Monday, December 31, 2007

Gator Bowl Preview

Virginia vs Texas Tech 1:00 ET CBS
Jacksonville, FL
Line: TT -6, 59

Virginia Cavaliers (9-3, 6-2)
The Cavaliers had an inauspicious beginning to the season by losing at Wyoming by 20 points. After that game, the Cavs won 7 straight games, 5 of them by 5 points or less. They won 6 games total by 5 points or less this season. Virginia had a chance to win the Atlantic, but lost to rival Virginia Tech in the regular season finale.
Best Win: vs Wake Forest 17-16
Worst Loss: @Wyoming 3-23
Record vs Bowl Teams: 4-1
Record vs BCS Top 25: 1-1
Schedule Strength: 73rd
HC Groh in Bowl Games: 3-1

Texas Tech Red Raiders (8-4, 4-4)
Texas Tech had a good year, but has still not been able to break through the Texas-Oklahoma lock on the South Division. The Red Raiders put up more than 40 points 7 times during the year, but also gave up 30+ points 5 times. The highlight of the season was the home win over Oklahoma.
Best Win: vs Oklahoma 34-27
Worst Loss: @ Missouri 10-41
Record vs Bowl Teams: 2-4
Record vs BCS Top 25:
Schedule Strength: 75th
HC Leach Record in Bowl Games: 4-3

Virginia Offense:
QB Jameel Sewell had a very good sophomore season in comparison to a rough freshman year. The Cavs rushing attack was led by Cedric Peerman until he went down with injury. Mikell Sampson came off the bench and is very good at receiving out of the backfield. The Cavs like to pass to their TEs, which is foreign object to Texas Tech.

Texas Tech Defense:
Defense is Lubbock is sometimes just a means to get the ball back to the offense. They are not very good at stopping the run (171 ypg), but the pass defense is pretty good; probably because it has to go against their own offense every practice. Only 1 team has thrown for 300 yards on the Red Raiders.

Texas Tech Offense:
Graham Harrell is another in the line of gunslingers out of Leach's offense. His main target is freshman Michael Crabtree who won the Bilitnenikoff Award. The Red Raiders don't really like to run the ball and have just 1 game with 100+ yards.

Virginia Defense:
Chris Long leads the Wahoos on defense with his 14 sacks. LB Clint Stitim has 8 sacks on the year as well and leads the LB corps. Surprisingly, Long is tied for the team lead in pass breakups with 7. Virginia's top DB is likely out for not studying hard enough (aka academics).

I would think Virginia feels slighted being nearly a touchdown underdog to a team with 1 less win. Texas Tech badly wants to break through to that next level and a New Years Day Bowl win could set the wheels in motion for a Big 12 title run next year.

Texas Tech has only seen 1 defense as good as UVA's this year and that was Oklahoma. I think they can negate Virginia's pass rush because they get the ball out of Harrell's hands quickly. Virginia will keep it close though with ball control and grab some turnovers.

Texas Tech 28 Virginia 24
Texas Tech Wins, Virginia Covers, Under

Cotton Bowl Preview

Arkansas vs Missouri 11:30 AM ET
Dallas, TX
Line: MZ -3, 68

Arkansas Razorbacks
(8-4, 4-4)
The Razorbacks entered this season after a tumultuous off season from off the field problems with Houston Nutt's cell phone and the transferring of former Parade All American QB Mitch Mustain to USC. Arkansas suffered three closes in the first half of the year, but closed strong with a win over LSU in Baton Rouge. Houston Nutt turned down an extension and left for Ole Miss. Nutt made the move because he "wanted to unify the Arkansas fanbase".
Best Win: @ LSU 50-48 3OT
Worst Loss: @ Tenn 13-34
Record vs Bowl Teams: 2-4
Record vs BCS Top 25: 1-2
Schedule Strength: 64th
HC Herring Record in Bowls: 0-0

Missouri Tigers (11-2, 7-1)
Missouri was a little under the radar this year, but burst onto the scene by going 11-1 during the regular season and winning the Border War against Kansas. The Tigers lost to only one opponent this year Oklahoma - once in Norman and once in the Big 12 Championship.
Best Win: vs Kansas 36-28
Worst Loss: vs Oklahoma 17-38
Record vs Bowl Teams: 5-2

Record vs BCS Top 25: 1-2
Schedule Strength: 25th
HC Pinkel Record in Bowls: 10-4

Arkansas Offense:
Darren McFadden will run the ball as a running back. He will run it as a QB. He will pass it out of the Wildhog formation. The Wildhog formation maximizes McFadden's touches and is very tough to defend because the junior is a very good passer in addition to being the best running back in the nation. The two-time Heisman runner up is joined by Felix Jones who would start on most teams in Div I; the tandem has 1,000 yards rushing each on the year. The QB Casey Dick is more of game manager than passer. When he does look down field, he will look for Marcus Monk.

Missouri Defense:
The Tiger D is an unsung group that has played the entire year in the shadow of the offense. They are good against the run allowing just 118 ypg. The pass defense has not been as good, but is still respectable at 262 ypg.

