Economic crisis? What economic crisis?
|Mossis Madu hopes to step it up for OU with DeMarco Murray out of the title game. (Getty Images)|
There are three teams from the state of Michigan going bowling, not one of them is Michigan.
It doesn't take much to get to the postseason these days. Seventy-something days ago, Florida Atlantic was 1-5. This week it finds itself in Detroit getting ready for the Motor City Bowl.
Two of the bowls feature rematches. Yeah, there might be too many.
Since the list of bowl have-nots has shrunk it's about time we funnel some of those bowl gifts to the less fortunate during this holiday season. How about leather Fiesta Bowl jackets for Arizona State? Sugar Bowl IPods for Auburn?
Settle into that butt groove on the couch, the season is upon us. Rating the bowls 1-34:
DeMarco Murray? OU don't need no stinking DeMarco Murray. Watch for Mossis Madu and Chris Brown (combined 1,573 yards, 26 touchdowns).
You think Oklahoma has injury problems? Florida has had six season-ending ACL injuries.
Both coaches have won a national championship in their second season at their school.
Both coaches have won a national championship at Florida.
Both coaches are from Ohio.
Both coaches have Heisman-winning quarterbacks.
Both coaches would kill for a little defense in this game. OU scored 316 points in its final five games. Florida hasn't been held under 31 since its only loss three months ago.
This should be a classsic. The two best teams (sorry Texas) in the two best conferences. Even a playoff couldn't guarantee this kind of matchup.
Ohio State is so familiar with the Valley of the Sun that there is a nearby city named Buckeye (really). If the Buck nuts keep bringing their cash, who cares?
By kickoff we will have heard, a few times, that Texas beat Oklahoma this season. The 'Horns want to mash the Buckeyes and hope that Oklahoma struggles to beat Florida. Question: How does an underdog (Sooners) struggle to beat the No. 1 team in the country (Gators)?
Suggestion for the office pool: Who will rush for the most yards, Terrelle Pryor or Colt McCoy?
3. Poinsettia, Dec. 23 |
|Jerry Hughes should give Boise State problems. (US Presswire)|
Same city. Same stadium. Call this Holiday Bowl I. These teams have a higher combined ranking than the teams in the actual Holiday Bowl (Oklahoma State-Oregon).
The Broncos are too good for the WAC and should be playing in the Mountain West. TCU should have won the Mountain West. His name is Ross Evans and he was a Groza Award semifinalist. If not for Evans' two missed chippies against Utah, TCU would have been conference champs.
If the TCU offense can produce enough points, Jerry Hughes (14 sacks, six forced fumbles) and company will find it easier to shut down Boise QB Kellen Moore.
4. Rose, Jan. 1
There are some 82-year-olds who work. But how many 82-year-olds have a contract? For three years? To coach major college football? There's only one and he'll be back on the sidelines (if the doctors give JoePa the go-ahead) in what is growing into a great Rose Bowl.
This is fourth consecutive trip to Pasadena for the Trojans who were pushed to the brink just to win a watered down Pac-10.
Dual-threat quarterbacks give USC problems. That means Daryll Clark could surprise. Still, USC's D is arguably the best this decade giving up only 7.8 points per game.
X-factors: Watch Penn State All-American D-end Aaron Maybin coming in off the edge. USC fullback Stanley Havili will be there to greet him.
5. Holiday, Dec. 30 |
The second-best non-BCS bowl. Oklahoma State averaged 200 yards passing and rushing for the second consecutive season. It scores 41.6 points a game with an all-Big 12 receiver (Dez Bryant) and rusher (Kendall Hunter).
LaVell Edwards is jealous. This is an old-fashioned Holiday throwback.
6. Cotton, Jan. 2 |
Now off of that hellacious 11 a.m. CT start, the Cotton Bowl will have our full attention. The only team to beat Texas (Texas Tech) meets the only team to beat Florida (Ole Miss).
Graham Harrell meet Greg Hardy, Peria Jerry and Kentrell Lockett. Texas Tech has allowed only 11 sacks, tied for first among BCS conference schools. Ole Miss' defensive line will have a say in No. 12 and beyond.
7. Alamo, Dec. 29 |
|Chase Daniel is ready to face Northwestern. (Getty Images)|
Bring your AP Stylebooks. Press box seating is limited to grads from these two schools. Yes, the Journalism Bowl is that exclusive.
Missouri's porous pass defense goes up against a hall of fame coach. Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald was named to the college hall this year.
The Tigers don't hope to repeat the Alamo. The last time they played here, they lost the 2007 Big 12 title game to Oklahoma 38-17.
8. GMAC, Jan. 6
Was that really Brady Hoke reading the Top 10 on the Late Show with David Letterman and interviewing with Auburn? Brady, what happened to those dull quotes? You've gone Hollywood on us. Or at least San Diego.
