New Year's Day bowl lineup. Hell, why even pick these any more?

December 31st, 2007

Well, I have now found a way to question my "knowledge" of college football. After a regular season in which I got a good number of the conference champions correct, I've thoroughly embarassed myself in picking bowls. Francis the Feline (of ESPN2's First Take fame) has been more successful, and all he does is eat cat food. I'm throwing darts at this point. Here are quick previews for the six games on the docket tomorrow, including the first two BCS games.

Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL)
Wisconsin vs. Tennessee

As you're stumbling out of bed and onto the couch, this will be one of two games kicking off. Expect a physical game, with running backs Arian Foster (Tennessee) and P.J. Hill (Wisconsin) attempting to plow their way through stout defensive lines. Tennessee defied experts and logic in winning the SEC East, and had a very good chance to knock off LSU in the SEC title game. Senior QB Erik Ainge is a capable field general who can put his young skill position players in the right place at the right time. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has dealt with the injury bug for most of the season, losing WR Luke Swann for the season halfway through, and Hill has been banged up all year long. Look for a low-scoring game, and keep an eye on Wisconsin TE Travis Beckum, the nation's best. I like the Badgers.

Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX)
Missouri vs. Arkansas

So what you have here is one team who shouldn't be in this game, and one that's lucky to be in Big D. Missouri, even with wins over both Kansas and Illinois, gets to experience the Cotton Bowl while those two earn in upwards of $14 million in the BCS. It isn't fair, but when you haven't played in a January bowl since the late-60s, motivation should not be an issue. And if it were, it may not even matter when you consider what's been going on with the Arkansas program. Houston Nutt gets hounded by followers all season, only to be offered an extension after winning at LSU. He says no and leaves for Ole Miss. And just when the ink was drying on Bobby Petrino's signature to become head coach, up come the allegations of Darren McFadden being bought an SUV by agent Mike Conley Sr. To be frank, this program is an absolute mess. As for the game, Missouri can move the ball through the air (QB Chase Daniel), on the ground (RB Tony Temple), or let freshman Jeremy Maclin decide whatever it is he wants to do. The Razorbacks, appropriate for a ground-bound animal, cannot throw the ball to save their lives. If Mizzou can limit DMC, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis, this one could get ugly. I like the Tigers to win, putting up a lot of points in the process.

Capital One Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Michigan vs. Florida

Two trends collide in this one: Michigan's inability to stop spread offenses vs. the Heisman jinx. Heisman winners tend to underachieve in bowls, due to either the bull's eye on their back, the lengthy awards circuit or a combination of things. But Florida's third winner of the trophy is "Superman", a sophomore QB by the name of Tim Tebow who can beat you with either his arm or legs. Lloyd Carr coaches his last game at Michigan, with Rich Rodriguez taking over when this one ends. Seniors Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Jake Long can't be pleased with their season after returning with hopes of winning a national title. At least they get a chance to get their first bowl win. But I like the young Gators to win and use this game as a springboard into 2008.

Toyota Gator Bowl
Texas Tech vs. Virginia

At first glance, people would probably expect the Red Raiders to light up the scoreboard while the Cavaliers sputter on offense. But I don't see that happening, and for two reasons: Texas Tech at times can display the tackling ability associated with kickers and punters instead of trained defensive players, and Virginia has had a penchant for hanging in games and pulling them out late. The Hoos are 6-1 this year in games decided by five points or less. QB Jameel Sewell has had his share of good moments, but this should be a good game to put up numbers as long as he protects the football. UVa will send the nation's best defensive end after QB Graham Harrell in the form of Chris Long, a top-ten NFL Draft prospect with a nonstop motor. If Harrell can hook up often with the nation's best receiver, freshman Michael Crabtree, and his other targets Virginia could have trouble keeping up. I like Tech to win, but this game will be closer than many think.

Rose Bowl presented by Citi
4:30 PM EST, ABC
Illinois vs. USC

The number of people expecting this game to be a blowout is only exceeded by the number of folks who gave Illinois no chance to compete in the Big Ten this season. Well, a win at Ohio State and a tie for second place gets the Illini their first trip to Pasadena since 1984. It'll be up to QB Juice Williams and RB Rashard Mendenhall (Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year) to make sure this one doesn't end up like that last trip (a 45-9 loss to UCLA). As much as Ron Zook's team would like to send their seniors out with a win, this is a young team that can use this game as a springboard into next season. USC makes their sixth straight BCS appearance, and with the exception of WR Patrick Turner a team that battled injuries throughout the season looks to as close to full strength as they've been all year. The Trojan defense could be the best that Illinois has faced all season, and their ability to stop the run could give the Illini some headaches (even though Illinois is one of the nation's best running teams). I like USC to win, but Illinois will hang around.

Allstate Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA)
Hawaii vs. Georgia

For the second straight season, the WAC champion will be taking part in the BCS. Colt Brennan and the rest of the Warriors head into the Big Easy as the nation's only undefeated team with an explosive offense that rarely has trouble putting up points. On the other side of the field are the Georgia Bulldogs, one of the country's hottest teams this last month of the regular season. Georgia has superior athletes across the line, but do not sell Hawaii short. The "run and shoot" offense can put defenders on an island when it comes to coverage and tackling, something that in this season especially has proven difficult for many teams. RB Knowshon Moreno was a lot like a young stallion, in that offensive coordinator Mike Bobo had to keep in in the stable a little longer than he may have liked to simply calm the man down. However, you cannot deny the spark he's given this team, and that's a good reason why he's one of the Bulldog captains. This game has the potential to go back and forth all night long, as Hawaii runs an offensive system that is essentially a two minute offense already, so don't expect them to panic should they fall behind. I'll take Georgia to win this one, but wouldn't be surprised one bit if the Warriors pulled it off.