Missouri Offense:
Chase Daniel was too short to play for the "big time" programs, but was good enough for Missouri. The 4th place finisher in the Heisman passes the ball all over the field out of the shotgun, but his favorite target is redshirt freshman Jeremy Maclin. Maclin is a very dangerous receiver as well as an outstanding return man. When the Tigers run the ball, they will hand it off to Tony Temple. This offense is very high powered and has shown the ability to score on anyone; they
were held to 30 points only 1 time this season.

Arkansas Defense:
Interim HC Reggie Herring is also the DC for the Razorbacks. Arkansas has been a little soft against the run giving up almost 150 ypg. The Razorbacks have a strong secondary led by Vontae Richardson and Michael Grant. Arkansas is much better against the pass giving up just 211 ypg through the air.

The BCS' loss is the Cotton Bowl's gain. Missouri was robbed off a BCS bid in favor of Kansas who the Tigers beat on a neutral field. But Arkansas is in a coaching transition where there coach decided to go a rival school in the same conference. I am not sure what the players are thinking of Bobby Petrino after his history of job searching. Throw in that Darren McFadden could be thinking of the NFL and Felix Jones is also considering leaving and the Razorbacks motivation advantage is negated.

Oddsmaker Notes:
Missouri is 5-1 ATS on neutral fields in the last 3 years. Missouri is 8-2 ATS in their last 10 against teams with winning records.

Both teams have done well ATS this year. Arkansas is 7-4 and Missouri is 9-3.

If Arkansas is able to get McFadden going running and passing, then Arkansas is going to very tough to stop on offense. Missouri may come out a little flat with a BCS hangover still, but Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin will get going. The Razorbacks have trouble coming from more than two scores down because of their anemic offense.
Missouri 35 Arkansas 27
Missouri Wins, Covers, Under

Outback Bowl Preview

Tennessee vs Wisconsin 11:00 AM ET
Tampa, FL
Line: Tenn -1.5, 58

Tennessee Volunteers (9-4, 6-2)
The Vols were left for dead after two bad SEC losses, but they scratched and clawed their way to the SEC East title after escaping the last two weeks of the regular season. After an embarrassing loss to Alabama, the Vols won 5 in a row to make it to Atlanta. They kept LSU close until late turnovers sunk the Vols SEC title hopes. Tennessee is making a return trip to the Outback Bowl where they lost to underdog Penn State last year
Best Win: vs Georgia 35-14
Worst Loss: @ Alabama 17-41
Record vs Bowl Teams: 5-4
Record vs BCS Top 25: 1-2
Schedule Strength: 19th
HC Fulmer Record in Bowls: 7-7

Wisconsin Badgers (9-3, 5-3)
The Badgers started off the year strong at 5-0 before a road loss to Illinois. They kept Ohio State close for 3 quarters in Columbus. Wisconsin was undefeated at home this season.
Best Win: vs Michigan 37-21
Worst Loss: @ Penn St 7-38
Record vs Bowl Teams: 3-3
Record vs BCS Top 25: 0-1
Schedule Strength: T-48th
HC Bielema Record in Bowls: 1-0

Tennessee Offense:
The Vols will have OC David Cutcliffe for this game, but you have to wonder how much of his focus has been on the game and how much is in Durham where his new job awaits. QB Erik Ainge will have his swan song and will be looking to increase his impressive passing totals (3,157 yards 29 TDs). Ainge has been well protected by the o-line which has allowed just 4 sacks on the year. The rushing attack is led by Arian Foster who has over 1,100 yards on the season. The Vols will be without their best receiver Lucas Taylor due to academics.

Wisconsin Defense:
The Badgers D has had its struggles this year. Wisconsin has allowed just 15 rushing TDs all year, but 10 of those have come in their 3 losses. The secondary is strongest part of this unit led by Shane Carter and Jake Ikegwuonu.

Wisconsin Offense:
RB PJ Hill is expected to play after being banged up at the end of the year. True freshman Zach Brown has shown a lot of promise and will spell Hill. QB Tyler Donovan is a threat to run or pass on any down.

Tennessee Defense:
This defense has been beleaguered all year allowing 59 points to Florida and 41 to Alabama. The Vols will be without two starters due to academics. The best player on D may be true freshman Eric Berry. LB Jerrod Mayo is a leading tackler and will be focused on stopping Hill.

Wisconsin backed into this game after Penn State lost their finale. The Vols showed a lot of resolve down the stretch to win the East and came up just short in the SECCG. I think the players will be motivated to win for Cutcliffe, but I wonder where his focus is.

Oddsmaker Notes:
Tennessee has lost 7 of their last 9 bowl games.

Watch for Wisconsin punt returner David Gilreath because he is on the nation's best. The Badgers have blocked two punts this year.

Looking at Wisconsin's season, they did not beat anyone they were better than at full strength. The Michigan win came when Chad Henne and Mike Hart were not a factor. Tennessee seems like the easy pick, but I would be concerned about Cutcliffe's focus.

