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2011 TicketCity Bowl - NU vs. Texas Tech
Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts & NU WR Jeremy Ebert
Texas Tech QB Taylor Potts & NU WR Jeremy Ebert
Posted Dec 30, 2010

2010-2011 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2011 TicketCity Bowl - Northwestern vs. Texas Tech

2011 TicketCity Bowl

(7-5) vs. Tex. Tech (7-5)

Saturday, January 1st, 12:00, ESPNU  

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SCROLL DOWN to the bottom for all the CFNers' confidence picks and bowl history

By Pete Fiutak

There’s a chance.

After the way Northwestern got steamrolled over by Mikel Leshoure and Illinois, and with the way Wisconsin hung a merciful 70 on the board, that could’ve easily have been 90 with a bit more effort, the inaugural TicketCity Bowl might not seem to be that intriguing, but there’s a chance this could be sneaky-good in a pinball machine sort of way.

Statistics In Yards
TT    NU
5,431 Total
5,557 Total
32.1 Scoring
30.3 Scoring
1,654 Rushing
1,884 Rushing
3,777 Passing
3,673 Passing
-0.17 Turnover Margin -0.17
Position Rankings
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
TT   N
4.5 QBs 2
3.5 RBs 2
4 WRs 4
3 O Line 3.5
3 D Line 3
3.5 LBs 3
2 DBs 3.5
3 STs 3.5
4 Coach 4
CFN 2010 2011 CFN Bowl Previews & Confidence Picks
- New Mexico - BYU vs. UTEP
- Human. - Fresno St vs. NIU
- New Orleans - Troy vs. Ohio
- St. Pete - UL vs. So Miss
- Las Vegas - Utah vs. Boise St
- Poinsettia - SDSU vs. Navy
- Hawaii - Tulsa vs. Hawaii
- Little Caesars - Toledo vs. FIU
- Ind. - Air Force vs. GT
- Champs - NC St vs. WVU
- Insight - Iowa vs. Mizz
- Military - Mary. vs. ECU
- Texas - Illinois vs. Baylor
- Alamo - Ok St vs. Arizona
- Armed Forces - SMU vs. Army
- Pinstripe - SU vs. KSU
- Music City - UNC vs. Tenn
- Holiday - Neb vs. Wash
- Meineke - USF vs. Clemson
- Sun - Miami vs. ND
- Liberty - UCF vs. Georgia
- Chick-fil-A - FSU vs. USC
- TicketCity - NW vs. TT
- Outback - PSU vs. Florida
- Capital One - MSU vs. Bama
- Gator - Mich vs. Miss St
- GoDaddy - MU vs. MT
- Cotton - A&M vs. LSU
- Compass - Pitt vs. UK
- Kraft - BC vs. Nevada
- Rose - UW vs. TCU
- Fiesta - OU vs. UConn
- Orange - Stan. vs. VT
- Sugar - Ark. vs. OSU
- BCS Champ. - Aub. vs. Oregon
Northwestern is 1-7 all-time in bowl games with the lone victory coming in the 1948 Rose Bowl against Cal, and while there were some brutal losses in the post-season over the last several years, including games against Peyton Manning’s Tennessee and Eric Crouch’s Nebraska when the Wildcats didn’t belong in the same stadium, Pat Fitzgerald has made chicken salad out of chicken spit in the last two stunning bowl appearances.

Chase Daniel and Missouri were supposed to win the 2008 Alamo in a blowout, but the Cats pushed the game to overtime in a 39-23 loss. Last year, had Stefan Demos been able to kick a ball straight, Northwestern would’ve beaten Auburn in an overtime thriller of an Outback Bowl. 2010 Texas Tech isn’t nearly as good as 2008 Missouri or 2009 Auburn, and while this might appear to be a mismatch on paper, there might be a few tricks up Northwestern’s sleeve.

