Sun Bowl

Sun Bowl

2007 Sun Bowl Preview
by Josh Nagel

Oregon (8-4) vs. South Florida (9-3)

Conference Matchup: Big East vs. ACC
Date: Dec. 31
Location: El Paso, Texas
Spread: South Florida -6.5

This game features two teams that were BCS national title hopefuls in the early part of the season, each rising to the No. 2 ranking only to see those dreams dashed by disastrous finishes. The origin of Oregon's tumble was easy to pinpoint; losing Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Dennis Dixon for the rest of the season against upset-minded Arizona resulted in the Ducks losing that game, then two more to finish 8-4 as Dixon's backups could not muster any sort of offense in their star's absence. South Florida went from surprise contender to what probably what most considered the Bulls in the pre-season, a middle-of-the-pack Big East team. They seemed to benefit from a somewhat light early schedule - with the exception of a win over West Virginia - and their rise to No. 2 seemed to do with everyone else falling by the wayside as much as anything South Florida did to deserve it. The Bulls proceeded to lose three straight, at Rutgers and Connecticut and at home to Cincinnati, before rebounding to win three straight to finish the season. Despite their disappointing mid-season stretch, South Florida is a well-coached and solid team, perhaps on the cusp of BCS-caliber. Quarterback Matt Grothe was considered a dark horse Heisman candidate during South Florida's early run, and he is a hard-nosed and talented leader who runs a multiple-threat offense with efficiency. But the way both of these teams faltered after great starts, this feels like the "What Might Have Been" Bowl.

Oregon can cover if: the Ducks can find any semblance of offense to keep the score close. It isn't clear whether Dixon's injury proved how much he meant to his team or how inept his backups are. Perhaps it's a combination of both. Either way, they have struggled mightily in Dixon's absence. The Brady Leaf experiment was an unqualified disaster; in two games with him at the helm, the Ducks scored exactly zero points. Third-stringer Justin Roper stepped in for the Civil War game against Oregon State and fared much better, throwing for 162 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-31 overtime loss. The Ducks need to be able to pass just enough so that the Bulls have to respect it and can't stack the box up front to stuff Oregon's run game. Dixon's loss cost Oregon 2,136 yards passing, 583 rushing yards and 29 combined touchdowns. However, the Ducks still should have enough weapons to stay competitive. Running back Jonathan Stewart has 1,469 yards and 10 touchdowns and receiver Jaison Williams has 804 yards and seven touchdowns. But South Florida has the nation's 19th-ranked run defense, so the Ducks must show enough balance on offense to keep the Bulls honest.

South Florida can cover if: the Bulls don't take short-handed Oregon for granted and expect that they can just go through the motions and win. That shouldn't be a problem, though, given coach Jim Leavitt's attitude of humility and his response to being invited to this bowl that made it sounds as if the Bulls were headed to the Fiesta Bowl. "For them to invite the University of South Florida is an absolute honor," Leavitt said after learning where his team was headed. "I wish so much that we could again let them know how much we appreciate it, and we will, when we get out there." Those don't sound like the words of a coach who is willing to let his team come into the game with a lack of focus. If that's the case, then South Florida, especially given Dixon's absence, should be the superior team. Along with a solid defense, Grothe gave opposing defenders fits by throwing for 2,473 yards and 13 touchdowns, while also leading the team in rushing with 832 yards and 10 more scores. Mike Ford also ran for 637 yards and 12 touchdowns.

General Notes: The Bulls are 5-1 ATS in their last six non-conference games, but just 1-4 ATS against teams with winning records. The Ducks are 4-1 in their last five bowl games as an underdog.

Docsports.com

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Re: Sun Bowl

Bulls and Ducks clash in 74th Sun Bowl

El Paso, TX (Sports Network) - Two teams that were previously ranked as high as second in the AP poll will collide on New Year's Eve day, as the South Florida Bulls get set to take on the Oregon Ducks in the 74th-annual Sun Bowl.

