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December 22, 2007|Peter Yoon


* Who: Cincinnati (9-3, third in Big East) vs. Southern Mississippi (7-5, third in Conference USA East)

* Where, when: Birmingham, Ala., 10 a.m., ESPN2

* Story line: Cincinnati first-year Coach Brian Kelly installed a pass-oriented offense that has produced a school-record 441 points. Quarterback Ben Mauk passed for 27 touchdowns and helped make the Bearcats contenders for the Big East title well into the season. They were tough on the other side of the ball as well, ranking No. 11 in the nation in scoring defense at 18.6 points a game. Southern Mississippi Coach Jeff Bower was forced to resign and is coaching his final game for the Golden Eagles. Southern Mississippi relies on a rushing attack that averaged 200.3 yards a game, 22nd in the nation.

* Top players: Mauk, (QB, Cincinnati, Sr.), Anthony Hoke (DL, Cincinnati, Sr.), Kevin Huber (P, Cincinnati, Jr.), Gerald McRath (LB, Southern Miss., So.), Damion Fletcher (RB, Southern Miss., So.).


* Who: New Mexico (8-4, fourth in Mountain West) vs. Nevada (6-6, fourth in Western Athletic)

* Where, when: Albuquerque, 1:30 p.m., ESPN

* Story line: New Mexico gets a true home-field advantage, playing in the stadium where the Lobos are 5-1 this season. It is the second consecutive year they are playing at home, but it didn't help last year when they lost to San Jose State. The Lobos haven't won a bowl game since 1961. The key to their success lies with a defense that gives up 329.1 yards a game, 23rd in the nation. Nevada will counter with a prolific offense that ranks seventh in the nation in yards ( 488.9 a game) and 18th in points (36.3). The Wolf Pack scored 40 or more points five times.

* Top players: Rodney Ferguson (RB, New Mexico, Jr.), Marcus Smith (WR, New Mexico, Sr.), Colin Kapernick (QB, Nevada, Fr.), Marko Mitchell (WR, Nevada, Jr.).

-- Peter Yoon

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