Tennessee 31 Wisconsin 28
Tennessee Wins, Covers, Over

Chick Fil A Bowl Preview

Auburn vs Clemson 7:30 ET ESPN
Atlanta, GA
Line: Clem -2.5, 46

Auburn Tigers (8-4, 4-4)

Auburn started off the season very slow at 1-2,
but turned their season around with an upset over Florida at the Swamp. The Tigers nearly took the SEC West away from LSU, but a last second pass dealt them a loss. Tommy Tuberville ended the season with his 6th straight victory over Alabama. Then he proceeded to flirt with Arkansas for their head coaching vacancy. After resigning with Auburn he gave OC Al Borges a push out the door and hired Troy OC Tony Franklin.
Best Win: @ Fla 20-17

Worst Loss: vs Miss St 14-19
Record vs Bowl Teams: 3-4
Record vs BCS Top 25: 1-3
Schedule Strength: 29th
HC Tuberville Record in Bowls: 6-3

Clemson Tigers (9-3, 5-3)

Typical season for Clemson. Started off great, hit a mid season slump, recover, have a chance to win the big game, and piss yourself. This
Clemson team did not beat anyone of significance all year, but also did not have have a bad loss. They played well within themselves and had a good chance to win 11 out of their 12 games. They recovered nicely from the letdown of the loss to BC by beating their in state rival South Carolina for the 7th time in 9 years.
Best Win: vs Wake 44-10
Worst Loss: vs Virginia Tech 23-41
Record vs Bowl Teams: 4-3
Record vs BCS Top 25: 0-2
Schedule Strength: T-27th
HC Bowden Record in Bowls: 4-3

Auburn Offense:
This has been top secret #1 leading up this game because nobody is really sure what Auburn is going to run. New OC Tony Franklin, who brings a spread attack from Troy, has said that he will allow senior Brandon Cox to start and play most of the game. Cox is a dropback passser who has seemed to regress over the last few years and does not fit in with Franklin's style. Cox's backup Kodi Burns does fit into the new offense and should get more snaps than he has lately. Cox has thrown for over 200 yards just once this season and has thrown more INTs than TDs (12 to 9). His best wideout is Rodrigues Smith, but the receiving group overall is very average. The running attack is led by Brad Lester and Ben Tate. The Auburn o-line starts 3 freshman.

Clemson Defense:
The Tigers from SC will be without two starting linebackers due to
academics for the bowl game. Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie combined for 168 stops during the year. The third original starting LB Courtney Vincent got a DUI a few weeks back and his status is unknown. The d-line is led by Phillip Merling and Ricky Sapp who should get pressure on Cox often due to an inexperienced Auburn line. The secondary is led by a good tandem at safety - Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemmons. The corners can be beat when the QB is given time.

Clemson Offense:
Coming into the year, Clemson thought they had one of the best pair of RBs in the country. But James Davis and CJ Spiller have not had the kind of seasons they thought largely due to an inexperienced offensive line. Surprisingly, QB Cullen Harper had a very good year setting Clemson passing records in just his first season starting. The junior has thrown 27TDs to 6 INTs and is close to 3,000 yards on the season. His main target is Aaron Kelly who has 84 receptions and 11 TDs. The three
headed monster of Davis, Spiller, and Harper will tell the tale for Clemson. In their three losses, Davis and Spiller have 86 rushing yards total and Harper has thrown 4 of 6 picks.

Auburn Defense:
Auburn's defense is predicated on pressure from their ends Quentin Groves and Antonio Coleman. Groves has recently also been playing OLB in a 3-4 look by DC Will Muschamp. The linebackers are sideline to sideline tacklers but depend on Josh "Stump" Thompson to clog the middle at NT because they are undersized. The secondary is a good covering unit; Jerraud Powers and Patrick Lee have picked off 4 passes each.

Odds and Ends:

Besides the Tiger Bowl and the Tommy bowl, this could also be the "Arkansas Got Me A Raise Bowl" since both Tuberville and Bowden flirted with Arkansas.

Neither team is great in the kicking game. Auburn's Wes Byrum has not made a 40+ yard field goal since beating Florida. Clemson's Matt Buchholz, also a soccer player, is just 6-15 from 40+.

Auburn and Clemson squared off at Fire Brazil last Wednesday in an eating contest. In unofficial results, Auburn ate 765 pounds of meat while Clemson had about 590.

The Chick Fil A Bowl is one of the most successful non-BCS bowls. It has averaged over 71,000 fans per game, the most of the non BCS bowls. The game also scores well on TV usually rating among the highest of the non-BCS bowls.

One of the biggest reasons for success in the game has been the ACC-SEC matchup which began in 1993. The ACC has won 8 of the games, while the SEC won last year giving them their 7th. The total points gives the ACC a two point advantage - 302 to 300.

Both of these programs have proud traditions and are glad to be playing in what many consider the best non-BCS bowl. Clemson has a chance for a 10 win season and to set the tone for next year when they have 16 starters returning. Auburn has new life in the program in the form of a new OC. Anytime you beat Alabama, it sets the wheels in motion to finish off the season strong.

