2008 Alamo Bowl Preview - NU vs. Missouri
Missouri's Chase Daniel & NU's John Gill
Missouri's Chase Daniel & NU's John Gill
Posted Dec 20, 2008

Will Chase Daniel and Missouri be fired up to play in a disappointing bowl, at least compared to what the program was hoping for at the start of the year? Can Northwestern not stink in a bowl? Check out the 2008 CFN Valero Alamo Bowl Preview & Prediction.

2008 Valero Alamo Bowl

Northwestern (9-3) at Missouri (9-4)

Dec. 29, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

$2.25 million   Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX

2008 Alamo Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More

National Rankings
Missouri Northwestern
Total Offense
6th  497.46 ypg 62nd  209.42 ypg
Total Defense
99th  414.23 ypg 51st  343 ypg
Scoring Offense
6th  497.46 ppg 75th  24.50 ppg
Scoring Defense
74th  27.54 ppg 23rd  19.33 ppg
Run Offense
52nd  157.08 ypg 59th  147.58 ypg
Run Defense
37th  128.92 ypg 34th  127.67 ypg
Pass Offense
4th  340.38 ypg 63rd  209.42 ypg
Pass Defense
117th  285.31 ypg 73rd  215.33 ypg
Turnover Margin
71st  -0.15 85th  -0.42
Illinois  W 52-42
SE Miss St W 52-3
Nevada  W 69-17
Buffalo  W 42-21
at Neb  W 52-17
Okla St L 28-23
at Texas L 56-31
Colorado  W 58-0
at Baylor W 31-28
Kansas St W 41-24
at Iowa St W 52-20
Kansas L 40-3
Dec. 6 Big 12 Champ
Oklahoma L 62-21
Syracuse W 30-10
at Duke W 24-20
So Illinois W 33-7
Ohio W 16-8
at Iowa W 22-17
Michigan St L 37-20
Purdue W 48-26
at Indiana L 21-19
at Minn. W 24-17
Ohio State L 45-10
at Michigan W 21-14
Illinois W 27-10
Position Ratings
relative to each other
M 5 highest
1 lowest
5 Quarterbacks 3.5
4 RBs 4
5 Receivers 3
4 O Line 4
4 D Line 4.5
4 Linebackers 3.5
2 Secondary 3.5
4.5 Spec Teams 3
4 Coaching 3.5

By Pete Fiutak

C’mon, Northwestern. Let’s bring the A game into the bowl season.

The Alamo Bowl is almost always bad team-proof with a terrific last three games and five of the last seven games decided by seven points or fewer. Before that run, Northwestern got blasted by Nebraska 66-17 in the 2000 Alamo Bowl. That wasn’t an aberration for the Wildcats.

Northwestern, since becoming part of the program in 1995, is 0-5 in bowl games losing them by a combined score of 233 to 139, or an average of 47 to 28. From a Rose Bowl loss to USC and a Citrus Bowl embarrassment against Peyton Manning and Tennessee, to a Motor City Bowl loss to Bowling Green and a blasting from UCLA in the 2005 Sun Bowl, Northwestern’s little engine that could always sputters at the top of the mountain. 

For Missouri, this game marks the end of the wildly successful Chase Daniel era that brought 29 wins and two Big 12 North titles in the last three seasons. Under Daniel’s reign, the Tigers have won two of their last three bowl games with the one loss a late collapse to Oregon State (not Daniel’s fault) in the 2006 Sun Bowl.  Not since a run from 1978 to 1981 has Missouri had this kind of bowl success, and those teams weren’t anywhere near as good as this current group

The 2008 Mizzou season, at least until now, can be described as a successful failure considering a BCS game and a Big 12 title were the stated goals. The Tigers got the North title without too much of a problem, but a home loss to Oklahoma State made them, when the season finally shook out, the fifth best team in the league behind the four big teams from the South.

With a loss to Kansas in a game that really didn’t matter outside of rivalry pride, the one good win on the schedule turned out to be against Nebraska. Beating Illinois didn’t turn out to be that big a deal, and the only other victories worthy of notice were a blowout of Nevada and a 42-21 win over Buffalo, the eventual MAC champion. Considering what the team was supposed to do coming into the season, anything less than a dominant performance against the Wildcats would be seen as a major letdown.
On the flip side, no matter what happens in this game for Northwestern, it has been a tremendously successful season. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has grown into the job after spending the last two years learning the ropes. He’s been better in game management and for dealing with on-field adversity, and he nailed the two very big, somewhat controversial off-season moves he had to make this off-season.

