Get Gamm – Bowl Style
It’s really hard for me to believe that football season is just about done. I know technically it has been done for a month now, but I mean bowl games and all. Seems like I was just researching teams for my preseason reviews. By virtue of “winning” my own contest, I will be picking solo for the bowls but there is still very much a race going on to see who wins the annual bragging rights. Picks are due before kickoff of the Insight and Champs Sports Bowls, which take place on December 29 at 8pm Eastern.
Insight Bowl – Minnesota vs. Texas Tech, 12/29
Champs Sports Bowl – Purdue vs. Maryland, 12/29
Alamo Bowl – Iowa vs. Texas, 12/30
Outback Bowl – Penn State vs. Tennessee, 1/1
Capital One Bowl – Wisconsin vs. Arkansas, 1/1
Rose Bowl – Michigan vs. USC, 1/1
Tostitos Title Game – Ohio State vs. Florida, 1/8
Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
Say it with me now – Minnesota is appearing in their fifth straight bowl, seventh in ten years after going to five, count ‘em five, in school history prior to this run. I don’t know which is more impressive; the current streak of the way the Golden Gophers romped through the last three games to become bowl eligible. A finger tip saved their season against North Dakota State and now Coach Mason and his squad have their sights set on another bowl victory.
That won’t be an easy task given the opponent, the potent Red Raiders of Texas Tech. Texas Tech finished the regular season 7-5, 4-4 in the Big 12. The Red Raiders had their share of competitive games this year, including an early season win over Texas A&M and tough losses to Texas and Oklahoma, but Tech also got hammered by a really bad Colorado team. The Red Raiders will look to pass all over Minnesota while the Golden Gophers will look to pound the ball on the ground, control the clock and attack with the opportune pass play. Without All Big Ten tight end Matt Spaeth, Minnesota will have a tougher time with the ball control part and we all know that the Gopher defense doesn’t exactly scare teams. Both teams can and will score, but Texas Tech pulls this one out. Texas Tech 38 – Minnesota 33.
Champs Sports Bowl
Purdue vs. Maryland
Another first time match-up between teams should be an interesting one to watch. Purdue can be explosive on offense but has been a nightmare on defense for much of the season – particularly against the run. Maryland has struggled offensively but beat perennial powers Florida State and Miami-FLA (though both barely got to bowl eligibility this season) and also nipped Clemson and plays tough defense. Come bowl season, in the wake of four or five week layoffs, the team with the better defense usually wins out.
But don’t discount Purdue’s chances. The ACC was down this season and Purdue played six bowl bound teams. Then again, the gold and black didn’t face either of the two Big Ten big boys – Michigan or Ohio State. What it really boils down to, no pun intended, is which Curtis Painter shows up. The one who led the Boilermakers to the NCAA’s 10th rated offense or the one who threw 18 interceptions? And will Kory Sheets help Purdue snap out of its ground game funk? Meanwhile, senior Sam Hollenbach helped his team overachieve and the Terrapin ground game should be able to control clock against the 112th rated run defense (out of 119 teams). In bowl games, as I indicated, the old adage that defense wins games often holds true. Maryland 20 – Purdue 16.
Iowa vs. Texas
This game often competes with the Holiday Bowl as best non-New Year’s Day bowl in the lot. This year, the battle for San Antonio has two big time programs that didn’t meet lofty preseason expectations. Iowa struggled through October and November and limps in having lost a very Michigan State like five of its last six. Texas put an early loss to Ohio State behind them and went on a run but lost its last two and played itself out of the Big Twelve title game and a big bucks BCS berth. Don’t let the recent struggles keep you from tuning in however, as this game could be much better than statistics, records and regular season finishes indicate.
Iowa is led by senior quarterback Drew Tate. Tate and his offensive line have been dinged up all season and it was a very underwhelming finish to an otherwise brilliant career. If the Hawkeyes are to pull the upset, Tate needs to be on his “A” game and Iowa needs to be well balanced. Texas is led by freshman quarterback Colt McCoy – if he is healthy enough to go. A severely pinched nerve has had the quarterback off and on the shelf during the recent slide and he needs to be a go to be sure that the ‘horns can fire on all cylinders. I like a healthy Iowa team to have a great shot in this one, but the fact is, Iowa is really banged up. Texas has too many weapons for Iowa to overcome, though this will be a tighter contest than many of the experts have it billed to be. Texas 31 – Iowa 23.
