Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bowl bonanza: 3 more today,chance to even my record

I must admit that after last night's game I was seriously considering taking the rest of the bowl season off.

I mean does it get any lower than seeing one of my favorite teams (FSU) knock the snot out of high & mighty UCLA but not really cheering for it because I hadn't been brave enough to pick the Noles to upset, or at least stay close, to the overrated Bruins?

But in the light of a new day I see things in a different perspective: with three games on tap I look at it as a chance to get my record back to .500 with one fell swoop.

Spoken like a true degenerate gambler, huh?

So without further ado I present my
Patented Sure-Fire Can't Miss 3-Pack of Picks
(warning: picks are not guaranteed to come true or win you any money. tampabaybostonian not responsible for any mortgage payments or digits lost)

Bowl # 10
PetroSun Independence Bowl
Oklahoma St. (6-6) vs. Alabama (6-6)
Shreveport, La.
LINE: Ok St. -2 1/2

Need to Know:
One of the best offenses in the country (OSU averaged 35 PPG, 8th in the NCAA) meets one of the stingiest defensive teams in the land ('Bama allowed 18 PPG, ironically good for 18th in the nation.)

On the flipside the Cowboys are horrible defensively (25 PPG allowed, 95th in the nation in total defense), yet the Crimson Tide is equally abysmal on offense, scoring just 22 points/game (75th in the NCAA.)

To further highlight the ying/yang effect in this game Alabama's offensive line is extremely sieve-like, giving up 26 sacks on the year, while OSU's defenders have registered 36 sacks on the season, good for 11th in the country.

Thus I've coined a new name for this game: The Something's Gotta Give Bowl II

Players to Watch:
The Cowboys offense is spearheaded by 5 big-play players: QB Bobby Reid (2,054 yards, 23 TDs); running backs Dantrell Savage & Keith Totson combined for 1,281 yards & 11 TDs; and receivers Adarius Bowman (1,131, 11 TDs) & D'Juan Woods (621 yards, 5 TDs) formed a potent running tandem. The 'Boys also have 2 other RBs who combined for 1,000 yards & 9 TDs, helping OSU average 208 yards on the ground, 8th in the NCAA.

The sack-prone defense is anchored by DEs Victor DeGrate & Nathan Peterson, who tallied 16 1/2 sack between them.

For Bama the offense is run by sporadic sophomore John Parker Wilson (2,539 yards, 16 TDs, 9 INTs), who can make a big play over the course of a game- for either team. The non-existent running game is led by senior Kenneth Darby, who despite 200 carries & 820 yards has yet to find the end zone this season. Receiver D.J. Hall (1,014 yards, 5 TDs)is Wilson's primary target, but Keith Brown will also give Wilson another option downfield.

The defense is headed by line backing duo Prince Hall and Juwan Simpson, helping the unit achieve a top-30 mark in total and scoring defense.

This is the second bowl to feature an interim head coach taking the reigns in place of a departed head man.

But unlike Brian Kelly's departure from Central Michigan, Mike Shula was forced out by influential boosters irate at the teams' regression to a 6-6 season. Didn't matter that Shula the Younger had led the team to a 10-2 record including a win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl last season.

My Pick:
So what will give this afternoon in Shreveport? In my eyes I always like a potent offense to overpower a decent defense, especially if said defensive team is anemic on offense. I watched a couple of Bama games this season- not pretty. The inability to generate any offense cost the team shots to beat SEC powers Florida, LSU, Auburn & Tennessee; it managed only 55 points in those 4 games. And their kickers are terrible (combined 20-29.)

Ok. St. may be erratic, losing to Texas, Tex A&M and K. St. and beating only Nebraska as far as major D1 schools go, but the explosive offense will pose problems for the Bama defense. Plus I think Bama is mediocre at best.
Cowboys 27, Tide 21

Bowl # 11
PacLife Holiday Bowl
Cal (9-3) vs. Texas A&M (9-3)
San Diego
LINE: Cal - 3

Need to Know:
This is another game that feature a high-powered offense vs. a stout defense; Something's Gotta Give III?

The Bears averaged 418 yards and 32 points per game, while the Aggies gave up just 18 PPG.

Players to Watch:
Cal has a myriad of talented skill players that make the offense click. Quarterback Nate Longshore threw for 2,786 yards & 23 TDs, while his primary target, DeSean Jackson not only can burn you with his receptions (54 recs, 974 yards, 9 TDs) but he's a deadly kick returner as well.

Meanwhile the running game is keyed by scintillating junior Marshawn Lynch. He ran for 1,245 yards and 9 scores and will probably head to the NFL after this game. He is electrifying and can be a game-breaker, as can Jackson.

