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Saturday’s college football bowl games

INTERNATIONAL

SOUTH FLORIDA (7-5) VS. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (7-5)

* Kickoff: 9 a.m. PST, Rogers Centre, Toronto.

* TV: ESPN2.

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* About South Florida: Jim Leavitt led the Bulls to fourth place in the Big East and has compiled a 94-57 record in 13 seasons. Redshirt freshmen QB B.J. Daniels completed 108 of 205 passes for 1,766 yards and 12 touchdowns.

* About Northern Illinois: Chad Spann led the Huskies’ ground attack this season with 945 yards in 159 carries and a Mid-American Conference-leading 19 touchdowns. Overall, Northern Illinois built its offensive strength on a solid run game, averaging a conference-high 202.4 yards.

* Bowl records: South Florida, 2-2; Northern Illinois, 2-2.

* Previous meetings: Series is tied 1-1.

* Worth noting: South Florida junior receiver Carlton Mitchell set a career receiving yards record (1,554) in a 29-27 loss Dec. 5 to Connecticut.

* Prediction: South Florida 21, Northern Illinois 20.

COTTON

OKLAHOMA STATE (9-3) VS. MISSISSIPPI (8-4)

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* Kickoff: 11 a.m., Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas.

* TV: Channel 11.

* About Oklahoma State: Running back Keith Toston leads the running game with 1,177 yards and 11 TDs. Coach Mike Gundy said cornerback Perrish Cox, a second-team All-American, would not play because he violated team rules.

* About Mississippi: Ole Miss began the season with high hopes, but quarterback Jevan Snead and the passing game never produced as expected. The Rebels finished strong when the focus of the offense switched to Dexter McCluster, who had 985 yards rushing and another 475 receiving.

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* Bowl records: Oklahoma State, 12-7; Mississippi, 20-12.

* Previous meetings: Mississippi leads the series, 1-0.

* Worth noting: This will be the first Cotton Bowl played at Cowboys Stadium.

* Prediction: Oklahoma State 35, Mississippi 34.

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PAPAJOHNS.COM

CONNECTICUT (7-5) VS. SOUTH CAROLINA (7-5)

* Kickoff: 11 a.m., Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.

* TV: ESPN.

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* About Connecticut: The Huskies became an easy team to cheer for following the in-season murder of cornerback Jasper Howard. Coach Randy Edsell’s team found strength in the tragedy -- despite losing five games by a total of 15 points -- winning the season’s final three games to become bowl eligible, including a historic first victory at Notre Dame.

* About South Carolina: The Gamecocks dropped four of their last six games but ended the regular season with a satisfying pounding of rival Clemson. Led by Stephen Garcia (2,733 yards, 17 TDs, 9 INTs), the Gamecocks struggle to score points, averaging only 21.8 a game (98th in the nation).

* Bowl records: Connecticut, 2-1; South Carolina, 4-10.

* Previous meetings: None.

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* Worth noting: South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier’s all-time bowl record of 7-8 includes a 6-5 record during his 12 seasons at Florida.

* Prediction: South Carolina 24, Connecticut 13.

LIBERTY

ARKANSAS (7-5) VS. EAST CAROLINA (9-4)

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* Kickoff: 2:30 p.m., Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn.

* TV: ESPN.

* About Arkansas: Quarterback Ryan Mallett led the Southeastern Conference in passing with 3,422 yards and 29 touchdown passes. The Razorbacks led the SEC in scoring offense (37.3), passing offense (303.3) and passing TDs (31).

* About East Carolina: The Pirates will make their second consecutive visit to the Liberty Bowl. Coach Skip Holtz has suspended running back Jonathan Williams and defensive back Leonard Paulk for the game because of an “incident” Thursday.

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* Bowl records: Arkansas, 11-22-3; East Carolina, 5-5.

* Previous meetings: None.

* Worth noting: Four Heisman Trophy winners have played in the Liberty Bowl: Ernie Davis (Syracuse), 1961; Terry Baker (Oregon State), 1962; Doug Flutie (Boston College), 1983; Bo Jackson (Auburn), 1984.

* Prediction: Arkansas 35, East Carolina 20.

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ALAMO

MICHIGAN STATE (6-6) VS. TEXAS TECH (8-4)

* Kickoff: 6 p.m., Alamodome, San Antonio.

* TV: ESPN.

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* About Michigan State: Nine players, including three starters, are suspended from the game for their part in a Nov. 22 dormitory brawl that has each facing charges of conspiracy to commit assault and battery. The Spartans already were in trouble in this matchup, courtesy of a defense ranked 103rd against the pass after yielding 29 TD tosses.

* About Texas Tech: Junior Taylor Potts (3,068 yards passing, 20 TDs) leads an offense that ranked second in the nation in passing (405.8 yards a game). The Spartans throw for 279 yards a game, so the Red Raiders will be tested defensively.

* Bowl records: Michigan State, 7-12; Texas Tech, 11-21.

* Previous meetings: None.

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* Worth noting: Texas Tech is bowl eligible for the 16th straight season.

* Prediction: Texas Tech 40, Michigan State 20.

-- Orlando Sentinel


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