During this strange college football season being ranked second in the nation was more of a curse than a privilege and both South Florida and Oregon suffered the heart break that came with the number two ranking. The Bulls charged out of the gates in 2007, winning their first six games. During that strong start USF defeated Auburn on the road in overtime, and also disposed of Big East Champion West Virginia. After a convincing, 64-12 win over Conference-USA champion UCF, the Bulls earned the number two spot in the nation. However, the stay would be short-lived as the Bulls fell to Rutgers, 30-27 in their next matchup. The losing did not stop there as USF dropped its following two games to Connecticut and Cincinnati. Eventually the Bulls regrouped and were able to close out their regular season with three straight wins, over Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh. In just its 11th season as a football program, USF has posted a 9-3 mark, earning its third consecutive bowl matchup.

As for the Ducks, they began the year with four straight wins, including a dominating 39-7 victory over Michigan. After a tough, 31-24 setback to California, the Ducks returned to the win column, reeling off another four-game winning streak, which included a victory over USC, 24-17. After a thrilling win over Arizona State (35-23), the Ducks vaulted to the number two spot in the nation, but just like their counterpart, the stay in the second slot did not last long. In fact, the next time Oregon stepped on the field the team lost its starting quarterback, and its shot at a national title with a loss to Arizona (34-24). However, the losing did not stop there as the team closed out its regular season with back-to-back setbacks to UCLA and Oregon State. Despite their late season slide the Ducks finished at 8-4, earning them a spot in their third straight postseason contest. This will be the fourth time Oregon has played in the Sun Bowl, with the most recent occurrence taking place during the 2003 season when the team lost to Minnesota, 31-30. The last bowl victory for Oregon was back in the 2001 campaign when the Ducks defeated Colorado 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl. Since then Oregon has dropped four straight postseason contests.

This will be the first-ever meeting between Oregon and South Florida on the gridiron.

The Bulls were very dependent on their ground game during the regular season, as the squad averaged an impressive 193.1 ypg (28th best in the nation). Surprisingly the ground game was led by quarterback Matt Grothe, who rushed for 832 yards and 10 scores on 4.5 ypc. Mike Ford and Benjamin Williams also caused trouble in the backfield for USF, as Ford tallied 637 yards and a team-best 12 touchdowns, while Williams rumbled for 423 yards and six scores. While Grothe did a solid job on the ground, the signal caller was less than impressive with his arm, throwing for just 2,473 yards. On the year, the sophomore completed 59.9 percent of his passes, but tossed just 13 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. One thing South Florida in lacking is a dangerous number one receiver. The Bulls' top two targets on the year were Carlton Mitchell and Jessie Hester, but the two players combined for just 68 catches, for 914 yards and eight scores.

More often than not the Bulls relied on the defense to help bring home a victory. In 12 games this season the Bulls held six opponents below 20 points and only three times did the unit surrender 30 or more points. The Bulls have been extremely tough on the opposition, especially against the run, limiting teams to just 112.0 ypg on 3.2 ypc. Out of the 24 touchdowns surrendered by South Florida only seven came on the ground. One area where the Bulls truly excelled was in the turnover category, as the team forced 41 mistakes this year (23 interceptions and 18 fumbles). South Florida also did a tremendous job at pressuring the quarterback, racking up 30 sacks in 12 games. There are plenty of playmakers for the Bulls on defense, but none are more important than George Selvie. The sophomore was a monster on the defensive line, leading the nation with 31.5 TFLs, while also grabbing 14.5 sacks, which was second best in the country.

The Ducks were an extremely dangerous offensive unit for the majority of the season, that is until the team lost Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year Dennis Dixon in its setback to Arizona. Dixon, who tore his ACL, was the heartbeat for this offense, completing 67.7 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns, while tossing just four interceptions. Without Dixon the Ducks will have to rely on either Cody Kempt or Justin Roper, both of whom are redshirt freshmen. Neither quarterback has much experience, but Roper showed poise in the season ending loss to Oregon State. In the seven-point setback to the Beavers, the signal caller threw for 144 yards and two scores against one interception. Dixon also played a role in the ground game, rushing for 583 yards and nine touchdowns. However, the Ducks will still have Jonathan Stewart at their disposal. Stewart was one of the top backs in the Pac-10, rushing for 1,469 yards and 10 touchdowns on 5.7 ypg. Because of the lack of experience under center the team will rely heavily on the play of Stewart, who has been known for his big play ability.

