receiver Seyi Ajirotutu averages 16.7 yards per reception, and has 27 catches, 452 yards, but hasn't caught a touchdown. Senior running back Clifton Smith has been known to catch passes out of the backfield, and that trend should continue. And again, if Brandstater gets time to throw, these receivers will have a big day.

With the Yellow Jackets relying so heavily on the running game, the receiving corps hasn't been given that much attention. Sophomore Greg Smith (6-3, 220) is the team leader in receiving and yards (34 receptions, 543 yards 2 touchdowns), and freshman Demariyus Thomas (6-3, 220) leads the team with 3 touchdowns, and is second in receptions and yards (31 receptions, 489 yards). Junior James Johnson (6-0, 190) averages an amazing 18.4 yards per reception, with 21 receptions, 386 yards, but no touchdowns. Johnson had 7 touchdowns his sophomore season. It seems like Tech's receivers are capable of making plays, but without an efficient passing quarterback, and having a top-notch running back, their production is limited.
Edge: Bulldogs

Offensive Line
The Bulldogs have allowed 18 sacks on the year. But most likely haven't faced a defense the Georgia Tech's yet. The only senior starter for the o-line is guard Ryan Wendell (6-2, 275). Wendell and the rest of the o-line need to be at their best to win the battle in the trenches. The 'Dogs had better be ready for constant blitzing and pressure from the Ramblin' Wreck. For the season, Fresno State's offensive line has allowed their running backs an average of 4.7 yards per carry. However, Tech's defense allows only 2.8 yards per carry.

Georgia Tech has given up 19 sacks on the year, and is a better run blocking unit than a pass blocking unit. They should be able to open holes for Tashard Choice, as the Bulldogs have allowed teams to rush for an average of 5.0 yards per carry. That should bode well for Choice's running attack, as the offensive line opened holes for the running backs at 4.8 yards per carry.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Defensive Line
Fresno State's defensive pressure is lead by senior Tyler Clutts (5.5 sacks), and junior Jon Monga (5.5 sacks). Freshmen Chris Carter (2 tackles for loss) and Kenny Borg (2.5 sacks) have both showed flashes of how they can get into the backfield quickly, playing mostly in the second half of the season. Senior Charles Tolbert has been solid with 5.5 TFL. However, sophomore Wilson Ramos might be the biggest surprise this season on the defensive line. Ramos has 7 TFL in limited playing time. Freshmen Cornell Banks and Mike Cheese, and junior Ikenna Ike (coming back from an injury) will also contribute to applying pressure and stopping the run.

Georgia Tech's defensive line is a very good unit led by senior Darrell Robertson (6.5 sacks, 16 TFL) and junior Vance Walker (8.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 3 FF). Junior Darryl Richard (4.5 sacks, 10.5 TFL), senior Adamm Oliver (4.5 sacks, 8 TFL), and junior Michael Johnson (4 sacks, 6 TFL, 3 FF) will contribute as well for the Ramblin' Wreck's tenacious defensive line. The Jackets lead the nation with a total of 47 sacks for the season, and opponents total 491 yards lost rushing. Ouch.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Senior Marcus Riley leads the WAC with 13 TFL, and also has an amazing 123 tackles. Freshman Ben Jacobs is second on the team with 72 tackles, and also has 6 TFL. They are the key to limiting Tashard Choice's rushing yards. Junior Ryan McKinley (6-2, 220), Sophomore Quaadir Brown (6-0, 210), and freshman walk-on surprise Nick Bates (6-2, 210) will round out most of the playing time for Fresno State's 4-3 defense linebacker unit. Look for Riley to lead the team in tackles once again and make big plays, as he has done the entire season, earning him WAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Expect Georgia Tech's game plan to include plenty of blitz packages. Senior Philip Wheeler (6-2, 238) is third on the team with 6 sacks (9 TFL), and senior Gary Guyton (6-3, 242) is fourth with 5 sacks(13.5 TFL). Sophomore Shane Bowen (6-1, 218) and freshman Anthony Barnes (6-3, 231) adds to the massive overall size of Tech's linebackers, who attack the quarterback more so than any other team Fresno has faced.
Edge: Georgia Tech

