Bowl Breakdown: Independence Bowl

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t1_wilsonbama.jpg's Bill Trocchi analyzes the matchup.

After a wildly inconsistent season, Alabama finds itself exactly where it was a year ago -- 6-6 and preparing for the Independence Bowl. Unfortunately for the Tide, they committed $32 million to coach Nick Saban and progress was expected in Year 1. Alabama's offense was impressive at times -- scoring 41 points against Arkansas and Tennessee -- but it also failed to score more than 14 points in its final three games. Quarterback John Parker Wilson can be effective when given time and put together some clutch drives early in the season, but he finished in a slump with five interceptions and one touchdown in his last three games. Running back Terry Grant, the team's best rusher, missed the Auburn game with a hip injury but should be ready for the bowl game.

Defensively, Alabama ranked 28th in the nation. The Tide feature three first-team All-SEC performers -- defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry and defensive backs Simeon Castille and Rashad Johnson. The Tide led the SEC in tackles for loss, but the defense is not yet playing at the level Saban has come to expect.

First-year starting QB Cody Hawkins, coach Dan Hawkins' son, cut down on his mistakes as the year progressed. After throwing 14 interceptions in his first eight games, Hawkins threw just one in his final four (during which he attempted 120 passes). Colorado has a balanced attack, featuring Hugh Charles (989 rushing yards, 8 TDs) as its primary back.

Colorado's defense is anchored by senior linebacker Jordon Dizon, a Butkus finalist and the coaches' pick for Big 12 defensive Player of the Year. Dizon is undersized but has been very productive in his four years in Boulder. Senior corner Terrence Wheatley is a first-team All-Big 12 performer who had three picks against Texas Tech. Junior defensive lineman George Hypolite anchors a run defense ranked 32nd nationally.

Colorado is coming off a remarkable 65-52 win over Nebraska, but the Buffs will find tougher sledding against Alabama's defense. Neither team can be overly thrilled to be in Shreveport, but the new coaches (Hawkins is in his second year, Saban in his first) are searching for anything to mark progress in their programs. Alabama's defense should be the difference in an even game.

The pick: Alabama 20, Colorado 17