The Ducks' defense was not overly effective this season, but it did enough to help lead Oregon to eight victories. The Ducks put forth a strong effort against the run, limiting the opposition to just 136.5 ypg. Where the team had its trouble was against the pass, as teams abused Oregon for 250.3 ypg. Out of the 31 touchdowns allowed by this unit, 18 of those scores have come via the pass. The Ducks have also done a solid job at creating turnovers, and also pressuring the quarterback. On the year Oregon forced 28 miscues, while collecting 35 sacks. The Ducks were also tremendous on third down, limiting teams to meager 33 percent conversion rating. Patrick Chung and Nick Reed have been the top two performers for this unit. Chung paced the team with 110 tackles, while Reed led the squad with 22.5 TFLs and 12 sacks.

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Re: Sun Bowl

Game Preview for So Florida vs Oregon

GAME NOTES: Two teams that were previously ranked as high as second in the AP poll will collide on New Year's Eve day, as the South Florida Bulls get set to take on the Oregon Ducks in the 74th-annual Sun Bowl. During this strange college football season being ranked second in the nation was more of a curse than a privilege and both South Florida and Oregon suffered the heart break that came with the number two ranking. The Bulls charged out of the gates in 2007, winning their first six games. During that strong start USF defeated Auburn on the road in overtime, and also disposed of Big East Champion West Virginia. After a convincing, 64-12 win over Conference-USA champion UCF, the Bulls earned the number two spot in the nation. However, the stay would be short-lived as the Bulls fell to Rutgers, 30-27 in their next matchup. The losing did not stop there as USF dropped its following two games to Connecticut and Cincinnati. Eventually the Bulls regrouped and were able to close out their regular season with three straight wins, over Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh. In just its 11th season as a football program, USF has posted a 9-3 mark, earning its third consecutive bowl matchup. As for the Ducks, they began the year with four straight wins, including a dominating 39-7 victory over Michigan. After a tough, 31-24 setback to California, the Ducks returned to the win column, reeling off another four-game winning streak, which included a victory over USC, 24-17. After a thrilling win over Arizona State (35-23), the Ducks vaulted to the number two spot in the nation, but just like their counterpart, the stay in the second slot did not last long. In fact, the next time Oregon stepped on the field the team lost its starting quarterback, and its shot at a national title with a loss to Arizona (34-24). However, the losing did not stop there as the team closed out its regular season with back- to-back setbacks to UCLA and Oregon State. Despite their late season slide the Ducks finished at 8-4, earning them a spot in their third straight postseason contest. This will be the fourth time Oregon has played in the Sun Bowl, with the most recent occurrence taking place during the 2003 season when the team lost to Minnesota, 31-30. The last bowl victory for Oregon was back in the 2001 campaign when the Ducks defeated Colorado 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl. Since then Oregon has dropped four straight postseason contests. This will be the first- ever meeting between Oregon and South Florida on the gridiron.

The Bulls were very dependent on their ground game during the regular season, as the squad averaged an impressive 193.1 ypg (28th best in the nation). Surprisingly the ground game was led by quarterback Matt Grothe, who rushed for 832 yards and 10 scores on 4.5 ypc. Mike Ford and Benjamin Williams also caused trouble in the backfield for USF, as Ford tallied 637 yards and a team-best 12 touchdowns, while Williams rumbled for 423 yards and six scores. While Grothe did a solid job on the ground, the signal caller was less than impressive with his arm, throwing for just 2,473 yards. On the year, the sophomore completed 59.9 percent of his passes, but tossed just 13 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. One thing South Florida in lacking is a dangerous number one receiver. The Bulls' top two targets on the year were Carlton Mitchell and Jessie Hester, but the two players combined for just 68 catches, for 914 yards and eight scores.