Oddsmaker Angle:
As mentioned before, Clemson goes the way of their three headed monster of Davis, Spiller, and Harper. In their three losses, Davis and Spiller have 86 rushing yards total and Harper has thrown 4 of 6 picks.

Auburn's rush defense statistics are a little misleading. They held Arkansas' Darren McFadden to under 50 yards and stuffed Tim Tebow for most of the game. But in their four losses, they gave up an average of 164 yards on the ground.

Auburn is just 1-5 ATS vs ACC teams in the last 15 years. They are 6-1 ATS as underdogs since 2005. They are also 6-1 ATS this year when playing a team with a winning record.

Clemson has practiced much of this week at the Georgia Dome while Auburn opted to practice at Georgia Tech. Last year's winner Georgia practiced in the Dome and Va Tech practiced at Tech.

The SEC has been pretty impressive so far this bowl season, but so has the ACC. Each conference has beaten another conferences' champion or co-champion with a middle of the pack team. The X-factor has to be what Auburn will do on offense. I don't they have had time to implement the entire spread offense, but they will have packages specifically for Burns to run during the game. This could be trouble for a Clemson defense missing possibly their top 3 LB. Clemson arguably lost to 3 of the 4 best teams they played on their schedule.

Auburn 24 Clemson 21
Auburn Wins, Covers, Under

Music City Bowl Preview

Florida State vs Kentucky 4:30 ET ESPN
Nashville, TN
Line: KY -9, 57

Florida State Seminoles (7-5, 4-4)
It seems that seasons like this are now more the norm than the exception at FSU. The Seminoles failed to compete for the ACC title and were plagued by inconsistent QB play again. Since their last game, FSU has endured a cheating scandal and the hiring of a future head coach while their current one is still on the job (and doesn't have plans of his own to leave).
Best Win: @ BC 27-17
Worst Loss: @ Florida 12-45
Record vs Bowl Teams: 4-4
Schedule Strength: 52nd
HC Bowden Record in Bowls: 20-9-1

Kentucky Wildcats (7-5, 3-5)
Kentucky's program has come a long way under Rich Brooks who was almost fired two years ago. For two weekends in a row this season, Kentucky was the center of the college football universe. After beating LSU in 3 0T, the Wildcats hosted Florida and ESPN Gameday in a losing effort. The Heisman run of QB Andre Woodson and all of the close games took a toll on Rich Brooks' club though as they lost 4 of their last 5 down the stretch with the lone win coming against Vanderbilt.
Best Win: vs LSU 43-37 3OT
Worst Loss: vs Miss St 14-31
Record vs Bowl Teams: 4-3
Schedule Strength: 9th
HC Brooks Record in Bowl Games: 2-3

Florida St Offense:
The Seminoles brought in former LSU OC Jimbo Fisher to run their offense after the Jeff Bowden debacle, but have yet to see results. The Noles scored above 30 points just 1 game this year and were held below 21 in 6 outings. Drew Weatherford will get the starting nod after platooning with Xavier Lee this year; Lee is suspended for the game. WR Greg Carr is a great red zone receiver at 6'6". Antone Smith has had a decent year running the ball, but also watch for Preston Parker. Two starting offensive lineman are also suspended and FSU is only bringing 6 scholarship lineman to Nashville.

Kentucky Defense:

The Wildcats have struggled on defense this year, especially against the run. 11 of their 12 opponents ran for over 100 yards against them. Kentucky is pretty good against the pass allowing just 1 team to throw for more than 260 yards on them. LB Wesley Woodyard, another senior, is the Wildcats best defender. DE Jeremy Jarmon and his 9 sacks will hope to take advantage of a depleted FSU o-line.

Kentucky Offense:

Offense is the engine that drives Kentucky. In three games, they scored more than 50 points and eight times were above 40. Woodson will be playing his final game in Kentucky blue. The senior threw 36TDs and over 3,600 yards on the season. Rafael Little will get the majority of the carries due to an injury to Derrick Locke. Kentucky's number one receiver Keenan Burton is doubtful due to injuries. If he cannot go, then Woodson will turn to Dicky Lyons Jr and TE Jacob Tamme. The magic number for the Wildcats is 24 because they were 0-3 when scoring under that mark.

Florida State Defense:
It is expected that FSU will be without two starting d-lineman putting pressure on the LB corps which are led by Geno Hayes and Derek Nicholson. Top DB Patrick Robinson is also rumored to be out leaving the Noles without their top corner. When at full strength, FSU's D was pretty good giving up just 22 ppg and 350 total ypg.

Odds and Ends:
Kentucky is appearing in two consecutive bowls for the first time since 98-99. The Wildcats will be going for consecutive bowl victories for the first time since 1950-51. Kentucky could make a clean sweep of the Bowden's in bowls after beating Tommy last year.

