2005 Bowl Game Projections, Part 3

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Santa has been good to me so far this bowl season; I�m currently undefeated
in my predictions with a perfect 9-0 record. However, the bowl games get tougher
as the holiday season winds down and I�m sure to have some misses soon. In
this article I�ll cover the bowl games for the next two days, including two
games involving ACC teams: Boise State vs. Boston College in the MPC Computers
Bowl and Utah vs. Georgia Tech in the Emerald Bowl.

Most of the bowl games have gone as expected and most of the games have been
competitive. The ACC is off to a 1-0 start with Clemson getting the expected
victory over Colorado 19-10. The Tigers definitely look like a team to watch for
next year and their defensive effort was impressive, though the Buffalos were
operating without their starting quarterback, Joel Klatt. Running back James
Davis looks like a future star in the conference and their defense should be
very good next year led by defensive end Gaines Adams and middle linebacker
Anthony Waters. My statistical projections were off a little, but that was due
mainly to the futility of the Buffalos� offense without Klatt at quarterback,
enabling Clemson to stack the line-of-scrimmage against the run. Here is a quick
look at how my projections came out for this game:

Champs Sports Bowl
Clemson Colorado
Projected Actual Projected Actual

First Downs
21 17 18 9

Rushing Attempts � Yards
35-101 37-146 31-104 29-15

Passing Completions � Attempts
25-38 22-30 22-36 11-24

Passing Yards
272 210 229 108

Total Yards
373 356 333 123

1 1 3 0

Here are the games for Wednesday and Thursday of this week:

MPC Computers Bowl: Dec. 28 � Boise State (9-3; 7-1) vs. Boston College
(8-3; 5-3), 4:30 PM EST, ESPN

The second bowl game involving an ACC team pits the Boston College Eagles
against the Boise State Broncos, who get to play at home on the blue �smurf
turf.� Boise State basically backed into the WAC title when Nevada upset
Fresno State after the Bulldogs had demolished Boise State 27-7 a couple of
weeks earlier. The Broncos upgraded their out-of-conference schedule this year
by opening with Georgia (losing 48-13 in a total rout) and then playing Oregon
State (losing 30-27 but much more competitive). Boston College has had a fine
first season in the ACC, only having one lop-sided loss to Virginia Tech
(30-10). The Eagles played Florida State tough before losing (28-17) in their
first ACC contest, and their only other loss was to North Carolina (16-14) after
suffering a let down from the big loss to the Hokies on Thursday night. BC
picked up some nice wins down the stretch, defeating N.C. State 30-10 and
knocking off a Maryland squad (31-16) that needed a win to become bowl eligible.
Overall Boston College has to be happy with their first season in the ACC.

Boston College benched their season-opening starting quarterback, Quinton
Porter (#15, 6-5 233, r-Sr.) in favor of the more poised passer Matt Ryan (#12,
6-5 221, r-So.) after the North Carolina game. While not as athletic as Porter,
Ryan has shown more poise in the pocket and is less apt to make bad throws. Ryan
will operate behind a huge offensive line led by fifth-year seniors, left tackle
Jeremy Trueblood (#72, 6-8 330) and center Pat Ross (#66, 6-4 295). The leading
receiver for BC is converted cornerback Will Blackmon (#1, 6-0 202, Sr.) who has
had a fine year with 46 receptions for 619 yards. Defensively, the Eagles are
led by all-everything defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (#94, 6-7 261, r-Sr.) and
an outstanding linebacker corps headed by Brian Toal (#16, 6-1 223, So.) and Ray
Henderson (#3, 6-3 227, r-Sr.). Boston College has been particularly tough
against the run, only allowing 2.7 yards per carry and it will be interesting to
see how Boise State handles the physical line play of the Eagles.