More often than not the Bulls relied on the defense to help bring home a victory. In 12 games this season the Bulls held six opponents below 20 points and only three times did the unit surrender 30 or more points. The Bulls have been extremely tough on the opposition, especially against the run, limiting teams to just 112.0 ypg on 3.2 ypc. Out of the 24 touchdowns surrendered by South Florida only seven came on the ground. One area where the Bulls truly excelled was in the turnover category, as the team forced 41 mistakes this year (23 interceptions and 18 fumbles). South Florida also did a tremendous job at pressuring the quarterback, racking up 30 sacks in 12 games. There are plenty of playmakers for the Bulls on defense, but none are more important than George Selvie. The sophomore was a monster on the defensive line, leading the nation with 31.5 TFLs, while also grabbing 14.5 sacks, which was second best in the country.

The Ducks were an extremely dangerous offensive unit for the majority of the season, that is until the team lost Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year Dennis Dixon in its setback to Arizona. Dixon, who tore his ACL, was the heartbeat for this offense, completing 67.7 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns, while tossing just four interceptions. Without Dixon the Ducks will have to rely on either Cody Kempt or Justin Roper, both of whom are redshirt freshmen. Neither quarterback has much experience, but Roper showed poise in the season ending loss to Oregon State. In the seven-point setback to the Beavers, the signal caller threw for 144 yards and two scores against one interception. Dixon also played a role in the ground game, rushing for 583 yards and nine touchdowns. However, the Ducks will still have Jonathan Stewart at their disposal. Stewart was one of the top backs in the Pac-10, rushing for 1,469 yards and 10 touchdowns on 5.7 ypg. Because of the lack of experience under center the team will rely heavily on the play of Stewart, who has been known for his big play ability.

The Ducks' defense was not overly effective this season, but it did enough to help lead Oregon to eight victories. The Ducks put forth a strong effort against the run, limiting the opposition to just 136.5 ypg. Where the team had its trouble was against the pass, as teams abused Oregon for 250.3 ypg. Out of the 31 touchdowns allowed by this unit, 18 of those scores have come via the pass. The Ducks have also done a solid job at creating turnovers, and also pressuring the quarterback. On the year Oregon forced 28 miscues, while collecting 35 sacks. The Ducks were also tremendous on third down, limiting teams to meager 33 percent conversion rating. Patrick Chung and Nick Reed have been the top two performers for this unit. Chung paced the team with 110 tackles, while Reed led the squad with 22.5 TFLs and 12 sacks.

Without Dixon, this will be an extremely tough game for Oregon. The Ducks will have to rely more on the run, which plays right into the hands of a very tough South Florida defense. Look for the Bulls to take advantage of the Ducks without their star QB, en route to another bowl victory.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Florida 27, Oregon 10

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Sun Bowl: Oregon Ducks vs. South Florida Bulls

- Dennis Dixon went down and so did the hopes of the Oregon Ducks, then No. 2 in the nation. South Florida was also a No. 2 at one point and both faltered badly late to end up in the Sun Bowl. Oregon still went 8-4 ATS, but failed to cover after their QB got hurt. The Bulls won their final three games after a three-game skid (Rutgers, UConn, Cincy) and upset Auburn earlier.

Oregon forced three turnovers last time out, but still fell 38-31 in overtime to Oregon State as 1.5-point home favorites. The 69 points scored were OVER the posted total of 41.

Justin Roper went 13-for-25 for 144 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and Jonathan Stewart added 161 yards on 39 carries for the Ducks.

Mike Ford ran for two touchdowns in leading South Florida to a 48-37 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers last time out. The Bulls could not cover the 9.5-point spread, while the combined score sailed OVER the posted total of 46.

Ford racked up 63 yards off 16 carries, and Matt Grothe completed 17-of-23 pass attempts for 159 yards in the win.

