2005 Bowl Game Projections, Part 4

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The bowl game upsets have started as three favorites lost in the last two
days. Michigan was stunned by Nebraska 32-28 in the Alamo Bowl on one of the
most bizarre endings in college football history; the game will likely go down
in infamy as the Sun Belt Ref Bowl in a horribly officiated game (and I�m not
one to complain about referees). Georgia Tech forgot to show up in the Emerald
Bowl and lost to Utah 38-10 to give the ACC its first loss, and Oklahoma knocked
off Oregon 17-14 despite trying to give the game away in the closing minutes. At
least I called the Oklahoma upset and went 2-2 for the third set of bowl
projections, putting me at 11-2 for the bowl season to date.

Boston College looked good for the first three quarters of the MPC Computers
Bowl, but they nearly blew a 27-0 lead before getting a last minute interception
from Ryan Glasper in the end zone to seal a 27-21 lead. I was very close on my
score prediction (24-21), so I can�t complain. Both teams moved the ball as
expected, but I was surprised at the ineffectiveness of the Boise State rushing
attack and the virtual collapse of the BC secondary in the fourth quarter. Here
is how my projected statistics came out for this game:



MPC Computers Bowl


Boston College


Boise State


Projected


Actual


Projected


Actual

First Downs

20

20

21

17

Rushing Attempts � Yards

32-115

43-127

42-164

27-43

Passing Completions � Attempts

24-40

19-36

19-32

23-41

Passing Yards

273

256

195

317

Total Yards

388

383

359

360

Turnovers

2

1

2

3

The total yardage predictions were extremely close and Boise State�s
increased passing yardage was due mainly to having to rally from a big deficit.
Overall, the game basically went as projected, though the big BC lead early was
a surprise.

The third ACC bowl game saw a disinterested Georgia Tech team take on Utah in
the Emerald Bowl. I thought that Utah would give Georgia Tech more trouble than
most had anticipated, but I didn�t see this one-sided result coming. Granted
playing in a baseball stadium is not appealing, and the Yellow Jackets deserved
a better bowl, but I would have expected a much better effort out of the
Rambling Wreck, particularly on defense. Obviously, Utah wanted to be at the
game and put forth a much better effort as well as a creative game plan. Georgia
Tech looked ill-prepared and didn�t adjust well to the various formations and
trick plays that Utah is known for running. The Yellow Jacket secondary, in
particular, looked lethargic and the veteran group allowed receivers to roam
free down the middle of the field all day. Here are the projected vs. actual
statistics for the game:



Emerald Bowl


Georgia Tech


Utah
Projected Actual Projected Actual

First Downs

20

20

19

31

Rushing Attempts � Yards

39-171

37-127

36-120

35-169

Passing Completions � Attempts

16-36

18-38

19-35

30-42

Passing Yards

200

258

270

381

Total Yards

371

385

390

550

Turnovers

1

2

3

2

The story of this game was the surprising passing efficiency of backup Utah
quarterback Brett Ratliff, who was exceptional in this game, as was wide
receiver Travis LaTendresse, with 16 receptions for 214 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Georgia Tech came into the game as a top 10 defensive unit, but they looked more
lack a WAC defense yesterday. Offensively the Yellow Jackets performed about as
expected, but the defensive effort was just pathetic.

I don�t want to even try to analyze the Michigan-Nebraska debacle, which
the Wolverines should have put away in the fourth quarter. I have to give the
Cornhuskers credit for rallying, but this game had very little flow due to the
vast number of bad calls � on both sides � that greatly influenced the
outcome of the game. The game was probably more important for Nebraska�s
program, so it�s good they got the tainted win, but the bowls really have to
look at getting qualified officiating crews to work the games.

Oklahoma�s win over Oregon went basically as I had anticipated (I picked
Oklahoma by 2), except that I thought that a few more points would be scored.
The story of this game was the Sooner defensive line which constantly pressured
the Oregon quarterbacks and neutralized the Ducks� running game. The Sooners
almost blew the game late after Adrian Peterson tried to stretch the ball over
the goal line to ice the game (Oklahoma led by 10 at the time), but he had the
ball stolen by Anthony Trucks on an alert play. Oklahoma needed a last minute
interception by Clint Ingram to seal the victory � a good win by the Sooners
and a solid effort by a good, but not great Oregon team.

Four bowl games are on the slate for Friday of this week with two more ACC
teams in action:

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl: Dec. 30 � Minnesota (7-4; 4-4) vs. Virginia
(6-5; 3-5), 12:00 PM EST, ESPN

The fourth bowl game represented by an ACC team has the Virginia Cavaliers
taking on the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. The team from the Big 10 (which is
actually 11) has had a roller coaster ride this season with big losses to Penn
State (44-14), Ohio State (45-31), and Iowa (52-28) spread around some good wins
including a victory over Michigan (23-20). The worst loss, however, had to be
the last minute loss to Wisconsin (38-34) on a blocked punt after the punter
dropped the snap at his own 5 and then tried to get the punt off � if he had
just taken a safety then the Gophers win the game. UVA has had a similar roller
coaster ride with big wins over Florida State (26-21) and Georgia Tech (27-17),
but embarrassing losses to Maryland (45-33), North Carolina (7-5), and Virginia
Tech (52-14). The Wahoos were expecting more, and the 3-5 conference record has
to be a disappointment. So both teams have plenty of incentive to make a good
showing in the Music City Bowl.