A&M has a ground game that is a perfect compliment to Dennis Franchione's defense. The Aggies love to pound it on the ground, as it averaged 210 yards, 7th in the country. The attack is headed by Jovorskie Lane, who only had 689 yards but tallied 19 TDs (2nd in NCAA.) Mike Goodson is the other back, and he had 785 yards & 4 scores.

When the Aggies do pass, QB Stephen McGee looks for Chad Schroeder and Martellus Bennet; the pair combined for 1,067 yards & 6 TDs.

The A&M defense is led by DE Chris Harrington and LB Justin Warren. Cal's defense was a disappointment this season, ranked 90th nationally, and it tends to get burned by big plays quite a bit.

Franchione was the coach at TCU when LaDanian Tomlinson was there and the coach had the NFL MVP-to-be address the team yesterday. Not sure if it will help, but it certainly can't hurt.

Just like I said about the above game I like offense over defense-normally. After witnessing A&M shut down the vaunted Texas Longhorn offense in a season-ending 13-7 win, and knock Longhorn QB Colt McCoy out of the game with an array of punishing hits, I'm not sure if offense will win out in this one.

Cal has underachieved, looking bad in losing to Tennessee, Arizona and USC, and the defense scares me. I still like the Bears, but not by much.
Cal 30, Aggies 28

Bowl #12
Texas Bowl
Rutgers (10-2) Kansas St. (7-5)
8:00PM NFL Net
LINE: Rutgers - 8 1/2

Need to Know:
No team fell harder, farther and faster than the poor Scarlet Knights.

After knocking off then #3 Louisville Rutgers was 9-0 and staring down the barrel of a BCS bowl game an possible even a shot at the national championship.

Then it shit the bed and lost to lowly Cincinnati. Championship dream over.

But it still had a shot at the Big East title and the BCS bid that came with it.

Then it lost to West Virginia in a 41-39 2OT thriller that not only kept the Knights out of the BCS but landed them square in the purgatory known as the Texas Bowl.

To add insult to injury the game is being broadcast on the dreaded NFL Network, a channel that is not carried in the greater New York/New Jersey area. Ugh. (Mercifully the cable provider & NFL Net came to an agreement to allow the game to be seen for free, squelching rumors that say cable giants are unfeeling corporate monoliths.)

Players to Watch:
The Knights have one of the best running backs in the country in sophomore Ray Rice. The little (5'9") guy from New Rochelle burst on the college football scene this season with 1,624 yards (3rd in NCAA) and 19 TDs (T-2nd.) He single-handedly carried the Rutgers offense in many games, ands went over 200 yards rushing in a game 3 times.

Fullback Brian Leonard took a back seat with the emergence of Rice but he played a key role in the Louisville upset and is a bruising, hard-nosed runner; NFL scouts are salivating over this guy. Sophomore QB Mike Teel has his moments but canb't be counted on to move the offense consistently without help from Rice & Leonard.

Rutgers is also solid on defense, allowing only 15 PPG. The unit is anchored by DT Rameel Meekins, an excellent pass rusher and interior defender.

K. St. has neither a spectacular offense nor a great defense. It has won only 1 game against a bowl-bound D1 school, an upset of Texas as the Longhorns skidded down the stretch. But it lost to Nebraska, lost to Louisville and lost to Mizzou, so it wasn't exactly a national powerhouse.

RB Leon Patton led the team with 595 yards & 6 TDs and freshman QB Josh Freeman is a raw but talented signal caller, as his 6 TDs-13 INTs will attest to.

This could be another first in a year of many for the Scarlet Knights: first bowl victory in its long history; the Knights are 0-2 lifetime in bowl games. Last years' Insight Bowl bowl loss was the first time it had gone bowling since the Scarlet Fever days of 1976.

My Pick:
Everything had been storybook and fairy tales for RU up to the Cincy game. Head coach Greg Schiano was being touted as the Coach of the Year and a possible replacement for Larry Coker in Miami (he lost COY to Wake's Jim Grobe and won't be headed to Coral Gables.) Rice was being touted as a Heisman candidate (especially by yours truly) before his 54 yard effort vs. Cincy derailed that hope. And a Big East titler would have erased decades of futility and embarrassment for the once-proud program.

Still something tells me that Schiano will have his team ready to finish out the season the right way. Pride and positivity are hallmarks of Schiano's regime, and this game will be no different.
Rutgers will come out strong and finish strong, and in the end this Rutgers team will be able to call itself something no other team in the 100+ years of the school will be able to:
Texas Bowl Champion
(even if no one will be able to see it)
Scarlet Knights 35, Wildcats 23

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