December 20, 2006

The Bowl Games I care about... Part I

TCU got things started with a 37-7 rout of Northern Illinois last night, but we all saw this one coming, right? TCU is a fairly respectable program that righted the ship after starting 3-2 for the year, ending up at 11-2. My perception of the program is that you can go and play at Texas or A&M after waiting two years behind other guys or you can play at TCU right away.

That aside, the bowl games for me truly do not start until the 27th. Why the 27th, is this an arbitrary date? No chance. Florida State will take on UCLA in the first bowl game that pits BCS school vs. BCS school. Call me crazy but if we're never going to put a undefeated, non-BCS team in the title game then why should I care about watching the lesser ilk of the non-BCS world?

The Noles-Bruins tilt kicks off a streak of 19 out of 24 bowls having BCS vs. BCS matchups. Alright, I am counting the Fiesta Bowl as Boise State and Oklahoma is interesting to me although Boise isn't a BCS school. However, its only the bowls that do feature the BCS pairings that hold my attention.

Here is yet another bowl rundown - The Pre-New Years' Bowls

Emerald Bowl: UCLA vs. Florida State
What is at stake here? UCLA is quickly becoming a media darling for 2007 after their win against USC. The Bruins can cap their season and begin to think big with a win. Florida State is here because this is where the conference sends its next to last team. Bowden still recruits well as evidence by their ranking on Rivals, however, the Seminoles are not the feared group that finished in the top five of football for 14 years running. Their 2007 slate is murder and a win would at least give hope heading towards next year.

Independence Bowl: Alabama vs. Oklahoma State
Alabama needs to just get this game over with and find their coach for next year. Oklahoma State is an offensive dynamo with no defense. They are motivated to play here, the Alabama kids just want to stop answering questions about who is next to captain the ship. The surprising bit about this game is that Alabama throws the ball well despite all the notions that the Tide has no offense.

Texas Bowl: Rutgers vs. Kansas State
Greg Schiano isn't bolting to Miami after all, but the Scarlet Knights deserved better than a December 28th bowl in Houston. Kansas State got their signature win for Ron Prince against Texas. The sad part was to watch them promptly lose to Kansas the next week out, 39-20. RB Ray Rice of Rutgers and QB Josh Freeman of K-State are the players to watch.

Holiday Bowl: California vs. Texas A&M
At first glance the Bears should dominate this game because I would guess they won't repeat their 2004 failure against Texas Tech after missing out on the BCS that year. Cal is a great team when they can run the ball and not throw interceptions. In their three losses, the Bears rushed for 106 yards as their best effort and had a 3 TD/ 7 INT ratio. Texas A&M comes into this one off an extreme high, ala UCLA, after downing Texas in Austin, 12-7. The Aggies are a team without a trend for losing their three games. They've won with good and bad running and passing days. The Wrecking Crew has still not gotten back to the fearsome 90's - allowing seven games of 100 yards or more rushing. Both Oklahoma teams went for 220+. One thing is for certain, both teams want this game to build a strong start for 2007. This could be one of the best games and the Holiday Bowl is usually a setting for fantastic finishes.

Music City Bowl: Clemson vs. Kentucky
This is a head and heart game for me. My head says take Clemson, my heart goes with Kentucky. The Wildcats have three advantages in this game. First, they will have the crowd with over 40,000 Wildcat fans getting tickets. Second, they have survived 2006 with a favorable turnover margin (+9) that leads the SEC. Last, they see Nashville as a reward where as the Tigers do not. Clemson wins everything else on the field. They are bigger, stronger, and faster. The Tigers should roll over the bad Kentucky defense that allowed two 300-yard rushing days to Louisville and LSU. On the flip, UK can score. The Cats passed for 28 touchdowns and only LSU held the Cats QB Andre Woodson under a 100-rating. The Tigers only allowed six TD passes all year, but did give up seven 100-yard rushing games. The problem is that running the ball was a Kentucky weakness all year long.

Sun Bowl: Oregon State vs. Missouri
The Sun Bowl is much like the Holiday Bowl in that be prepared for close game. Last year was a shootout and this could be a repeat. Oregon State got their moment beating USC. Missouri is still searching for their moment. For appearance sake, both teams want to be here, however as of last week, Missouri had only sold 10,000 of their ticket allotment.

Insight Bowl: Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
Okay, this might be the least of my favorite BCS vs. BCS matchups in the 2006 bowl season. Minnesota rallied to get to 6-6 and save Glen Mason's job, again. Texas Tech has plateau'd under Mike Leach. In his eight years at Lubbock, Tech is 62-38, but has never won more than nine games. To his credit, the Raiders have never won fewer than seven, but I get the feeling that the fanbase is growing restless of third place behind Texas and Oklahoma. I could be wrong. All that aside, this is a classic battle of opposing styles. Minnesota will run the ball, Tech will fling it all over the field. Tech's puzzling moment came in a 30-6 loss at Colorado. Minnesota to its credit only lost to bowl teams and only beat a reeling Iowa squad at the end of the year. Rightfully so, this game is on NFL Network. I don't imagine too much protest about not seeing it as opposed to the New York fans wanting to see Rutgers on the Network's other broadcast.

Champs Sports Bowl: Purdue vs. Maryland
The Battle of the Once-Praised Coaches. Tiller at Purdue = the above discussion of Mike Leach. Tiller stands at 83-53 in his 11 years at Purdue, but outside of a watered down Big Ten Championship in 2000, the Boilermakers have been a solid, not spectacular club. Ralph Friedgen at Maryland started like a house on fire, posting 31 wins in his first three seasons before winning only 10 games over the last two. Both teams will say they are looking to build upon this win, but something tells me that the winner will only end up in the Part I review of Bowls I Care About for 2007 as well.

Alamo Bowl: Texas vs. Iowa
If Colt McCoy quarterbacks the Longhorns after a pinched nerve ended his day against Texas A&M, then Iowa could look more desperate than the Americans at the bowl's namesake. Iowa stinks, period. Kirk Ferentz' hopes of going pro ended after this year when the Hawks sputtered to a 2-6 Big Ten finish, 6-6 overall. Who knew that an overtime win over Syracuse would be indicative of the Iowa 2006 season? Barely surviving against comatose teams. If you can run the ball and have a quarterback that can at least pass for 150 yards, you can win this game. Texas on the other hand has NO motivation for this game. Back-to-back Rose Bowls and now you get to party down in San Antonio? Great. Still, the Longhorns are too talented to screw this up.

Chik-Fil-A Bowl: Georgia vs. Virginia Tech
Nothing like being able to drive to your bowl game. For Georgia this is their fifth game in Atlanta in four years. For Virginia Tech, they are the quietest 10-win team amongst the BCS teams. They beat a solid Wake team, but lost to Georgia Tech and Boston College. Georgia is looking to gain more experience for their quarterback situation. Matthew Stafford appears to be the winner, but Joe Cox is sticking around campus. Either way, Georgia is using this extra time to get that nailed down for 2007. Virginia Tech is anonymous. Seriously, name any player at a skill position, I dare ya! However, Beamer excels when his team is not known. Tech's motivation is simply to keep things rolling in Blacksburg. This game should be even, but really will feel like an exhibition game. Both programs have nothing to prove.

Tomorrow or thereabouts will be the run-down of the post New Year's Day Bowls...

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.