Penn State vs. Tennessee
Another case where the Big Ten gets to play a team that is just a play or two away from being a BCS bowler. Penn State was a solid but unspectacular 8-4 this season. Its losses came at Notre Dame, Ohio State and Wisconsin and home against Michigan. Yes, that list includes three BCS teams and one who would be in without the “only two per league rule” but Penn State also had to escape with wins against average Minnesota and disappointing Michigan State. Tennessee, meanwhile, lost to Florida by one, lost to LSU on a last second score and to SEC Title contender Arkansas on the road. The Vols hammered Cal and Georgia and overcame plenty of injuries to put up nine wins.
This is a game where the Penn State defense will have to step up and win it with big plays. The Volunteers should be healthy and back to their explosive ways on the offensive side of the ball. The Nittany Lion secondary will be tested by Ainge and Meachem and you can bet that Tennessee will scheme away from Paul Posluszny. On offense, Penn State needs to get consistency out of the ground game and some big plays from Anthony Morelli. Unfortunately it just isn’t the Big Ten’s year when it comes to the bowl match-ups. None of them are particularly favorable up to and including this game. It wouldn’t be a miracle for PSU to win but it will take a near perfect performance and I just don’t see that happening. Tennessee 27 – Penn State 17.
Capital One Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Arkansas
Spare me the fact that Wisconsin only faced one ranked opponent en route to a record-setting 11-win season. The Badgers are more BCS worthy than Wake Forest and Boise State for sure, maybe even more than Notre Dame. But alas, a conference cannot send three schools to monopolize the much bandied about system so the Badgers land in Orlando for what should be a very entertaining game with Arkansas. If you like rock ‘em, sock ‘em, old fashioned, hit you in the mouth football that is.
Call this one the PJ Hill and Darren McFadden show. Hill was named newcomer of the year in the Big Ten and is a bruising, load of a tailback. McFadden was runner-up (by several hundred miles) in the Heisman race and oh by the way takes some snaps as quarterback as well. The Razorbacks came back strong from the season opening blowout loss to USC and were two close losses to LSU and Florida away from spending the season in Glendale instead. It is true that the Badgers had a soft-ish slate, but to go 7-1 in the Big Ten and win 11 games, you have to be doing something right. The difference in this will be who can get it done through the air. I like John Stocco over Casey Dick any day in a passing game. The Big Ten finally gets off the schnide… Wisconsin 27 – Arkansas 24.
Michigan vs. USC
I know that fans of both schools wanted to be playing their last game of the year one week later in Glendale, but truly, is there a better, more classic bowl match-up anywhere in the 32-game slate this season than in the Granddaddy of them All? USC is young but great. Michigan is seasoned and even better. Both had their way with Notre Dame and other ranked opponents but both lost tough road games against their arch-rivals, that – well – put them right here in Pasadena for New Year’s. Michigan should take heart though, if OSU slips in the title game and the Wolverines beat USC, there’s a really good chance that the maize and blue will do what USC did when the Trojans took out Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl – steal the AP Poll top spot and create a split championship.
First thing’s first though – taking care of business. USC has what seems like a five headed monster at tailback and two of the top receivers in the game. And, the Southern Cal defense isn’t too shabby either. Michigan has tremendous balance on offense, led by Mike Hart at tailback and the Henne to Manningham air connection. The real difference maker? Defense. Michigan simply has one of the toughest, most dominating defenses in college football. LaMarr Woodley is a monster as a rush defensive end and Leon Hall is a smothering defensive back. The Wolverines have not won a Rose Bowl since 1998 – coincidentally the last time Michigan shared a piece of the national championship. Michigan 24 – USC 23.
Tostitos National Championship Game
Ohio State vs. Florida
Let’s be brutally honest – on paper, this should be no contest. Florida is good and did run a gauntlet of opponents in the SEC, but Ohio State has been number one since day one and that probably won’t be changing. That Ohio State got here unscathed isn’t so much a story, how they did so is. Think to last year. The scarlet and gray had an amazing defense chock full of NFL draft picks. Nine of them departed, many landed in the first round of the NFL draft and yet this year’s defense might have been, as a unit, BETTER than last year’s! It isn’t a shock that the offense was impressive. Troy Smith was this year’s Vince Young. And is there a guy as reliable as Anthony Gonzalez? Or as potentially game-changing as Ted Ginn? And don’t forget Antonio Pittman, an oft over-looked but quite good tailback.
Yes, Florida (cough, clear throat) earned their way into the title game and cannot be overlooked, but come on, who scares you more – Smith or Leak? Ginn or Baker? Pittman or Wynn (or even Tebow)? This will be a game though, because that’s how it plays out. When a team should win big (see Miami the year OSU last won the title), they often get too big for their britches. The big difference is that Jim Tressel won’t let that attitude permeate his program. Florida will make this a game. Ohio State is going to have to fight off some major rust and the postseason awards banquet circuit. It’ll be close well into the second half, but in the end, the best team in the country all season long will prevail. Ohio State 33 – Florida 24.