The full list of suspended Seminoles will not be fully known until game time. Bobby Bowden has done very well in bowl games and is undefeated in December bowls. FSU is making its 26th straight bowl appearance.


This one will be tough to figure. Kentucky could not be taking this game seriously considering 36 FSU players will not be making the trip. They could be thinking they can just show up and win. FSU on the other hand has to be down about the scandal that has rocked the entire athletic department. But it could be a motivating factor for the backups who will get a chance to showcase their abilities.

I want to pick Kentucky big, but I am worried about their focus because of the suspensions. Still, if FSU's starters can only go 7-5 in the ACC then how can their backups beat an SEC team? Bowden has always been very good in bowl games, but his control of the program is slowly being taken out of his hands. I think Kentucky and their 40,000+ fans in Nashville drive them to victory, but the Noles make it interesting.
Kentucky 34 Florida State 27
Kentucky Wins, FSU Covers, Over

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Humanitarian Bowl Preview

Fresno State vs. Georgia Tech Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ESPN2
Boise, Idaho
Line: GT -6, 54.5

Fresno State (8-4, 6-2)
The Bulldogs are bowling for the 8th time in the last 9 years under Pat Hill. The coach who bears an uncanny resemblance to the guy on Orange County Choppers has beaten 11 BCS teams and will be looking for his second victory over Georgia Tech in a bowl game. Fresno State played Texas A&M to overtime this year and also had narrow losses to Boise St and Hawaii.

Best Win: @ Nevada 49-4

Worst Loss: @ Oregon 21-52

Record vs Bowl Teams: 1-4

Schedule Strength: 90th

HC Record Hill in Bowl Games: 3-4

Georgia Tech (7-5, 4-4)

The Yellow Jackets had high hopes after starting the season with a 33-3 win at Notre Dame, but by early October those hopes had quickly faded to a 3-3 record. Tech finished the season with another 7-5 record and another loss to Georgia. A combination of these led to the firing of Chan Gailey and the hiring of Paul Johnson who will take over after the bowl game. Interim HC Jon Tenuta will coach the Jackets for the bowl and then will be looking for employment elsewhere as Johnson has already hired a new DC.

Best Win: vs Clemson 13-3

Worst Loss: vs Va Tech 3-27

Record vs Bowl Teams: 1-5

Strength of Schedule: T-59th
HC Tenuta Record in Bowl Games: 0-0

Fresno State Offense:
Fresno's offense has good balance and averages over 200 yards rushing and passing on the season. Their top tailback Ryan Matthews is out with an injury, so expect to see Clifton Smith and Lonyae Miller with most of the carries. Tom Brandstater has shown good accuracy at QB completing over 60% of his passes. Brandstater has thrown 14TD to just 5 Int on the year.

Georgia Tech Defense:
You can expect Tenuta, who is also the DC for this game, to put his stamp on his one and only game as Head Coach at Georgia Tech and that means a lot of blitzing. The Jackets routinely blitz one or two linebackers hoping to force the opposing QB into bad decisions. Georgia Tech leads the nation in sacks with 48 on the year. Because of blitzing, Tenuta's
defensive backs are usually in one on one coverage that could yield some big plays for opposing offenses. If the Bulldogs are going to move the ball, it better be through the air because Tech allows just 104 ypg and 2.9 ypc rushing.

Georgia Tech Offense: Tashard Choice is the horse that makes Tech go on offense. The senior is enjoying his second straight year 1,000 yard rushing season despite missing one full game and half of two other games. The same cannot be said for Tech's passing attack which has been anemic at best. The Jackets have just 8TD passes on the year. QB Taylor Bennett is completing less than 50% of his passes and has 9 INT to just 6TD. Freshman Josh Nesbitt will also see action at QB in running situations.

Fresno State Defense:
Against BCS league teams, Fresno gave up over 750 yards rushing and 10TDs in three games. The pass defense is not much better giving up 227 ypg with just 3 picks on the year. These numbers are skewed a little bit since the Bulldogs did play Nevada and Hawaii this year. The best defender for Fresno is LB Marcus Riley.

This is one is pretty clear cut in Fresno's advantage. Georgia Tech is in a coaching
transition - many of the coaches will be moving on next year including Tenuta and the coach they were all recruited by (Gailey) is gone. Teams in coaching transitions are 0-5 so far in bowl season. Also, Tech had high hopes coming into this year, but is in Boise in 30 degree temperatures for their bowl game, not Miami or Atlanta or Jacksonville. Fresno has beaten 11 BCS teams under Pat Hill and does not back down from anyone.

Georgia Tech is the more talented team and Tenuta's bowl preparations could buck a trend of lackluster performances under the previous regime. This bowl game is at 11AM ET and Tech has had trouble in early starting games this year. Still with the new coach coming on board and speculation of assistants retained or let go there is a lot of talk around the program that does not involve this bowl game. This plays right into the hands of Fresno. For Georgia Tech to win this game, then they need to ride Tashard Choice down the field. History tell us that the Yellow Jackets play to the reputation of their opponent.

