Dec 31, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane running back Ja

Thursday Night College Football Preview Round-Up

December 21, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; College Football Preview Round-up: UCF Knights quarterback Blake Bortles (5) and defensive lineman Troy Davis (58) smile as they walk to the locker room after they beat the Ball State Cardinals during the second half of the St. Petersburg Beef

American Athletic

Akron at UCF

When: Thursday, 7 p.m. ET on

Line: UCF -28

Reasons to watch: UCF quarterback Blake Bortles burst onto the scene in 2012 with 25 passing touchdowns to just seven interceptions and over 3000 yards. He scored another eight touchdowns via the rush. Bortles isn’t necessarily a dual-threat quarterback, despite his collection of rushing touchdowns. He actually has qualities that should pique the interest of NFL scouts.


Towson at Connecticut

When: Thursday, 7 p.m. ET on

Line: Connecticut -16.5

Reasons to watch: associate editor put it best: watch Towson head coach Rob Ambrose take on the team he’ll be hired to lead five months from now.

Ambrose has done a terrific job at Towson, pulling the Tigers out of the Colonial Athletic Association basement and into contention. Running back Terrance West is fun to watch, and difficult to stop — just ask LSU, against which West rushed for two touchdowns.

Paul Pasqualoni needs his Huskies to capitalize on the momentum they built to close 2012. A season opening loss obviously does Connecticut no favors, but dropping a home game to an FCS opponent will crank up the heat on a coach already approaching lame duck status.


Liberty at Kent State

When: Thursday, 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU

Line: Kent State -17.5

Reasons to watch: Simply put: Dri Archer. Kent State’s electrifying, do-everything play-maker was the star of the Golden Flashes’ surprising 11-win campaign. The supporting cast around Archer is not lacking for talent. Fellow running back Trayion Durham brings the thunder to back Archer’s lightning.

Liberty is a quality FCS opponent, coached by Turner Gill. The Flames nearly upset Wake Forest in the opener last year, and could present Kent State with a serious challenge on Thursday.


Tulsa at Bowling Green

When: Thursday, 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU

Line: Tulsa -3

Reasons to watch: The Golden Hurricane and Falcons combined for 19 wins in 2012. Both should contend for conference championships in 2013. Tulsa quarterback Cody Green mans a potentially explosive offense, with the running back tag tame of Ja’Terian Douglas and Trey Watts alongside him.

Bowling Green’s outstanding defense is tasked with slowing a Tulsa offense that scored 34.7 points per game. The Falcons are designed to do just that, last year ranking with such notable defenses as Notre Dame and Alabama in points allowed per contest.


Ilinois State at Ball State

When: Thursday, 7 p.m. ET on

Line: Ball State -30.5

Reasons to watch: Ball State head coach Pete Lembo is a gem in his profession. He turned around Ball State in short order, last season winning nine games. Lembo’s teams typically play an exciting offensive style, and the Cardinals are no exception. Keith Wenning is again running the offense, with running back Jahwan Edwards shouldering the rushing load.

The Ball State player that most intrigues me is Willie Snead. Lembo coached an NCAA record-setting receiver at Elon, Terrell Hudgins. Snead is a different style of receiver, but is as integral a part of Ball State’s offense as Hudgins was in Elon’s.

Illinois State reached the quarterfinals of last year’s FCS Playoffs, but loses standout quarterback Matt Brown.


Western Carolina at MTSU

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET; No TV

Line: MTSU -32

Reasons to watch: Unless you plan to attend Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn., you will not be watching. There is no broadcast scheduled anywhere in the crowded ether, which is a shame because the Blue Raiders return Jordan Parker. Parker rushed for 851 yards last season in relief of an injured Benny Cunningham.


Jackson State at Tulane

When: Thursday, 8 p.m. ET; No TV

Line: Tulane -25

Reasons to watch: Curtis Johnson has instilled something long missing from Tulane football: enthusiasm. The Green Wave is a trendy pick to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2002.

Tulane wide receiver Ryan Grant is a hidden gem, and the standout on a deep receiving corps.


Southern Utah at South Alabama

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET on

Line: South Alabama -17

Reasons to watch: South Alabama is in just its fifth season of existence, and second in the Bowl Subdivision. The Jaguars became full Sun Belt members on July 1, and as such take the next step in their development as a program.

Tags: Bowling Green Falcons Connecticut Huskies Football Kent State Golden Flashes Towson Tigers Tulane Green Wave Tulsa Golden Hurricane Ucf Knights

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