Hoke left enough in Muncie for possibly the best shootout of the bowl season -- David Johnson vs. Nate Davis. Both teams are in the top 11 in total offense.
Just keep telling yourself ... Utah is not Hawaii, Utah is not Hawaii, Utah is not Hawaii.
There shouldn't be a credibility gap regarding a non-BCS team in this year's Sugar. Utah's defense matches up favorably with 'Bama. The question is QB Brian Johnson and the Utes' offense. If Johnson is on, this could be an upset. If not, Utah will be picking Glen Coffee out of its teeth.
10. Capital One, Jan. 1 |
Underachieving vs. overachieving. Didn't Georgia start the season No. 1? Wasn't Michigan State expected to look up at the top of the Big Ten? Sparty went down to the last game of the season still hoping for the Rose Bowl.
Georgia's Knowshon Moreno needs to re-establish his Heisman cred for 2009. Matthew Stafford is providing game film for NFL scouts who dearly want him to leave early.
11. Sun, Dec. 31 |
|LeSean McCoy leads the Pitt ground attack. (Getty Images)|
Both of these schools controlled their fate for a BCS bowl late in the season. Their disappointment is tempered by a trip to Juarez. If they want to go while they're in El Paso, that is. You know ... for the sightseeing.
If Jacquizz Rodgers is healthy, this is the best postseason matchup between quality running backs. Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy helped lead the Panthers to a nine-win season.
"I think it's going to be (backup) Ryan McCants vs. LeSean McCoy," Beavers coach Mike Riley said.
'Quizz told a radio station a week before Christmas that he had a broken shoulder blade.
12. Champs Sports, Dec. 27 |
The spread is 41. Not points, that's the years separating the coaches, 79-year-old Bobby Bowden and 38-year-old Bret Bielema.
Now that Michigan has taken the postseason gas pipe, Florida State has the longest active streak with 27 bowls in a row. Meanwhile, Wisconsin is on a run of a school-record seven consecutive bowls.
Wisconsin was one of the biggest disappointments in '08. Its quarterback troubles were immense. Dustin Sherer took over for Allan Evridge in midseason. Neither got much done. Wisconsin turned it over 27 times including 16 fumbles. However, the Badgers can still run the ball with P.J. Hill (85 yards per game) and John Clay (70).
You've got to like FSU in this game. Its defense is faster than Wisconsin's offense. Its offense is incredibly balanced (more than 180 yards both rushing and passing) and Christian Ponder is getting better. The 'Noles should go into next season ranked and the favorites to win the ACC Atlantic.
|Jonathan Dwyer and the Yellow Jackets face the defending champs. (Getty Images)|
13. Chick-fil-A, Dec. 31 |
How did LSU's defense get this bad in a year? Statistically, it went from third to 36th in total defense. Aesthetically, it went from a pack of wolves under Bo Pelini to a group that looks slow and out of step. That 7-5 record wasn't all the quarterback's fault.
With a bowl game as the backdrop, that quarterback, Jarrett Lee, unofficially begins his hunt for a new school. Really, how does this guy stay around? He played bad. He got bad coaching. Les Miles is bringing in quality recruits and already has Jordan Jefferson.
This is not a good matchup. LSU's defense is confused enough and will get a heavy dose of 2009 Heisman hopeful Jonathan Dwyer.
14. Texas, Dec. 30
The most lethal touchdown connection of all time (Rice quarterback Chase Clement to receiver Jarrett Dillard) gets to go out in style at home in Houston. Clement has played six positions in his career. Dillard was a second-team All-American receiver this season.
15. Orange, Jan. 1
Non-BCS games that are better than the No. 21 Hokies meeting the No. 12 Bearcats:
Cotton Bowl: No. 20 Ole Miss vs. No. 8 Texas Tech
Holiday: No. 13 Oklahoma State vs. No. 15 Oregon
Poinsettia: No. 9 Boise State vs. No. 11 TCU
This Orange Bowl actually would have been a heck of a Motor City Bowl, or an Astro Bluebonnet Bowl circa 1984.
Both teams have quarterback issues. Tony Pike was fifth on the depth chart before injuries and Brian Kelly's coaching made him the starter.
Frank Beamer had the wisdom to consider redshirting Tyrod Taylor. Without him, Tech wouldn't have won the ACC.
16. Gator, Jan. 1 |
The Huskers are probably in a bowl one level above where they should be in the postseason. That's a salute to the Nebraska faithful who will pack Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in a rematch of the 1982 Orange Bowl that Clemson won to clinch the national championship.
Nebraska is used to playing in Florida (7-9 all time), just not in Jacksonville.