Fresno State 28 Georgia Tech 17
Fresno State Wins, Covers, Under


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has released its Super Southern 100. Alabama and Georgia lead the committment list with 12 and 10 respectively. Despite the frustrations of a 6-6 regular season, Alabama is having a great off season already due to a bumper recruiting crop in the state that should give the Tide and Nick Saban more to look forward to next year. Saban recruited many of the starters you will see in the BCS Championship Game for LSU.

Alabama 12, Georgia 10, Florida State 5, LSU 4, Notre Dame 3, NC State 3, Clemson 2, Miami 2, Ohio St 2, USC 2, Virginia Tech 2, South Carolina 1, Miss State 1, North Carolina 1, Auburn 1, Tennessee 1, Florida 1, Kentucky 1, Ole Miss 1.

The rankings cover Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Georgia ranks second in the South with 19 of the Super Southern 100. The state of Georgia is usually near the top in terms of the caliber of college recruits it churns out. Mark Richt hopes his talent rich state will land him in more than the Sugar Bowl next year.

States by Ranking:
Florida 27, Georgia 19, Alabama 11, Virginia 8, Louisiana 7, North Carolina 7, South Carolina 6, Mississippi 5, Tennessee 4, Arkansas 3, Kentucky 2.

Notre Dame Football Lives Here

not really. Only in Lou Holt's mind.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Independence Bowl Preview

Colorado vs. Alabama Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ESPN
Shreveport, La.
Line: Alab - 3.5, 51.5

Alabama Crimson Tide (6-6, 4-4)
Did you hear Alabama hired Nick Saban last off season? Despite his $4 million dollar salary, he did not better than Mike Shula only matching the 6 wins from last year. Some would consider this season even more disappointing considering the 4 straight losses down the stretch after the Tide were in contention for the SEC West. Back to back 6-6 seasons get you a return trip to Shreveport.
Best Win: vs Tenn 41-17
Worst Loss: vs La-Monroe 14-21
Record vs Bowl Teams: 3-5
Schedule Strength: T-10th
HC Saban Record in Bowls: 4-5

Colorado Buffaloes (6-6, 4-4)
In Dan Hawkins second year, the Buffaloes are bowling again. Colorado played a difficult non-conference schedule and only became bowl eligible on the last week of the season.
Best Win: vs Oklahoma 27-24
Worst Loss: @ Kansas St 20-47
Record vs Bowl Teams: 2-4
Schedule Strength: 30th
HC Hawkins Record in Bowls: 2-2

Alabama Offense:
This unit should try not to mess it up this game like they have down the stretch. RB Terry Grant is the main horse in the backfield, but he had a better first half of the season than second half. QB John Parker Wilson is not enemy #1 in Tuscaloosa, but he is close to it because of his turnovers in key spots. Wilson will throw it all over the field and he does have some big play WRs in Keith Brown and DJ Hall who need to step up this game.

Colorado Defense:
You wouldn't know Colorado was fielding a defense by the way they rank. The Buffaloes opponents average over 4 ypc on the ground and Colorado ranks 101st in pass defense. Still, this defense is used to playing passing teams and could take advantage of poor play by Wilson.

Colorado Offense:
RB Hugh Charles is the horse the Buffaloes ride. Charles finished the season strong with a 169 yard performance in the final regular season game. Quarterback Cody Hawkins, Dan's son, is getting better, but has still thrown 15 INTs on the season.

Alabama Defense:
Despite the troubles on offense, the Crimson Tide defense fielded a good unit this year. The defense has 19 picks on the year and could harass Hawkins with their 3-4 defensive scheme. The run defense is led by DE Wallace Gilberry who has over 20 tackles for loss on the year.

I think this swings way in the favor of Colorado. Saban is looking to next year as rumors are discussing who he will 'invite" back and who doesn't fit his system and will move on. After the LSU game, this Crimson Tide team came out very flat the next two games. After all the turmoil Colorado has been through the last 5 years, they are glad just to be here.

Alabama has more talent and the better X's and O's coach, but Hawkins is more focused on this game and cares more about finishing this season; Saban wants to move to Spring Practice and all the hype that will bring again with a highly ranked recruiting class coming in. Colorado stubs its toe a few times, but overcomes those with emotion to win this game.

Colorado 31 Alabama 27
Colorado Wins, Covers, Over

The $4 Million Kiss

Friday, December 28, 2007

Liberty Bowl Preview

Central Florida vs. Mississippi State Dec. 29, 4:30 p.m. ESPN
Memphis, Tenn.
Line: UCF -3, 55.5

Central Florida (10-3, 7-1)
The Knights won Conference USA landing them a Liberty Bowl Berth. George O'Leary's club did not shy away from out of conference competition this year playing Texas close and beating NC State on the road. They are led by junior running back Kevin Smith who needs 181 yards to break the NCAA single season rushing record held by Barry Sanders.
Best Win: vs Tulsa 44-25
Worst Loss: @ So. Fla 12-64
Record vs Bowl Teams: 4-3
Schedule Strength: 69th
HC O'Leary Record in Bowls: 3-3

