Match-up: Northwestern (Big 10) Vs. Tennessee (SEC)
Spread: Tennessee (-8.0)
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
When: Friday, January 1st, 12:00 PM
Where to Watch: ESPN 2
It was a fantastic season for Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats, who haven’t been to a bowl game since 2012. No doubt that Northwestern was one of the most pleasant surprises of the season this year. They began the season 5-0, and that start included a shocking win over Stanford at home. They did lose to Michigan and Iowa by a combined score of 78-10… But after that, they returned to their winning ways. They’ll try to prove that their record this season was a result of their talent, not their somewhat easy schedule.
Players to Watch
Justin Jackson (RB) – You’d be surprised at how durable the 5-11 185 pound Sophomore is. Jackson carried the ball 298 times for 1344 yards and 4 touchdowns. Although he had trouble getting into the end zone, he was a crucial part of the offense. Look for him to be utilized often, especially to keep the Tennessee offense off of the field.
Anthony Walker (LB) – Wow. That’s all. The Redshirt Sophomore was unbelievable this year as he tallied 113 tackles this season, 19.5 of which were for loss; that’s a school record, and it’s also 2nd in the nation. He also managed 3 sacks, 1 interception, 3 pass deflections, 2 quarterback hits and 2 fumble recoveries. And he’s still a sophomore… that’s scary.
How Northwestern Can Win
Keep it close… Tennessee has been known to choke in the fourth quarter. As long as Northwestern can maintain the rushing attack, control the clock, and keep the game within reach, they have a chance to frustrate Joshua Dobbs and the Vols.
There was a ton of hype surrounding Josh Dobbs as he took over the Volunteers this season; unfortunately, the team was a disappointment record wise. Just to add insult to injury, look at their losses. A choke against Oklahoma, a choke against Florida, a choke against Arkansas, and a 5 point loss to Alabama… Those are their 4 losses. They could easily be 11-1 with their only loss being a road loss to Alabama right now. In the SEC. They did end the season on the 5 game winning streak, albeit against weaker opposition, but let’s see if they can finally put together a complete game against elite competition here.
Players to Watch
Jalen Hurd (RB) – Dobbs was solid, but he wasn’t what we expected this season. Hurd lived up to the hype. The Sophomore carried the ball 253 times for 1158 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s going to be carrying the ball on Sundays some day, but for now he’ll be leading the way for Tennessee, alongside his partner in crime Alvin Kamara, who also rushed for over 600 yards.
Derek Barnett (DE) – This must be the Sophomore Bowl… Barnett is yet another talented sophomore playing in this game. He lead the team with 9 sacks, and was 2nd on the team with 11.5 tackles for loss. He also managed 7 quarterback hits and 1 fumble recovery. Most of his sacks came during the second half of the season, which shows how he’s been improving throughout the season. Look for him to make life miserable for Clayton Thornton.
How Tennessee Can Win
Finish the game. It’s that simple. We saw what this team is capable of throughout this season… Look at how they played in the first half against Oklahoma… Just play like that for 60 minutes and this game is theirs…
Final Score Prediction: Tennessee Wins 27-21
Photo Credit: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2329474-why-tennessee-qb-joshua-dobbs-is-a-dark-horse-heisman-contender