Today's bowl lineups

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Outback Bowl

No. 22 Penn State (8-3)

vs. Kentucky (7-4)

When: Today, 11 a.m.

Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

TV: ESPN

Line: Penn State by 7

Outlook: The Nittany Lions looked awful in late-season losses at Michigan and Wisconsin, but closed with a 51-28 victory over Michigan State. The offense was hampered by inexperience, injuries and a lack of playmakers -- especially at WR. Junior QB Kevin Thompson (six TD passes) hasn't developed as hoped. Freshman Eric McCoo (822 yards rushing, 6.5 yards per carry) is a rising star, but fellow TB Cordell Mitchell may not play because of a shoulder injury. The defense is fierce, although it did bully some lesser opponents. The unit features LBs LaVar Arrington (second-team All-American) and Brandon Short and allows just 15.4 ppg. Coach Joe Paterno is 18-9-1 in bowls. Penn State will be playing in its eighth straight Jan. 1 bowl. The Wildcats lost to all the SEC heavyweights but can score with anyone. Prolific junior QB Tim Couch directs the nation's third-ranked total offense (534.2 ypg). Coach Hal Mumme's short-passing system has helped Couch complete 72.3 percent of his passes for 4,275 yards and 36 TDs. WR/KR Craig Yeast (85 catches, 1,311 yards, 15 TDs) is one of the most underrated players in the country. FB Derek Homer (716 yards rushing, seven TDs) provides a change of pace. RB Anthony White is also a fine receiver. The defense, not bad against the run but susceptible to the pass, might match up well here. Kentucky has not been to a bowl game since 1993 and has not been to a New Year's bowl since the 1952 Cotton Bowl. Cotton Bowl

No. 25 Mississippi State (8-4)

vs. No. 20 Texas (8-3)

When: Today, 11 a.m.

Where: Cotton Bowl, Dallas

TV: Fox

Line: Texas by 6 1/2

Outlook: The Bulldogs did not have to play Florida or Georgia in the SEC, but did win a nail-biter against Arkansas. And MSU even led No. 1 Tennessee in the fourth quarter of the league title game before falling, 24-14. RB James Johnson (1,383 yards rushing, 12 TDs) is a banger with speed. He was hobbled by a groin injury down the stretch, but should be healthy here. A strong offensive line is anchored by second-team All-America G Brandon Burlsworth. Freshman QB Wayne Madkin has shown flashes of promise but remains green. The attacking defense is excellent, and the kicking game is good. It's the first traditional New Year's Day game for the Bulldogs since the 1941 Orange Bowl. It will take a huge team effort to slow UT's star TB and balanced offense. The Longhorns rebounded from a 4-7 season with an enormously successful campaign that included big victories over Nebraska and Texas A&M.; The high-powered offense starts with the leading rusher in Division I-A history, Heisman-winning TB Ricky Williams, but doesn't end there. Freshman QB Major Applewhite is a calm, accurate passer and WRs Wane McGarity (nine TDs) and Kwame Cavil are both deep threats. A powerful offensive line is paced by two All-Americans, Jay Humphrey (second team) and Ben Adams (third team). The defense improved all year long. The unit ranks 92nd in the nation against the pass but airing it out is not MSU's specialty. Gator Bowl

No. 12 Georgia Tech (9-2)

vs. No. 17 Notre Dame (9-2)

When: Today. 12: 30 p.m.

Where: Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.

TV: NBC

Line: Georgia Tech by 2 1/2

Outlook: This is Georgia Tech's 27th bowl appearance -- five of them in the Gator Bowl. The Yellow Jackets' bowl record is 18-8-0. Notre Dame is making its 23rd bowl trip. The Irish have a 13-9-0 bowl record and are trying for their first bowl victory since the 1994 Cotton Bowl. A victory could boost Notre Dame into the preseason top five for 1999. For the Yellow Jackets, a victory would cap a surprisingly good season. The Yellow Jackets have one of the nation's top pass-catching combinations in QB Joe Hamilton and WR Dez White. A sophomore, White averages 21.2 yards per catch. Hamilton is a threat as a passer and a runner. Punter Rodney Williams ranks sixth nationally in punting and is a key member of Georgia Tech's solid special teams. The Fighting Irish hope that QB Jarious Jackson has recovered from a sprained knee suffered against LSU on Nov. 21. Notre Dame relies on an option attack that features RB Autry Denson, Notre Dame's all-time leading rusher. Citrus Bowl

No. 11 Arkansas (9-2)

vs. No. 15 Michigan (9-3)

When: Today, 1 p.m.