Boise State is led by quarterback Jared Zabransky (#5, 6-1 203, Jr., 2,283
passing yards) who has rebounded from an awful game in the opener against
Georgia to have a solid season. The Broncos rely on a balanced offensive attack
that operates behind a young, but talented offensive line. Boise State starts
two redshirt-freshmen and two redshirt-sophomores on the offensive line, so
fifth-year senior Daryn Colledge must steady the squad. Colledge is a four-year
starter and is considered a high NFL draft choice, so hopefully we�ll get to
see him matched up with Kiwanuka at times. The Broncos spread the ball around on
offense, with their best playmaker being running back Lee Marks (#17, 5-7 181,
Sr.) with 735 yards rushing (5.9 average). On defense, Boise State is led by
middle linebacker Korey Hall (#25, 6-0 228, r-Jr.). The defensive line will be
tested against BC�s huge offensive line, so tackles Alex Guerrero (#99, 6-1
293, Sr.) and Andrew Browning (#57, 6-0 278, r-Jr.) will need to step up. For
the season, Boise State has generally been solid against the run, but struggled
against better passing teams, so the young secondary led by cornerback Gerald
Alexander (#2, 5-10 197, r-Jr.) will be challenged.

Looking at the game statistically, here are the averages for the season for
the two teams (rounded to the nearest whole number):

MPC Computers Bowl
Boston College Boise State
Offense Defense Offense Defense

26 15 37 24

First Downs
21 19 23 19

Rushing Attempts � Yards
37-147 36-95 44-216 31-106

Passing Completions � Attempts
22-35 22-35 17-29 21-39

Passing Yards
242 212 215 262

Total Yards
389 307 431 368

Plugging all of the data into my statistical projection model, here is how the
computer sees the game:

MPC Computers Bowl Projection
Boston College Boise State

First Downs
20 21

Rushing Attempts � Yards
32-115 42-164

Passing Completions � Attempts
24-40 19-32

Passing Yards
273 195

Total Yards
388 359

2 2

The computer gives Boston College a slight edge in the game with the key being
the Eagles ability to throw the ball on Boise State�s inexperienced secondary.
The Eagles will need to control the line-of-scrimmage and Matt Ryan needs to
have a big game for Boston College to overcome the Broncos� home field
advantage. I like the ACC to pick up their second bowl win with Boston College
winning a close one � Boston College by 3 (24-21).

Mastercard Alamo Bowl: Dec. 28 � Michigan (7-4; 5-3) vs. Nebraska (7-4; 4-4),

Two big-name college powers clash in the Alamo Bowl, though both teams had
hopes for a much bigger bowl at the beginning of the season. The Wolverines had
a disappointing season after many, including me, picked them to win the Big 10
this year. Michigan lost a tough early game to Notre Dame (17-10) and then lost
to Wisconsin and Minnesota by identical 23-20 scores. After a thrilling
last-minute victory over Penn State (27-25), which gave the Nittany Lions their
only loss, and quality wins over Iowa (23-20) and Northwestern (33-17), the
Wolverines lost their rivalry game to Ohio State 25-21. Nebraska started strong
but suffered a three-game losing streak late in the season to Missouri (41-24),
Oklahoma (31-24), and Kansas (40-15). The most impressive Husker victory this
season was probably in their last game, winning 30-3 over North Division champ

On offense, Michigan is led by sophomore quarterback Chad Henne (#7, 6-2 226)
with 2,256 passing yards and 20 touchdowns with only 7 interceptions. His
favorite target, by far, is Jason Avant (#8, 6-1 210, Sr.) who has 74 catches
for 936 yards and 8 touchdowns. The normally strong Michigan running game has
struggled at times this year due to injuries to sophomore Michael Hart (#20, 5-9
192, 588 yards) and the offensive line, which has had to make numerous changes.
Defensively, Michigan is led by defensive linemen Gabe Watson (#78, 6-4 331,
Sr.) and Pat Massey (#94, 6-8 284, Sr.). Highly touted defensive end/outside
linebacker LaMarr Woodley (#56, 6-2 268, Jr.) is capable of having big games,
but the linebacker corps this year has been disappointing overall. The
secondary, headed by cornerback Leon Hall (#29, 5-11 191, Jr.), has been
adequate but has not made enough big plays.