The Wildcats got off to a hot start, fattening up on a load of crap to get to 5-0 with the best win coming at Vanderbilt. And then reality started to set in with losses to Purdue, Michigan State and Penn State to kill hopes of this being a special year. But by hanging on in the final moments to beat Indiana, the Cats got to six wins and bowl eligibility by Halloween. And then came the cruel twist of fate, or more like a cruel tear of fate as star QB Dan Persa, the team’s heart and soul, tore his Achilles tendon after throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to beat Iowa. The team wasn’t the same against the Illini and the Badgers.

But Persa didn’t play defense, and while the offense kept screwing up against Wisconsin and the attack didn’t help things out to keep the Illinois offense off the field, Northwestern has more problems than just at quarterback and Texas Tech has to take advantage.

The first year under Tommy Tuberville hasn’t exactly been smooth with early losses to Texas and Iowa State that look a whole bunch worse now than when they happened in the first half of the season. The team is now shooting for its first three game winning streak of the season after blowing up Weber State and getting by Houston to close out the regular season, but even with a bowl win, there will still be plenty of grumbling around Lubbock until Tuberville makes the program a real, live Big 12 player again.

Even if Leach was still around, this wasn’t supposed to be a big year for the Red Raiders, but losses to Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma didn’t help Tuberville’s cause. The offense didn’t nearly have the same firepower that it did in the Leach era, and the defense was a whole bunch worse with the secondary struggling to come up with any sort of stop and the run defense struggling in key stretches. While this might not have been a great season, the offseason could be far worse with a loss.

Northwestern shouldn’t have the defense to keep up with the Tech offense, as long as it’s working near to its potential, and the beleaguered Red Raider D should get a break against the punchless Cat attack. Throw in the terrific bowl run Tech is on, winning six of its last eight games and three of its last four, and this is sort of a no win situation for Tuberville. Either win in a major blowout or there will be criticism.

The Red Raiders should be stronger next year with seven starters returning on each side of the ball, but it’s still going to take a little while for Tuberville to put his stamp on the team. Fitzgerald already owns Northwestern, screaming and bleeding purple, and to get a bowl win would cement him as one of the best young coaches in the game. Effort won’t be a problem from either side, but bowl fans want more than that. With Northwestern getting time to regroup, and with Texas Tech’s offense, there really is a chance this could be entertaining. Players to Watch: Dan Persa was everything to Northwestern. He was one of the nation’s most efficient passers, he was the team’s most dangerous runner, and he was a pure baller who kept the team alive in game after game, and he was the reason the Cats got by Iowa. He’s expected to be back in time for next year, but for now, redshirt freshman Evan Watkins has to be better. The 6-6, 235-pounder has a bigger arm than Persa, but he’s not nearly the same runner. Expected to eventually be a special passer in the mold of recent Wildcat quarterbacks, he needs to start showing off why he was such a big recruit after throwing for just 135 yards with a pick against Illinois and with just 123 yards with a touchdown and three picks against Wisconsin. Accuracy is a must. He has the gun to push it down the field, but against Texas Tech, he has to keep the chains moving with good, sound throws on third downs.

Texas Tech doesn’t have any major quarterback issues with Taylor Potts taking control of the job over fellow senior Steven Sheffield. Potts was terrific in last year’s Alamo Bowl win over Michigan State, completing 67% of his throws for 372 yards and two scores, but it was Sheffield who stepped in when needed and provided a spark. Potts has great size and plenty of experience, but he failed to be the next big thing for the Red Raider offense. Even so, he has had a nice career and has had a better season than he’s getting credit for with 31 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions throwing three scoring passes or more in three of his last four games.

For Northwestern to win, the defense, particularly the secondary, has to come up with stop after stop and has to put the offense in good field position. That means safety Brian Peters has to be crafty and he has to be able to work in a variety of ways. Best as a nickel, he can play any safety position with good ball skills and big hitting ability. With 97 stops so far, including 18 against Illinois and 12 against Minnesota, he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty. Against Texas Tech, he’s going to have to be a factor and make Potts pay for any mistakes.