Where: Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.

TV: ABC

Line: Michigan by 3

Outlook: Arkansas is making its 29th bowl appearance, but first on New Year's Day since the 1990 Cotton Bowl. The Razorbacks are 9-16-3. Michigan is making its 30th bowl appearance and has a 14-15 record. Arkansas has had a marvelous season under first-year coach Houston Nutt, winning its first eight. Michigan, last year's defending champion, opened the season with losses to Notre Dame and Syracuse, then won seven consecutive games before losing to Ohio State. Neither team has played each other before, and both are making their first trip to the Citrus Bowl. The Razorbacks have a balanced offense. QB Clint Stoerner passed for 26 touchdowns and the running game averaged 151 yards per game. Arkansas' last bowl victory came in the 1985 Holiday Bowl. The Razorbacks intercepted at least one pass in every game this season. Michigan QB Tom Brady came on to lead the Wolverines' offensive resurgence after a slow start. He completed 60 percent of his passes, but just had 14 TD passes to 10 interceptions. Michigan averaged 26 points per game and its defense is solid. However, in their three losses, the Wolverines allowed 35 points per game. Rose Bowl

No. 9 Wisconsin (10-1)

vs. No. 6 UCLA (10-1)

When: Today, 4: 30 p.m.

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

TV: ABC

Line: UCLA by 9

Outlook: Wisconsin is making its 11th bowl appearance; five have come in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers are 4-6. UCLA is making its 22nd bowl appearance and fifth of the 1990s. The Bruins are 11-9-1, but haven't won a Rose Bowl since 1986. These teams met in the 1994 Rose Bowl. For the Bruins, this is a consolation game. UCLA came within a victory of qualifying for the BCS' championship game in the Fiesta Bowl. The Badgers want to prove their gaudy record is not the product of a weak schedule. Wisconsin RB Ron Dayne might be playing in his last game. However, if he decides to return for his senior season, he has a legitimate shot of breaking the Division I-A career rushing record set this season by Ricky Williams. The Badgers led the nation in scoring defense (10.2 ppg) and turnover margin. The Bruins hope that senior linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo recovers from a sprained knee he suffered against Miami. He's one of two senior starters. UCLA's defense ranks 99th out of 112 teams, allowing 432 yards and 27 points per game. Sugar Bowl

No. 8 Texas A&M; (11-2)

vs. No. 3 Ohio State (10-1)

When: Tonight, 8: 30 p.m.

Where: Superdome, New Orleans

TV: ABC

Line: Ohio State by 12 1/2

Outlook: A&M; is making its 24th bowl appearance and eighth in 10 seasons. The Aggies are 12-11 in postseason. Ohio State is making its 31st bowl appearance. The Buckeyes are 13-17 in postseason, including a 28-12 victory against A&M; in the 1987 Cotton Bowl. The matchup features teams that are out of the national championship race but could finish in the top five with a victory. Both coaches seek to improve marginal postseason records. John Cooper has a 2-7 mark at Ohio State. A&M;'s R.C. Slocum is 2-5. A&M; QB Branndon Stewart, a fifth-year senior from Stephenville, is coming off the est game of his career. He threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime of the Aggies' 36-33 upset of Kansas State, helping erase a 27-12 deficit. A&M;'s depth at the position is suspect because Randy McCown, who started seven games during the regular season, is out with a broken collarbone. Elsewhere, the Aggies are healthy and feature the nation's 10th-ranked defense, allowing 289.3 yards and 14.6 points per game. The Buckeyes have plenty of weapons in WR David Boston (74 catches, 1,330 yards, 13 TDs), QB Joe Germaine (60.4 completion percentage, 3,108 yards) and TB Michael Wiley (1,147 yards, 10 TDs). LB Andy Katzenmoyer (97 tackles, 13 for losses) and CB Antoine Winfield (14 pass breakups, 3 interceptions) have All-America credentials on a defense that allows 257.7 yards (67.4 yards against the rush, tops in the nation) and 11.8 points per game. Overall, the Buckeyes are healthy and present the same type of across-the-board challenge as Florida State and Kansas State, two highly ranked opponents A&M; faced in 1998.

Pub Date: 1/01/99

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