Saturday, January 05, 2008

BOWLNANZA 2008: The BCS Championship. Bowl.

#1 Ohio State (11-1) vs. #3 LSU (11-2)

This is really much too familiar. Unlike Florida last year, I feel LSU legitimately deserves to be here (yes, USC's playing better, but they lost to Stanford and can go away), but on paper, this is OSU and OSU's game easy. There's the perception that the Buckeyes are the result of a weak schedule, but even allowing that (which I don't agree with), they've absolutely dominated that weak schedule like a #1 team should. Their only win that was close was against Michigan State, in a game where OSU outgained the Spartans by 235 yards. They've racked up the offense - outside of the Michigan game, they've cracked 350 yards in all their wins - and absolutely dominated on defense, holding 5 of their 12 opponents under 200 yards. This is not a paper tiger. But that said, there are cracks in the armor - even though OSU held Michigan to only 95 yards, the Buckeyes' 281 yards and 14 points was their worst output of the year. And that was coming off the heels of the Illinois loss, an absolute sore thumb of an anomaly where OSU's elite run defense was gashed for 260 yards. A mobile QB can throw a wrench in Ohio State's machine, and uh oh, LSU has one of those in Ryan Perrilloux! As for the Tigers, they're a bit of an enigma. They started out as an absolute monster going on a five-game tear where they looked like one of the all-time great teams, including a 48-7 whipping of Virginia Tech. But after being punched in the mouth by Tim Tebow's Florida Gators, LSU hasn't looked nearly as good, Louisiana Tech game aside. There's been, obviously, the overtime losses against Kentucky and Arkansas, as well as games against Auburn and Alabama that weren't close statistically, but wound up as LSU wins by 6 and 7 points respectively. But the real headscratcher is their 41-24 win against the Mississippi Rebels, where that stout LSU defense somehow gave up 478 yards to the bad offense of a bad team. As much flak as OSU's gotten for playing in the supposedly weak Big Ten, I think we can agree that most of that conference is better than Ole freakin' Miss. And really, that game in particular among LSU's late stretch makes me say that, if Ohio State's offense hadn't been stumbling down the stretch, the Buckeyes would be the easy pick. If that Buckeye offense had been rolling all year, this would be a no-brainer - Ohio State would get their points against the LSU defense either way, and would likely be able to hold the Tigers to enough where they could win, say, a 28-24ish game. But with the OSU offense faltering a bit, the spectre of that LSU/Virginia Tech game lurks - LSU could absolutely shut down an ineffective offense and has the offensive talent to put things away early and make it ugly late. But Ohio State is easily better than Virginia Tech - the Hokies are near the bottom in terms of offense, and while they have the statistically great defense, offensive talent in the ACC is down to Matt Ryan and the skill position players for Clemson. But it's that little seed of doubt planted in the OSU/Michigan game that makes this interesting - yeah, OSU absolutely shut down that Wolverine offense, but LSU probably won't roll over so easy, and if the LSU defense plays at 100% of their ability, they're easily better than the Michigan D that the Buckeyes didn't look too great against. Still, I'll go with my initial gut feeling - that Ohio State defense is quite excellent, and I mean, come on, Ole Miss?

My Pick: Ohio State
Confidence: 1


Bowling Green (8-4) vs. Tulsa (9-4)

YARDS! Who gains the most yards per game in the NCAA? No, not Hawaii or Texas Tech, but the mighty Golden Hurricane of Tulsa, on the arm of QB Paul Smith and on the...something of one of the worst defenses in the nation. BGSU is slightly less extreme, but cut from the same cloth: throw it a lot, and have a porous MACtastic defense. BGSU's a legitimately fine team, and this'll be the type of shootout where either team can win, but Tulsa has the much more impressive resume, being able to outgun BYU and destroy Houston, while Bowling Green has been above-average is a horribly down year for the MAC. Tulsa should be the favorite, but it's about a 55/45 pick 'em, so just sit back and watch the fireworks.