Mississippi State (7-5, 4-4)
Sly Croom was feeling some heat before the season began, but an early win at Auburn set the tone for the Bulldogs run to a bowl game. The Bulldogs capped the season with a second straight victory over Alabama and a come from behind win over rival Ole Miss. Ed Ogeron was "Croomed" afterwards.
Best Win: @ Auburn 38-17
Worst Loss: @ South Carolina 21-38
Record vs Bowl Teams: 2-3
Schedule Strength: T-45th
HC Croom Record in Bowls: 0-0

Central Florida Offense:
It starts and ends with Smith. One couldsay he got those rushing numbers against weak competition, but the junior got 149 yards against Texas and 217 vs NC State. Why throw when you have Smith? Good question and the Knights are smart enough not too very often. QB Kyle Israel has just 6TDs on the season to 5 Ints.

Miss St Defense:
Darren McFadden is the best back the Bulldogs have seen this season so far and they limited the Heisman runner up to just 88 yards. Croom's crew has given up 100+ yards to just 3 backs this year. The pass defense is also good ranking 10th in the nation with 182.2 ypg. This defense is the reason Miss St is in a bowl game.

Miss St Offense:
Miss State would have liked to rely on TB Anthony Dixon more this season, but he been banged up with injuries most of the year. Dixon will have a chance to eclipse 1000 yards in the bowl game. QB Wesley Carroll is just a freshman and his play down the stretch was erratic throwing 4INTs against Arkansas in a loss.

Central Florida Defense:
UCF is very respectable against the run allowing just 132 ypg. The news is not as good against the pass where the Knights rank 85th allowing just under 250 ypg. Teams like to pass against this defense, but that could be tricky because this group has 23 INTs on the year.

I think this game is one where both sides will bring it. UCF wants to prove they are worthy against an SEC team. Miss State wants to finish off their comeback season on a high notes; 8-5 will go down in history, but 7-6 won't. I would also think the Bulldogs may feel a little slighted being the underdogs to a Conference USA team.

Miss State doesn't have much on offense and that could really come back to hurt them as high powered offenses are the trend this bowl season. They will need to create turnovers and limit Smith's touches to win this game.

Central Florida 33 Miss State 23
UCF Wins, Covers, Over

Meineke Car Care Bowl

Wake Forest vs. Connecticut Dec. 29, 1 p.m. ESPN
Charlotte, N.C.
Line: WF -2, 47.5

Wake Forest (8-4, 5-3)
The Deacs are making their 8th bowl appearance in nearly 120 years of football and their 1st back to back bowl appearance. They challenged for the Atlantic Divsion title until early November after starting 0-2.
Best Win: vs FSU 24-21
Worst Loss: @ Clemson 10-44
Record vs Bowl Teams: 3-3
Schedule Strength: 35th
HC Grobe in Bowl Games: 1-1

UConn (9-3, 6-2)
The Huskies tied for the Big East crown in just their 8th year at the Div I-A level of football. They started 8-1 before losing 2 of their last 3 on the road.
Best Win: vs So. Fla 22-15
Worst Loss: @ Cincinnati 3-27
Record vs Bowl Teams: 2-3
Schedule Strength: 25th
HC Edsall in Bowl Games: 1-0

Wake Forest Offense:
The Demon Deacons like to use a lot of misdirection and zone blocking to make up for a lack of size on the line and speed on the edges. WR Kenneth Moore is their all purpose guy who is dangerous down field and on reverses. Sophomore QB Riley Skinner is not going to beat with his arm as he has just 1 game with over 220 yards passing on the year. He has thrown 12 INTs to just 11 TDs.

Uconn Defense:
Randy Edsall's defensive stats were hurt by the West Virginia game where they gave up a third of their total rushing TDs for the season (7 of 20) and over 536 yards. The Huskies defense is led by the LB corps who have 9 INTs on the year; as a team UConn ranks 4th nationally in picks with 22 and 5 of those were returned for touchdowns.

Uconn Offense:
UConn features a two back system of Donald Brown and Andre Dixon who combined for over 1550 yards this year. QB Tyler Lorenzen is in the athletic mold of his counterpart Skinner and can tuck it down and run. Expect Uconn to try and grind this one out on the ground as Lorenzen is mainly a game manager.

Wake Forest Defense:
The Deacs have been very good on defense this year yielding just 109 ypg on the ground and that includes a game against Navy. The front 7 is very good, but the secondary is even better. CB Alphonso Smith is tied for tops in the nation with 8 INTs on the year. Expect Jim Grobe to put 8 men in the box against UConn and make Lorenzen beat them.

I don't see much of an edge for either in this game as both of these programs are excited just to be in a bowl. Grobe is known for his teams playing above their talent, but Edsall is making a name for himself in that category as well.

This may be the fastest bowl game played because both teams like to keep it on the ground. Both teams are excellent in turnover margin with Uconn at +13 and Wake at +10 on the season. I like Wake Forest because their defense is better and they have one of the best kick and punt combinations in the country.