Northwestern will win if ... Watkins goes off. Northwestern doesn’t have any running game whatsoever without Persa taking off, and Watkins isn’t a runner. The Wildcats are going to have to match the Red Raiders passing yard for passing yards, and Watkins is going to have to let it fly. He might not always be accurate, and he’ll likely give the ball away a few times, but he has to keep challenging a Texas Tech secondary that can be toasted by any receiver with an ability to come up with a hard cut. Demetrius Fields, Jeremy Ebert, and tight end/H-Back Drake Dunsmore are all good enough to put up big numbers as long as Watkins gets time and as long as he can get them the ball. This game is on him. If he’s mediocre, Northwestern gets killed.

Defensively, Northwestern has to get to Potts. Usually, Red Raider quarterbacks destroy good pass rushing teams by getting rid of the ball in a hurry to the hot target in space. Potts tends to hang on to the ball a little bit longer and is a bit more willing to take shots in order to let the patterns develop down the field. The problem is that the Wildcats have a decent pass rush at times with end Vince Browne good enough to pressure the passer time and again. If Potts gets five days to throw, and if the Wildcats aren’t creative at getting into the backfield, it’ll be a long day.

Texas Tech will win if ... it doesn’t ignore the ground game. While the Red Raiders weren’t exactly balanced, they got some decent work out of Baron Batch, who ran for 805 yards and five scores, and the slippery Eric Stephens, who ran for 542 yards and five scores. Tech doesn’t have a back like Mikel Leshoure from Illinois, and it doesn’t have an offensive line like Wisconsin’s, but after the way the Wildcats got destroyed over the last few games on the ground, Batch and Stephens have to be a part of the gameplan from the start. Tech went 5-2 hen running for 140 yards or more, and it should be able to do that in the first half if it commits to the rushing attack. Of course the passing game won’t be ignored, but Tech might be more balanced than usual.

Even with the poor play of the Tech defense, and even with the sudden bolting of Red Raider defensive coordinator James Willis, Northwestern doesn’t have the firepower to keep pace in any sort of a shootout. The more up-and-down the field this is, the more it’ll benefit a Tech offense that’s equipped to fire away. That’s not to say Watkins can’t do what Mike Kafka did in last year’s Outback Bowl and go ballistic throwing for crazy yards, but Potts is a veteran who can handle this game while Northwestern is relying on a young, green passer.

What will happen: Northwestern’s bowl futility will continue. Tech will have to deal with a jacked up Northwestern defense on a mission to show that the Illinois and Wisconsin embarrassments were an aberration. It won’t matter. Tech will be balanced, Potts will throw at will, and despite a good game from Watkins and a valiant effort, this will be over early in the fourth.

CFN Prediction: Texas Tech 34 … Northwestern 23 ... Line: Texas Tech -9.5
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Pick ATS: Texas Tech  Confidence Score: 173
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 35 out of 35

Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Texas Tech  Pick Confidence - 29
- If Northwestern can be half as entertaining as it was in last year's Outback Bowl loss to Auburn, this should be worth watching. However, Northwestern is a shadow of its former self with QB Dan Persa out for the year with a torn Achilles, but he didn't play defense. The Wildcats got destroyed by the Illinois ground game in Wrigley, and then they lost 70-23 at Wisconsin. Tommy Tuberville has had a rough first season at Texas Tech, but a bowl win would do wonders for those who still wish Mike Leach was on the sidelines.

Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS - Texas Tech  Pick Confidence - 8
- You think this game matters to the Northwestern community? The last time the program won a bowl game, the country was a few years removed from the end of World War II.

Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - Texas Tech  Pick Confidence - 22
- This game occupies the Cotton Bowl’s old “no-time-to-erase-your-New-Year’s-Eve-hangover” time slot on New Year’s Day morning. Without Dan Persa, Northwestern will experience another hangover against Tommy Tuberville’s team.

Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - Texas Tech  Pick Confidence - 29
- Without Dan Persa, this is going to be ugly.

Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - Texas Tech  Pick Confidence - 28
- Dan Persa’s injury really hurt Northwestern down the stretch. Neither team plays a lot of defense, so take the over.

Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - Texas Tech  Pick Confidence - 28
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - Texas Tech  Pick Confidence - 34
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - Northwestern  Pick Confidence - 10
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - Northwestern  Pick Confidence -  16
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - Texas Tech    Pick Confidence -  21