New Year's Day recap, and a preview of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

    
January 2nd, 2008

Well, the first day of 2008 has come and gone, and with it six more bowl games. Unfortunately, as the day progressed the games became less competitive, capped by Georgia soundly whipping Hawaii in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Dawgs and USC, 49-17 winners over Illinois in the Rose Bowl, made impressive cases for their inclusion in the national title game. So once again, a system put together in hopes of giving college football a clear national champion has failed miserably. The winner of LSU/Ohio State may be put on the defensive almost immediately after the game because there will be some disputing of their merits. Missouri was left out of the BCS entirely, forced to play a mediocre Arkansas team that showed little interest in the Cotton Bowl. Instead of a USC/Georgia matchup in the Rose Bowl, the Tournament of Roses played the "tradition" card and promptly delivered one of the worst beatings in the history of the Rose Bowl Game. But hey, the system works...here's a recap of the day's games.

Outback Bowl: Tennessee defies logic once again.

Tennessee finishes the season with ten wins for the first time since 2004, and it's anyone's guess as to how they were able to accomplish it. Timely plays on offense combined with a solid defense got the Vols a 21-17 win over Wisconsin, constantly putting Wisconsin QB Tyler Donovan on the ground. Little did we know that Donovan's licking would be surpassed in the Sugar Bowl, but to his credit he kept going back for more and had a chance to get the win late. Tennessee got a late interception, and a year that began with people questioning Phil Fulmer ended with an SEC East crown and a bowl win.

Cotton Bowl: Tony Temple steals the show.

Two Heisman finalists, and it's a guy who missed part of the season due to injury that sets a Cotton Bowl record for the most rushing yards in one game. Temple, a senior hoping to regain a year after barely playing in 2004, ripped off 281 yards as the Tigers took out their frustrations to the tune of 38-7. As we've seen in years past, it's easy for snubbed teams to hang their heads and not play to their potential. Not here, and if Temple is able to return and Chase Daniel shuns the NFL Draft, Mizzou could get the BCS bid they deserved this year in 2008. As for the Hogs, some way to send out AD Frank Broyles. Playing with an interim head coach doesn't help matters, but I didn't see the same effort they put up against LSU. And why people are insinuating that Darren McFadden has a tough decision to make is beyond me. Unless winning the Heisman is really that important to him, he's gone.

Capital One Bowl: Michigan sends out Lloyd Carr with a win.

One of the true good guys in coaching went out with a nice win, refreshing when you consider some of the job carousel hi-jinks going on the past couple of weeks. Michigan rolled to more than 500 yards of offense in the 41-35 win, and the two-man show of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin couldn't pull it out in the end. Mike Hart fumbled twice, but he still ran for more than 100 yards, and how about Adrian Arrington? Most of the focus is on Mario Manningham, but Arrington had two of the season's best catches yesterday. Expect Michigan to put the ball in the air more next season with Rich Rodriguez in charge (remember that this offense was originally put together by Coach Rod with designs on throwing often), and Ryan Mallett has an absolute cannon. The seniors get their first bowl win as well. As for Florida, the early pick for national impact transfer of the year: RB Emmanuel Moody (from USC). If Moody can provide something on the ground for Urban Meyer, the Gators will be much more versatile on offense.

Konica Minolta Gator Bowl: Texas Tech does it again.

Last year, the Red Raiders came back from a 38-7 deficit to beat Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. This year, down 28-14 halfway though the fourth quarter was nothing for this team as they won 31-28 thanks in part to a much-maligned defense. A forced fumble deep in Virginia territory resulted in the tying score, then the Tech defense forced a three and out to set up Alex Trlica's heroics with two seconds remaining. While the result is disappointing for UVa, this is a young team for the most part that should contend in the ACC next season. Texas Tech also returns a lot, including QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree, and they could challenge Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 South if the defense can improve.

Rose Bowl presented by Citi: The only drama was in the coin toss.

Granted, the Illini made a charge early in the third quarter, closing to within 21-10 in the red zone. Then a fumble, the first of three turnovers in the quarter for Illinois, locked a door that was pretty much shut by the half anyway. Joe McKnight, he of the "I need $" eye black, showed the athletic ability that made him the nation's best recruit last spring. And Rey Maualuga was the cornerstone of an absolutely dominant Trojan defense. If Rey's chasing you, just fall down. You'll save yourself some pain, and chances are regardless of you 40 time he's going to run you down anyway. This game only makes the 24-23 loss to Stanford all the more glaring, as it was that game that cost USC a shot at the national title. But they, just like Georgia, are a team that no one would want to see right now. Illinois is a young team that has the opportunity to win the Big Ten next year, but they were clearly outclassed in Pasadena. The Tournament of Roses got the traditional matchup they wanted, and America got what it expected: a blowout.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Line play is the difference between Georgia and Hawaii.

This game went in about three stages. First, there was the talk of Hawaii possibly pulling a "Boise State". Then, the hope that the Warriors would stay in the game. And finally, about halfway through the third quarter I only hoped that no one would get seriously injured. Georgia put together their best performance of the season on the Superdome carpet, harassing Colt Brennan to the tune of eight sacks and three picks. Hopefully not lost in the d-line's dominance is Willie Martinez's unit taking away Hawaii's yards after the catch, a crucial component to their run and shoot offense. On both sides of the ball the Dawgs controlled the line of scrimmage, leaving little doubt who would win this game. But I get the feeling that this game was all about the journey for the Warriors. Sure they wanted to put together a better performance, but look at what they accomplished. People may scoff at their schedule, but keep in mind two things: scheduling the "big boys" is tough once they figure out that you can in fact beat them, and they played every week with the knowledge that one loss would end their dream. They get another shot at the SEC in 2008, opening at Florida. As for Georgia, they should be right there in the discussion for preseason number one.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
8 PM EST, FOX
West Virginia vs. Oklahoma

While the Sooners return to the scene of last year's loss to Boise State, they face a program in much different spirits than the Broncos. West Virginia is looking for a new head coach, suing their previous coach, and trying to recover from their stunning loss to rival Pitt on December 1st. WVU has a penchant for putting the ball on the ground in big games, with six turnovers against USF and a few more against Pittsburgh. If Pat White and Steve Slaton can find room to run, the Mountaineers can hang around. But the Sooners may be too stout on defense to allow that. Sam Bradford set an NCAA record for TD passes by a freshman, and he could add to those numbers tonight. West Virginia has a lot of upperclassmen who's like to end their careers with a win, and this game has become more about handling off-field distractions than preparing for Oklahoma. I like the Sooners.