Team records:
Oregon: 8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS
South Florida: 9-3 SU, 7-4 ATS

Oregon most recently:
When playing in December are 4-5-1
When playing on turf are 7-3
After being outgained are 6-4
When playing outside the conference are 8-2

South Florida most recently:
When playing in December are 1-3
When playing on turf are 6-4
After being outgained are 4-6
When playing outside the conference are 9-1

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Oregon's last 5 games
Oregon is 8-4 SU in its last 12 games
Oregon is 8-4 ATS in its last 12 games
South Florida is 11-3 SU in its last 14 games
The total has gone OVER in 6 of South Florida's last 8 games

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Re: Sun Bowl

Sun Bowl Preview
By Brad Young

Sun Bowl

Oregon (8-4 SU and ATS) vs. South Florida (9-3 SU, 7-4 ATS)

How they got here:

Both Oregon and South Florida were ranked second in the country at separate times this season before suffering three-game SU and ATS losing streaks. The Ducks were atop the Pac-10 and had a strong Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Dennis Dixon.

However, Dixon blew out his knee and Oregon concluded the regular season with three losses. The Ducks dropped their annual outing against rival Oregon State in the Civil War in overtime as a one-point home ‘chalk,’ 38-31. The combined 69 points soared ‘over’ the 42-point closing total, ending a string of three consecutive ‘under’ outings.

South Florida suffered a midseason slide with consecutive losses at Rutgers, at UConn and home versus Cincinnati. However, the Bulls got back on the winning track by winning their last three outings SU and ATS.

South Florida wrapped up the regular season by outlasting Pittsburgh as a 9 ½-point road favorite, 48-37. The combined 85 points soared past the 46 ½-point closing total, enabling the ‘over’ to cash the previous three games with a total attached.

What to expect:

Both teams prefer to run the ball, but that doesn’t mean a bruising, low-scoring affair. Oregon and South Florida ranked in the top-20 in points scored behind the ninth and 29th-rated rushing offenses. The biggest impact on this game is the Ducks quarterbacking situation, with the top-two starters out with injuries.

Dixon and backup Brady Leaf will not play, leaving the play-calling duties to a pair of redshirt freshman. Either Cody Kempt or Justin Roper will start, but both figure to get some playing time. Regardless of who is playing, they will have to deal with South Florida defensive end George Selvie who was the Big East Player of the Year.

All Selvie did was lead the nation with 31 ½ tackles for a loss, needing just one more Monday to break the NCAA single-season record. The Bulls defense as a whole should be able to key on an inexperienced Oregon quarterbacking situation, while controlling the clock with their own running attack.

Players to Watch:

Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart will really have his work cut out for him with the depleted quarterbacking situation. The junior tailback averaged 5.7 yards every time he ran the ball en route to 1,469 yards and 10 touchdowns.

South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe is a duel threat much the same way that Dixon is, connecting on 60 percent of his passes while also rushing for 832 yards. The sophomore signal caller passed for 13 touchdowns this season, while recording another 10 on the ground.

Bowl Records:

Oregon had made seven consecutive bowl games before failing to make the postseason during the 2004 campaign. The Ducks have dropped their last four bowl games since roughing up Colorado in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl, 38-16. Oregon fell to Oklahoma in the 2005 Holiday Bowl, 17-14, and was embarrassed by Brigham Young in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl, 38-8.

South Florida is still a relatively new program despite being ranked second for a short period earlier this year. The Bulls will be making their third consecutive postseason appearance after beating East Carolina last year in the Papajohns.com Bowl, 24-7. That marks the school’s only bowl victory after South Florida fell to North Carolina State in the 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Inside the Line:

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened South Florida as a 4½-point ‘chalk’ over Oregon, with the total set at 53. The line has since moved to six, with the total listed at 52. CBS Sports will provide coverage of the Sun Bowl beginning Monday at 2:00 p.m. ET.

vegasinsider.com.

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