Wake Forest 20 UConn 19
Wake Wins, Uconn Covers, Under

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Emerald Bowl Preview

Emerald Bowl San Francisco

Maryland vs. Oregon State
Dec. 28, 8 p.m. ESPN
Line: OSU -5, 48

Oregon State (8-4, 6-3)
The Beavers are hot coming into this game having won 6 of their past 7 games. They finished 3rd in the Pac 10. Their best win was a 31-28 defeat of then #2 Cal. Their worst loss was was 40-14 drubbing at home against UCLA.
Record vs Bowl Teams: 3-4
Record vs BCS Top 25: 0-2
Schedule Strength: 21st

Maryland (6-6, 3-5)
The Terps come limping into this game, litterally with many injured players, but they also won just 2 of their final 6 games over the 2nd half of the year. The Terps beat 2 top 10 teams during the year (Rutgers, BC) and only Illinois and LSU did that. Maryland's best win was 42-35 over Boston College. Their worst loss was at North Carolina 16-13.
Record vs Bowl Teams: 3-5
Record vs BCS Top 25: 1-3
Schedule Strength: 27th (Tie)

Maryland Offense:
The Terps are led by running backs Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball. The two have combined for over 1500 yards and 25 TDs during the regular season. Lattimore is the inside runner and Ball is the speed back on the outside. The rushing attack was very up and down this season though being held to under 100 yards in 5 games - the Terps lost 4 of those. QB Chris Turner will look to the speedy WR Darius Heyward-Bey to move the ball through the air, but other than that Maryland is weak in the passsing game ranking last in the nation with just 7 TD passes.

Maryland Defense:
The buck (or beaver) stops in the middle with LB Erin Henderson. The brother of NFLer EJ Henderson is sideline to sideline tackler who will have his eye one the OSU running backs all game. Other than that, the defense for the Terps is very ordinary and inconsistent.

Oregon State Offense:
The Beaver offense is led by tailback Yvenson Bernard who ran for over 1000 yards despite missing two games and being injured for others. He was needed because OSU didn't do much through the air except throw the ball to the other team (20 INT on the year).

Oregon State Defense:
The Beavers are very tough against the run yielding just 75 ypg on the ground. The Beaver defense is not nearly as successful against the pass partly due to playing in the Pac 10. This is a go for broke unit that will stop the run and get after the QB - they have 42 sacks on the year.

Oregon State finished the season red hot with a win over rival Oregon. The 3rd place team in the Pac 10 did not envision a baseball field for its bowl game. Maryland destroyed NC State to get into this bowl after a tumultous season filled with injuries. I think Maryland is just happy to be here while Oregon State may be sulking some.

If you give Ralph Friedgen a month to prepare, he will come up with schemes to put points on the board. Maryland has won their last 3 bowl games by a combined 95-17. Oregon State overwhelmingly has the talent advantage in this game though. I think Friedgen's offense can keep it close, but the Beavers have too much in the end.

Oregon St 28 Maryland 24
OSU Wins, Maryland Covers, Over

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

ACC vs SEC Bowl Matchups

Music City Bowl Nashville
Dec 31 4PM ESPN
Florida State vs Kentucky
Latest Line: KY -10, 57

This will be the first of two ACC-SEC matchups in bowl games and it has been all over the headlines and not for good reasons. The line opened as Kentucky -1, but has stretched all the way to -10 due to the suspensions of nearly 30+ Seminoles due a cheating scandal. Only some of the players have been named and the rest will likely not be known until game day.

Kentucky is making a return trip to Nashville after stunning Clemson last year. Andre Woodson was known around SEC circles before last year's MCB, but the he got to showcase his talents to the nation in thrashing the Clemson's defense.

In addition to the academic scandal news, the other news was Jimbo Fisher being named the successor to Bobby Bowden. The move received mixed reaction especially from Bobby himself who may feel he is being pushed out the door. Is this team going to show up or pack it in for next year because of the suspensions? Could Kentucky be underestimating FSU will all of the suspensions?

Chick Fil A Bowl Atlanta
Dec 31, 8PM
Auburn vs Clemson
Latest Line: CU-2.5, 46.5

Two schools that are very much alike-Both mascots are Tigers; both have winning traditions; both have coaches who used Arkansas to get raises.

Clemson saved their regular season by beating rival South Carolina for the 7th time in the last 9 games on the final play of the game. This was after the Tigers blew a chance at the ACCCG by losing to BC at home. They have a record setting QB in Cullen Harper and a dynamic running back duo in James Davis and CJ Spiller. But, the real breadwinner for Clemson has been their defense this season.

More of the headlines are coming out of Auburn where OC Al Borges "resigned" a few weeks back and Tony Franklin was hired from Troy as the new OC. It is suspected that the Tigers are going to implement Troy's spread offense during the bowl practice to get a head start on next year. This leaves outgoing Senior starter Brandon Cox in an interesting position because the offense suits next year's starter Kodi Burns much better.