Scooby, dooby Dabo (Swinney) deserves credit for getting the coaching gig and his first Jan. 1 bowl game.
17. Las Vegas, Dec. 20 |
|Rob Gronkowski's Wildcats are bowling for the first time in a decade. (Getty Images)|
BYU has been a contradiction. The program was technically part of the Pac-10 overthrow this season, skunking UCLA 59-0 in September. But it also got drilled by the Mountain West's two best teams, TCU and Utah by a combined 80-31.
The 'Cats have to keep Willie Tuitama clean. The Pac-10's second-team quarterback has two of the best receiving threats in the West in Mike Thomas and Rob Gronkowski. Arizona is 85th in sacks allowed (27). That's OK, BYU doesn't do much sacking. It is tied for 71st in that category.
Always go with the team that is thrilled to be there. This is four consecutive Las Vegas Bowls for the Cougars. It has been a decade without a bowl for Arizona.
18. Emerald, Dec. 27 |
Tree Sitters vs. Mojito Sippers. Free Speech vs. South Beach.
Cal gets to play a de facto home game against the team formerly known as Miami. Actually, forget the "de facto". One team is traveling 13 miles. The other is traveling 3,000.
The 'Canes made strides this year but collapsed in key games against North Carolina, Florida State and Georgia Tech.
These two schools used to crank out quarterbacks. Now they have trouble finding a serviceable one. The Kevin Riley-Nate Longshore "battle" moves across the bay. Meanwhile, Jacory Harris will play for Miami after Robert Marve was suspended for a violation of team rules.
The difference in this game is Cal tailback Jahvid Best. The Pac-10's leading rusher ran for 512 yards and six touchdowns in his final two games.
Buffalo's D better get some turnovers as it did against Ball State in the MAC title game. Otherwise, this could get embarrassing. UConn's Donald Brown is the nation's leading rusher. Buffalo allowed 300-plus rushing games this season to Army and Kent State.
Good time to pick UConn. Playing its first bowl game, Buffalo has that just-glad-to-be-here feel. The Bulls are glad for something else: Coach Turner Gill will actually be around for a while after flirting with Syracuse and Auburn.
20. Outback, Jan. 1 |
Shonn Greene is a giant reason why the Heisman voting should be held after the bowl games. Iowa's forgotten running back surpassed 100 yards in all 12 games. The problem is the Hawkeyes started 3-3 while Big 12 quarterbacks were lighting it up.
South Carolina has become the exact opposite of what its coach wants it to be. In other words, agony to watch offensively. Only SMU (25) had more passes intercepted than the Gamecocks (24).
How does Vandy cope? This is usually a time of year for sleeping in late and enjoying the holidays. For the first time in 26 years the 'Dores will go bowling. Wouldn't you know, the game is in Nashville against a BC team that has won eight bowl games in a row.
BC must hope quarterback Dominique Davis rebounds from his dicey performance in the ACC title game in only his third career start.
Metroplex Mayhem II: These two met in September in Dallas because of Hurricane Ike. Air Force hung on to win 31-28 without completing a pass. Meanwhile, an unknown named Case Keenum for Houston threw 57 times (for four touchdowns).
Three-and-a-half months later, the teams meet again, this time in Fort Worth. Not Harrell, not Sam Bradford, not McCoy, but Keenum leads the country in total offense. This is a classic clash of styles -- Houston's up tempo vs. Air Force's traditional option.
This game also features two coaches who shouldn't be in their current jobs for long: Houston's Kevin Sumlin and Air Force's Troy Calhoun.
23. Insight, Dec. 31 |
|Expect many points from Todd Reesing's Jayhawks and the Gophers. (Getty Images)|
For a team that dropped off dramatically from '07, this is a nice landing spot for the Jayhawks. Minny's Tim Brewster was the national coach of the year until his team finished 0-4. Credit the power of the Big Ten in getting the Gophers to the postseason.
Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing will run around and make a lot of plays, throwing mostly to Dezmon Briscoe. Neither team will be able to stop the other. Kansas gave up 201 points in its last five games. Minnesota gave up 143 in its last four (104th in rushing)
Brewster gets to visit the site where the Minnesota opening was created. Two years ago, this bowl cost Glen Mason his job after the Gophers coughed up a 31-point lead to Texas Tech.
24. Liberty, Jan. 2
Vince McMahon (East Carolina alumnus) would be proud. This is going to be a wrestling match between the defenses.
Kentucky quarterback Randall Cobb was a phenomenon for part of the season after taking over for Mike Hartline. Cobb, though, probably will miss this game because of a knee surgery.
East Carolina is coming off a Conference USA title game in which it forced seven Tulsa turnovers. Coach Skip Holtz wisely turned down the Syracuse job. More bowl games (and better job possibilities) are in his future.
