Music City Bowl
* Who: Minnesota vs. Arkansas.
* Where: The Coliseum, Nashville.
* Time, TV: 2 p.m., ESPN.
* Records: Minnesota 7-5, 3-5 Big Ten; Arkansas 9-4, 5-3 Southeastern Conference.
* Coaches: Minnesota, Glen Mason; Arkansas, Houston Nutt.
* Payout: $750,000 per team.
* Bowl History: Minnesota has a 2-5 postseason record and hasn't won a bowl game since the 1985 Independence Bowl. Arkansas is 10-19-3. The Razorbacks have won just once in their last 10 bowl trips (the Cotton Bowl after the 1999 season).
Considering that Minnesota hasn't won since Oct. 19, the Gophers must be feeling pretty good about playing in this game. Minnesota started the season 7-1, taking wins over the likes of Southwest Texas State and Buffalo and Big Ten busts Northwestern and Michigan State before taking on the meat of its schedule. The Gophers lost their last four and received a berth in this game only because, well, I guess it says somewhere in the constitution that 3-5 Big Ten teams must receive a postseason berth. Quarterback Asad Abdul-Kaliq is a pretty exciting player who can run and pass (1,968 yards and 18 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions), and running back Terry Jackson ran for 1,281 yards this season and averaged an impressive 5.8 yards per carry. But the Gophers have been terrible against the run, giving up 184.8 yards per game.
The Razorbacks were one win away from a BCS game. Instead, they lost in the SEC championship game and somehow ended up all the way down here. History shows us that there are two ways to play this game: Go all out, proving that you belonged in a better bowl; or get weighed down by the chip on your shoulder and tank (I call this the "Kansas State Method"). Arkansas will be licking its chops against a Minnesota run defense with the toughness of soft cheese. The Razorbacks rushed for 229.6 yards per game this season (tops in the SEC, 11th nationally) without having a running back average 100 per game. Fred Talley led the way, averaging 83.5 yards per game, but he only had two touchdowns on the ground. It's good the Razorbacks can run, since scrambling quarterback Matt Jones is a liability through the air, despite his 15-to-6 touchdown-interception ratio.
* Who: Wake Forest vs. Oregon.
* Where: Seahawks Stadium, Seattle.
* Time, TV: 5:30 p.m., ESPN.
* Records: Wake Forest 6-6, 3-5 ACC; Oregon 7-5, 3-5 Pacific-10.
* Coaches: Wake Forest, Jim Grobe; Oregon, Mike Bellotti.
* Payout: $1 million per team.
* Bowl History: Wake Forest's modest bowl history includes a 3-2 record and two straight wins, in the 1999 Aloha Classic and the 1992 Independence Bowl (a 39-35 win over Oregon). The Ducks are 7-9 in the postseason and have won their last three bowl games.
It took a K Street-sized lobbying effort from Athletic Director Ron Wellman and ACC higher-ups to get the Demon Deacons into this game with their less-than-stellar record, and now Wake Forest must show it truly belongs, especially after its embarrassing 32-14 loss to Maryland to end the season. The Demon Deacons are looking for just their 12th winning record since ACC play began in 1953. In all honesty, Wake was banged up against the Terrapins. Senior defensive end Calvin Pace, a third-team all-American who registered 72 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss and eight sacks, missed the game with a broken fibula. Regular starting quarterback James MacPherson missed most of the game with shoulder and ankle injuries, and linebacker Dion Williams was out with a knee injury. MacPherson is a go for tonight's game, while Pace is probable and Williams questionable.
Oregon limps northward into this game after dropping five of its last six following a 6-0 start and a No. 6 national ranking. Fairly or not, the blame has fallen on quarterback Jason Fife's shoulders. Fife started every game this season but hasn't been impressive, and Bellotti said that highly touted redshirt freshman Kellen Clemens will see some time under center today and might even start. More of the blame should be put on the Ducks' pass defense, which surrendered 33 touchdown passes this season. Of course, Wake Forest only threw six all season, so they may get a break today. Running back Onterrio Smith, who likely will skip his senior season and head to the NFL, missed the final two games of the season after he had surgery to repair cartilage in his knee. He rushed for 1,101 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and should play today.
-- Matt Bonesteel