Fitzgerald brought in Mick McCall, an inventive offensive mind from Bowling Green, to add a little more zip to the offense, and he snapped up defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who was canned by Bret Bielema at Wisconsin, to attack more on defense. The jury is still out on McCall, who likes to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands as quickly as possible, but Hankwitz has been a find. The veteran defensive coordinator made Northwestern’s pass rush the best in the Big Ten while the D, as a whole, allowed an average of just 19 points per game.
This is still Northwestern, so any win is a good win, but there were only two wins over teams that are going bowling, Iowa and Minnesota, and there was an ugly loss to the worst team in the Big Ten by far, Indiana. Even so, the Wildcats got screwed in the bowl pecking order finishing fourth in the standings with a better record than Iowa, and with a head-to-head win, but the Hawkeyes are playing South Carolina on New Year’s Day in the Outback Bowl. Now Northwestern has to prove that the bowl types got it wrong.
The Wildcat offense has to show it can keep up the pace if Missouri’s high-powered attack gets hot early on, while the Tiger offense has to show it can handle the Northwestern pass rush. Will Missouri go through the motions and be a bit half-hearted in a non-New Year’s Day game, or will the team try to make a statement? Will Northwestern come up with a magical performance against a team with far, far superior offensive talent?

This has the potential of being a nightmare if Missouri plays up to its full capability and Northwestern gets all Northwesterny in the spotlight of a truly big game, but at worst, this will either be a chance to see the Chase Daniel show one more time, or it’ll be a chance to see Northwestern pull off one of the biggest wins in school history. It’s the Alamo Bowl; it has to be good … right?
Players to watch: The Wildcats get their main playmaker back. The running game had to get creative after losing Tyrell Sutton to a hand injury and with Omar Conteh getting knocked out for the year with a knee injury, but now Sutton is back. He ran for 776 yards and six touchdowns and caught 30 passes for 276 yards and two scores before missing all of November. Northwestern was able to win two of the final three games without Sutton, but he’s desperately needed in the attack to have any chance against Mizzou.
Looking to stop Sutton and keep the Northwestern running game in check will be junior LB Sean Weatherspoon and all-star safety William Moore. Moore was the only unanimous All-Big 12 selection on the defense, and while the Tiger secondary struggled all season long, he had a big year with 83 tackles with an interception and five broken up passes. A certain starter the NFL next year, he’s a big hitter who should be a huge factor against the mediocre Wildcat passing game.

The star against the run will be Weatherspoon, a tackling machine with 271 stops in the last two years and a team-leading three interceptions this season. Granted, all three picks were in the first two games, with two going for touchdowns, but he’s been a force all season long highlighted by a 20-tackle game against Buffalo and a 12-stop performance in the loss to OU.
6-7, 270-pound senior DE Corey Wootton finally lived up to his immense potential this year as an unstoppable pass rushing force for the Wildcats. He consistently produced throughout the year with a sack in each of the last five games and nine on the season with 15 tackles for loss. The first team All-Big Ten selection has to get pressure on Daniel from the start to help out a secondary that gives up 215 yards per game.
While Daniel and Mackey Award winning tight end Chase Coffman are seniors playing their final games, but third-year sophomore Jeremy Maclin will have a big decision to make. An almost-certain top 50 pick if he comes out early, the star receiver, who fought through ankle problems to catch 95 passes for 1,221 yards and 12 touchdowns this year, might be playing his last game in a Tiger uniform. One of the nation’s elite all-around playmakers, he continues to be an elite kick and punt returner averaging 24 yards per kickoff and over nine yards per punt try.

Missouri will win if... the takeaways start flowing. Missouri hasn’t been great this year when it comes to turnover margin, but Northwestern is consistent at giving the ball away with at least one turnover in every game but early wins against Duke and Southern Illinois and two or more turnovers in eight games. However, the Wildcats really had problems in the three losses, turning it over five times against Indiana, three times against Ohio State and twice against Michigan State. Northwestern doesn’t have the team to beat Missouri straight up; it needs to be + 2 in turnover margin to win this.
Northwestern will win if
... it can get to Daniel. Missouri’s offensive line doesn’t give up a ton of sacks, partly because Daniel is great at getting rid of the ball and partly because he’s just mobile enough to avoid the rush and make plays outside of the pocket, but that doesn’t mean good defensive lines can’t get to him. Oklahoma State took Daniel out of his comfort zone and forced mistakes. Oklahoma was able to hit him all game long. Northwestern has the pass rush and the line to get into the backfield, and it has to get to Daniel early to throw off the timing of the attack. If Daniel gets three seconds to throw, expect a blowout.
What will happen: Missouri will get out to an early lead and Northwestern will have to bomb its way back. QB C.J. Bacher will have one of his better passing games of the season as he throws for well over 300 yards to make this interesting, and then Daniel and the Tiger offense will pull away with a good balance and a big play from Maclin.

Line: Missouri -13 ... CFN Prediction: Missouri 41 … Northwestern 24      

2008 Alamo Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More