The season was so set up for Bill Stewart that you or I could have won 10 games with West Virginia. Instead, the Mountaineers finished 8-4.
If Stewart will let him, Pat White still can run the quarterback draw better than anyone. Don't forget he is the No. 1 rushing quarterback in history. If Carolina spies too much on White, Noel Devine is a home run hitter.
If you look at the statistics, Carolina isn't really good in any one area but Butch Davis has coached his way around injuries. The boo-boos eventually made a difference, though. Carolina beat three ranked teams -- UConn, BC and Georgia Tech -- by an average of 23 points. But a 31-point home loss to North Carolina State has folks wondering which way the Heels are headed in this "home" bowl game.
26. Hawaii, Dec. 24 |
How far Notre Dame has fallen? There was a time not too long ago when it turned down an invitation to the old Aloha Bowl. This year it is hitting its knees in thanks for getting to Hawaii.
The clock begins ticking on Charlie Weis in paradise. If he can't stop Notre Dame's nine-game bowl losing streak here then the wolves will come out of the surf before '09 even starts.
During the trip Weis can continue to recruit linebacker Manti Te'o. Don't give me any of this stuff about a dead period. Te'o will be a captive audience as the Irish take over Oahu.
Don't look for a crisp game. These teams have a combined 63 turnovers, 38 of them interceptions.
27. Papajohns.com, Dec. 29 |
N.C. State finished in a tie for last in the ACC Atlantic (or third if you want to look on the bright side) but had the all-ACC quarterback (Russell Wilson).
On Nov. 7, N.C. State didn't have an ACC victory then went 4-0 down the stretch. Wilson became a freshman sensation throwing 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last seven games.
Rutgers won six in a row to end the season. Look out for Mike Teel (18 touchdowns, four interceptions since Nov. 1).
|Will Shun White and navy beat Wake twice this season? (Getty Images)|
28. EagleBank, Dec. 20 |
Another sign there are too many bowls. The teams already have played (as have Houston and Air Force in the Armed Forces).
Navy upset Wake 24-17 on Sept. 27 in Winston-Salem, N.C. Why not play it again in an NFL stadium?
This is definitely a revenge game. Wake's Riley Skinner threw four interceptions in the first meeting and the Demon Deacons were held to only 43 yards rushing. Navy has added another concern in addition to its triple option. It ended with consecutive shutouts and has not allowed a point since Nov. 15.
It's always fun to watch teams struggle against the option. Expect it to happen again. Four Navy players have rushed for at least 475 yards including leader Shun White. Butkus winner Aaron Curry will have his hands full at linebacker for the Deacs.
No pressure on first-year Eagles coach Larry Fedora. Former coach Jeff Bower left quite a legacy. Southern Miss started 2-6, won four in row and now can clinch its 15th consecutive winning season. That's more than Michigan can say.
Southern Miss is in its seventh consecutive bowl. Troy won the Sun Belt but is most known this season for blowing a 31-10 lead at LSU.
You know it's bad when Maryland's athletic department has to refute reports that only 16 tickets have been sold for the trip out West.
When the tens of Terps fans show up in Boise, which Maryland team will show up? The same team that wacked Cal and shut out Wake, also lost to Middle Tennessee State. In one of the worst performances of the season, Maryland lost at home to Florida State 37-3 on senior night with the division on the line.
Nevada should be more comfortable in the winter weather. The 'Pack has the nation's No. 12 player in total offense (WAC Offensive Player of the Year Colin Kaepernick) and the WAC's leading rusher (Vai Taua). The last time Nevada was held under 31 was Sept. 13.
Matt Grothe, we wanted you to be great. You turned out to be average, at least this season. Once again the Bulls faded down the stretch going 1-4. Grothe threw three touchdowns and 11 interceptions in those last five.
32. Motor City, Dec. 26 |
This one's for bowl junkies only. Florida Atlantic started 1-5. Its victories are over UAB, Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Monroe, North Texas, Louisiana-Lafayette and Florida International. FAU had to beat FIU 57-50 in overtime just to get bowl eligible.
This isn't your father's FAU which won eight games and a share of the Sun Belt title last season. Just remember Rusty Smith is a poor man's Todd Reesing who is a poor man's Doug Flutie.
Larry English is the best player you never heard of. Northern Illinois' defensive end was the MAC MVP. Not just Defensive Player of the Year, Player of the Year. The school's all-time sacks leader and three-time all-MAC selection played the entire season with a cast on his right thumb.
This is bad news for Tech which is 102nd in passing.
For the first time the New Mexico Bowl is playing without New Mexico so you can imagine the demand for tickets. Lobos fans don't sell out University Stadium to watch their own team.
At least there's the buzz created by Fresno State's last game -- a 61-10 loss to Boise.