Defensive Backs
Senior Damon Jenkins (45 tackles, 7 pass deflections) and sophomore Damion Owens (39 tackles, 5 pass deflections, 1 interception) are the guys that the Bulldogs will lean on at the cornerback position. Sophomore cornerback A.J. Jefferson is still out with an ankle injury, but was also suspended from the team for missing curfew. Sophomore safeties Marvin Haynes and Moses Harris are tied for the lead in tackles (57) in the secondary. Harris also has 1 interception and 5 pass deflections. Freshman Lorne Bell who comes in for the nickel package and splits time with Harris has 51 tackles. Senior cornerback Will Harding and junior cornerback Sharrod Davis have played very well as of late and should see a good amount of action. The defensive back unit only has 3 interceptions, but is still a pretty solid unit ranking 58th in the nation in passing defense.

Senior safety Jamal Lewis leads the Jackets' secondary in tackles with 66, and 9.5 TFL. Freshman safety Morgan Burnett (6-1, 198) leads the team with 3 interceptions, and has 50 tackles. Senior defensive back Avery Roberson (6-2, 197) has 57 tackles and 6 pass breakups. Junior cornerback Jahi Word-Daniels (6-0, 194) has 50 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 8 pass breakups. Look for senior safety Djay Jones to get into the mix as well. Tech has only 2 more interceptions that the 'Dogs with 5. However, they rank 33 nationally in pass defense. Given that Fresno State has played a few more pass happy schools this season (New Mexico State - 623 pass attempts, Hawai'i - 606, Kansas State - 510, Boise State - 460, San Jose State - 450) than Georgia Tech (Boston College - 659, Clemson - 422, Virginia - 400, Notre Dame - 389, Duke - 383) ... I think these two secondaries are very even.
Edge: Even

Special Teams
Fresno State’s kick return game is the second best in the nation with an average of 27 yards a return, and ranks 10th on punt returns. Sophomore kick returner A.J. Jefferson is injured and suspended, so senior Clifton Smith will return kicks as well as his normal duty of returning punts. Senior kicker Clint Stitser has a strong leg, and seems to have put his early season slump behind him, and is 14 of 22 on field goals for the season. Senior punter Kyle Zimmerman has been a nice surprise for the Bulldogs this season dropping 21 of his 48 punts inside the 20 yard line, and averaging a modest 40.1 yards per punt.

Georgia Tech averages 23.8 yards per kick return, and 9.9 yards per punt return. Look for sophomore running back Jamaal Evans and freshman running back Jonathan Dwyer to handle the kick returns. Sophomore running back Tyler Evans (5-8, 186) will handle the punt returns. Senior kicker Travis bell has been solid connecting on 23-28 field goals, and senior Durant Brooks in one of the best punters in the country averaging 45.5 yards per punt, and pinning opponents inside the 20 yard line on 30 of 61 punts.
Edge: Even

Fresno State’s Pat Hill has his Bulldogs headed to a bowl game for the eighth time in the past nine seasons. Georgia Tech’s Chan Gailey has been fired, and defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will serve as coach just for the bowl game. Paul Johnson, the now former coach of Navy, has been hired to replace Gailey after the season.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fresno State is 2-0 all-time against the ACC, and 1-0 against Georgia Tech winning 30-21 in the 2002 Silicon Valley Bowl. Fresno's last visit to Boise's blue turf for a bowl game ended with the Bulldogs upsetting #18 Virginia 37-34 in OT, in 2004. Georgia Tech is in a bowl for the 11th consecutive season. In 2003, the Yellow Jackets played in the Humanitarian Bowl and destroyed Tulsa 52-10. With Fresno State having a comeback season at 8-4 from a 2006 record of 4-8, the Bulldogs are more excited to be in this bowl than Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets had a disappointing season after being ranked #15 after the first 2 weeks of the season, and finished 7-5. The Yellow Jackets seem to have a better defense and a slightly better run game, but this team is old an disappointed. Fresno State is young and excited.
Edge: Bulldogs

Fearless prediction: Fresno State 27, Georgia Tech 24, in one of the closest match ups of the 2007 Bowl Season.

1 comment:

  1. Guess we KNOW who really does have the best running game and most physical O-line now...huge win for the 'Dogs!


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