My Pick: Tulsa
Confidence: 1

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

BOWLNANZA 2008: The International Bowl

Ball State (7-5) vs. Rutgers (7-5)

If Mike Teel doesn't decide to throw this one away via interception, it could get ugly. Ball State has a high-powered offense, but that's probably been somewhat bolstered by playing MAC and Nebraska defenses, a far cry from Rutgers' top-fifteen unit, #2 against the pass. Expect Ray Rice to run at will. Yawn.

My Pick: Rutgers
Confidence: 3

BOWLNANZA 2008: The Orange Bowl

#8 Virginia Tech (11-2) vs. #9 Kansas (11-1)

Virginia Tech's had an interesting little year. They remained highly ranked for most of the year's start, despite getting absolutely annihilated by LSU and not looking all that impressive in quite a few of their wins. Then they just had enough, finishing the regular season by dominating Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Virginia (although they didn't look overly great in the ACC title game against BC). As for Kansas, the conventional wisdom is pretty much spot on - the offense is excellent, the defense is pretty good, and they're still somewhat of an unknown because of a weak schedule. Wait, an elite opportunistic defense and an inconsistent offense facing a team that looks excellent on paper but has lots of questions about their level of competition? Thank God I'm making this pick after watching the Sugar Bowl.

My Pick: Virginia Tech
Confidence: 3

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

BOWLNANZA 2008: The Fiesta Bowl

#4 Oklahoma (11-2) vs. #10 West Virginia (10-2)

Weird note of the day: Oklahoma has the better scoring and yardage offense, while West Virginia takes both categories on defense. And honestly, if it wasn't for WVU's shocking implosion against Pitt, this would be no contest - for 11 games, West Virginia marched down the field mostly at will, regardless of who was across the field. But the question is, can they do it against that Oklahoma defense? And the answer is yes. The Sooners have faced a number of high-powered offenses, and outside of North Texas, haven't really shut down any. Tulsa was kept somewhat in check, as was OK State, but Texas Tech, Missouri, and yes, the almighty Baylor, all broke 400 yards fairly easily. Combine that with an underrated Mountaineer D, and God help me, I'm picking an interim coach to win.

My Pick: West Virginia
Confidence: 2

BOWLNANZA 2008: New Year's Day

I'll have my schedule down next year, I swear.

OUTBACK BOWL: Tennessee vs. Wisconsin
Kind of a blah game between two good teams. I've found the Vols to be somewhat overrated, and Wisconsin to be underrated during the year, and that Tennessee secondary is still very bad. Wisconsin will be able to run the ball, since that's what they do, and they'll probably also be able to pass enough to win.
My Pick: Wisconsin
Confidence: 2

COTTON BOWL: Arkansas vs. Missouri
Darren McFadden was somehow ruled eligible despite mysteriously having a new SUV; unless he's allowed to drive it through holes in the offensive line, the best he can hope for is helping keep the game close.
My Pick: Missouri
Confidence: 3

CAPITAL ONE BOWL: Florida vs. Michigan
I realize Lloyd Carr is the Coach of the Year, but come on. I feel bad for this crop of Michigan seniors, who have somehow become the most accomplished group to never really accomplish anything.
My Pick: Florida
Confidence: 4

GATOR BOWL: Texas Tech vs. Virginia
I like UVA, but I think they'll be stunned that teams outside of the ACC have actual offenses.
My Pick: Texas Tech
Confidence: 3

ROSE BOWL: Illinois vs. USC
I'd like to, but not against a run defense that good.
My Pick: USC
Confidence: 3

SUGAR BOWL: Georgia vs. Hawaii
As much as memories of Georgia/Boise State a few years ago stand out in my head, I'm picking the upset. It'd be one thing if this was a team that could match the Warriors in a shootout, but I don't think Georgia's that team. Hawaii hasn't been spectacular this year, but Colt Brennan also hasn't been 100% - he's had time to heal, Knowshon Moreno can only run it so much, and in this year, it almost has to happen.
My Pick: Hawaii
Confidence: 2