Nebraska has struggled for most of the season on offense, with the normally
unstoppable Cornhusker ground game only managing 2.6 yards per carry. The
Huskers have to rely more on the pass with Wake Forest transfer Zac Taylor (#13,
6-2 210, r-Jr., 2,525 passing yards) at the helm. His favorite target is Nate
Swift (#87, 6-2 195, r-Fr.) who has 42 receptions for 610 yards and 6
touchdowns. Defensively Nebraska has been strong, led up front by defensive
tackle Le Kevin Smith (#66, 6-2 305, r-Sr.) and defensive ends Adam Carriker
(#90, 6-6 280, Jr.) and Jay Moore (#44, 6-4 270, Jr.). The secondary has been
solid, headed by strong safety Daniel Bullocks (#14, 6-1 210, r-Sr.).

The key to this game will be the ability of the Nebraska offensive line to
handle Michigan�s defensive front. I just can�t see the Huskers winning that
battle and the Nebraska offense will likely struggle in this game. Michigan�s
offensive line is relatively healthy now (as compared to most of the season) and
Michael Hart should play, so the Wolverines should be able to generate some
offense. I see this contest being one of the more one-sided bowl games this year
� Michigan by 16.

Emerald Bowl: Dec. 29 � Georgia Tech (7-4; 5-3) vs. Utah (6-5; 4-4), 4:30 PM

The third bowl game involving an ACC team pits the tough defense of the
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets against the explosive offensive of the Utah Utes.
Georgia Tech ended the season in odd fashion, losing to Virginia 27-17, then
upsetting Miami 14-10, and then losing to arch-rival Georgia 14-7. The Yellow
Jackets have played great defensively for most of the season, but an erratic
offense has led to inconsistent results. Utah, coming off last year�s
undefeated season, has to be considered a disappointment after finishing in the
middle of the Mountain West Conference. The Utes have a high-powered offense,
but this unit even struggled during the middle of the season during a three-game
losing streak to North Carolina (31-17), Colorado State (21-17), and San Diego
State (28-19). So, this contest looks like a battle between two inconsistent
offensive units.

Georgia Tech�s offensive struggles generally revolve around quarterback
Reggie Ball (#1, 5-11 195, Jr.) who can be sensational at times and terrible at
others. For the season Ball only completed 48% of his passes for 1,907 yards and
10 touchdowns. He also threw 10 costly interceptions. Considering that his main
target is one of the best receivers in college football, Calvin Johnson (#21,
6-4 225, So., 52 receptions for 869 yards), those numbers have to be considered
inadequate. The young offensive line, starting three sophomores and a freshman,
may be part of the problem, but generally Georgia Tech has run the ball fairly
well, led by P.J. Daniels (#45, 5-10 210, r-Sr.) with 821 yards. Defensively,
the Yellow Jackets are very good against the run, allowing only 2.9 yards per
carry, headed by middle linebacker Gerris Wilkinson (#49, 6-3 230, r-Sr.) and
defensive end Eric Henderson (#56, 6-3 265, r-Sr.). Georgia Tech�s defensive
front is very active and they have a solid secondary led by safeties Dawan
Landry (#20, 6-2 215, r-Sr.) and Chris Reis (#18, 6-0 215, Sr.).

Utah�s starting quarterback, Brian Johnson (#3, 6-2 203, So., 2,892 passing
yards), went down with a knee injury in their next-to-last game of the season
against New Mexico (lost 31-27) and he has been replaced by junior Brett Ratliff
(#15, 6-4 195). Not much is known about Ratliff, but he did lead the Utes to a
last-game victory over Brigham Young 41-34. Ratliff looks to be another mobile
Utah quarterback since he gained 112 yards rushing against BYU to go with 240
yards passing. The ground attack for Utah is also potent, led by Quenton Ganther
(#13, 5-10 214, Sr.) with 1,000 yards. The leading receiver for Utah, John
Madsen (#23, 6-4 220, Sr.), also went down with an injury late in the season and
won�t be playing in the bowl game. These key injuries could be a major concern
against the aggressive Georgia Tech defense. On defense, Utah is led by powerful
defensive tackle Steve Fifita (#94, 5-11 322, Sr.), speedy outside linebacker
Spencer Toone (6-2 235, Jr.), and play-making free safety Eric Weddle (#32, 5-11
200, Jr.).

Statistically, here is a look at the two teams for this past season:

Emerald Bowl
Georgia Tech Utah
Offense Defense Offense Defense

19 18 29 25

First Downs
20 15 22 20

Rushing Attempts � Yards
39-156 34-98 42-179 38-154

Passing Completions � Attempts
16-35 16-31 21-34 18-32

Passing Yards
190 198 287 219

Total Yards
346 296 466 373

And here is how the statistical model projects the game:

Emerald Bowl Projection
Georgia Tech Utah

First Downs
20 19

Rushing Attempts � Yards
39-171 36-120

Passing Completions � Attempts
16-36 19-35

Passing Yards
200 270

Total Yards
371 390

1 3

In entering the statistics for the computer model, I came across an interesting
finding. In all of Utah�s losses, they turned the ball over more than their
opponent, and in all of their wins, the Utes won the turnover battle. Also,
Georgia Tech has won every game this year in which they turned the ball over
fewer times than their opponents. Obviously, taking care of the ball will be
critical in this game as both teams have had problems with turnovers. Since the
computer model predicts that Georgia Tech will win the turnover battle in this
contest, I�ll have to go with the Yellow Jackets in an interesting match-up
� Georgia Tech by 4 (21-17).

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl: Dec. 29 � Oklahoma (7-4; 6-2) vs. Oregon (10-1;
7-1), 8:00 PM EST, ESPN

Another interesting bowl match-up pits the high-scoring offense of the Oregon
Ducks against the Oklahoma Sooners. Oregon has to be disappointed in not
receiving a BCS bowl bid after only losing to the powerhouse USC Trojans, but
Oklahoma is a name opponent that should give them some motivation. The Sooners
struggled early in the season, losing to TCU 17-10 and UCLA 41-24 before turning
things around. Oklahoma has had some trouble with passing teams and Oregon will
surely present a big challenge for their defense.

Oregon is led offensively by the quarterback duo of Dennis Dixon (#10, 6-4
190, So.) and Brady Leaf (#16, 6-5 233, So.) who took over when sensational
starting QB Kellen Clemens (#11, 6-2 218, r-Sr., 2,406 passing yards) went down
with a broken ankle. The two-headed quarterback has performed well for the
Ducks, with the main target being wide receiver Demetrius Williams (#6, 6-2 191,
Sr.) with 1,032 receiving yards on 55 catches. Terrence Whitehead (#24, 5-10
220, Sr.) is the leading rusher with 636 yards. Defensively, Oregon is led by
monster defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (#96, 6-4 338, r-Jr.) and defensive end
Devan Long (#92, 6-4 266, r-Sr.). The Ducks have a very good secondary, which
recorded 22 interceptions, headed by cornerbacks Aaron Gipson (#5, 5-8 179, Sr.)
and Justin Phinisee (#31, 5-11 200, Sr.).

Oklahoma, of course, is led by phenomenal running back Adrian Peterson (#28,
6-2 210, So.) who has been hampered by an ankle injury for the entire year.
Peterson still managed to gain 1,024 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, but he
hasn�t had the impact that he had his freshman year. The passing game has also
struggled as highly-touted rookie quarterback Rhett Bomar (#7, 6-2 215, r-Fr.,
1,789 passing yards) has adjusted to the college game. The Sooners have also
been hurt by suspensions and injuries along the offensive line. Defensively,
Oklahoma has been solid and is headed by defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek (#94,
6-3 294, r-Sr.) and outside linebacker Rufus Alexander (#42, 6-1 225, Jr.). The
secondary is talented, but has been inconsistent. Cornerbacks Chijioke
Onyenegecha (#22, 6-2 205, Sr., 4.30 40) and Eric Bassey (#13, 6-1 199, Sr.,
4.32 40) need to have big games against the potent Oregon passing attack.

This game has many questions and is one of the most difficult to predict.
Will Oregon be motivated after being passed up by the BCS? Can Oklahoma�s
inconsistent secondary step up to the challenge against Oregon�s passing game?
Will Adrian Peterson be healthy and will the Sooners� offensive line be able
to handle the huge defensive front of Oregon? I believe we will see a motivated
Oklahoma squad that will have something to prove after a disappointing season.
Peterson should be healthy and that could mean trouble for the Oregon defense. I
am going with the Sooners in an upset over the highly-ranked Ducks � Oklahoma
by 2.

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