Minnesota has one of the strongest rushing attacks in the country, led by
sensational running back Laurence Maroney (#22, 5-11 210, Jr.) and his stellar
backup Gary Russell (#24, 5-11 215, So.). Maroney rushed for 1,355 yards, and
Russell added 1,045 to give the Gophers two 1,000 yard backs in the same season
for the third straight year. That amount of yardage could not be gained without
an outstanding offensive line and Minnesota has one of the best in the country,
led by all-everything center Greg Eslinger (#61, 6-3 285, Sr.) and guard Mark
Setterstrom (#68, 6-3 305, Sr.). The line is relatively small by today�s
standards, but they are very quick and athletic, making them exceptional at
pulling and trapping. Brian Cupito (#3, 6-1 205, Jr., 2,267 passing yards) is
the quarterback, and he leads an efficient passing attack, but it is the ground
game that makes Minnesota go. Defensively, the Golden Gophers are led by
defensive tackles Anthony Montgomery (#95, 6-5 310,Sr.) and Mark Losli (#97, 6-6
295, r-Sr.) and they are physical up front, but overall this defensive unit is
lacking playmakers and gives up too much yardage.

Virginia, of course, is led on offense by quarterback Marques Hagans (#18,
5-10 211, Sr.) with 2,134 passing yards as well as 284 yards rushing. His
favorite target is Deyon Williams (#81, 6-3 188, Jr.) with 52 catches for 679
yards. Williams needs to have a big game against the Minnesota secondary. The
ground game is led by Wali Lundy (#33, 5-10 214, Sr.) running behind a veteran
offensive line headed by left tackle D�Brickashaw Ferguson (#66, 6-5 295,
Sr.), center Brian Barthelmes (#62, 6-6 288, r-Sr.), and right tackle Brad
Butler (#69, 6-8 296, Sr.). The Wahoos need to have a balanced attack to keep
the ball out of the hands of Maroney and company. Defensively, UVA is missing
three key players, linebacker Ahmad Brooks (back injury) and safeties Tony
Franklin (suspension) and Nate Lyles (neck injury), so some new players will
need to step up. The best player on the Cavalier defense is unquestionably
inside linebacker Kai Parham, who has quietly had a stellar year, but he will
need quite a bit of support from some younger players. The defensive ends,
Brennan Schmidt (#96, 6-3 269, r-Sr.) and Chris Long (#91, 6-4 265, So.), will
need to have big games to slow the Minnesota running game down, and the
three-headed nose tackle position will have to battle against probably the best
center in college football.

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



Music City Bowl


Virginia


Minnesota


Offense


Defense


Offense


Defense

Points

26

23

36

29

First Downs

20

21

24

21

Rushing Attempts � Yards

38-147

37-147

51-280

36-160

Passing Completions � Attempts

18-30

21-34

15-27

19-34

Passing Yards

211

221

218

247

Total Yards

358

368

498

407

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



Music City Bowl


Virginia


Minnesota

First Downs

20

22

Rushing Attempts � Yards

35-152

50-284

Passing Completions � Attempts

19-34

19-30

Passing Yards

241

229

Total Yards

393

509

Turnovers

1

2

The computer sees Minnesota controlling the ball on the ground, and I would
have to concur that Virginia probably has little chance to slow down the Gopher�s
offense. In three of Minnesota�s losses (Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa) the
Gophers were held to under 200 yards rushing, so UVA should put most of their
defensive effort into stopping the run. Ironically, in all three of those
losses, Minnesota allowed more than 200 yards rushing (the only games over 200
for the season), so the best chance for UVA in this game is to control the ball
by establishing the running game and winning the field position battle on
special teams. Virginia needs to use Hagans as well as Jason Snelling (#38, 5-11
245, r-Jr.) in the running game to provide some diversity in the attack and set
up big plays to Deyon Williams and the other receivers. I see Virginia keeping
the score closer than many anticipate by making the game a shoot out, but the
Golden Gopher running game will win out in the end � Minnesota by 3
(37-34).

Vitalis Sun Bowl: Dec. 30 � UCLA (9-2; 6-2) vs. Northwestern (7-4; 5-3), 2:00
PM EST, CBS

Two high-powered offenses will meet in what surely will be a shoot out. The
Sun Bowl looks to have one of the more entertaining match-ups between two
passing-oriented teams. UCLA won its first eight games, including three
thrilling fourth quarter comebacks against Washington (21-17), California
(47-40), and Washington State (44-41), before falling to Arizona 52-14 and being
demolished by USC 66-19. Northwestern nearly upset Big 10 champion Penn State,
losing 34-29 on a last-minute pass to freshman sensation Derrick Williams, but
the Wildcats did knock off Wisconsin 51-48 and upset Iowa 28-27. Most fans
anticipate that this game will be a high-scoring battle with the team holding
the ball last with a good chance at winning.

UCLA is led by senior quarterback Drew Olsen (#14, 6-2 225) who has had an
exceptional year with 3,055 yards passing and 31 touchdowns with only 3
interceptions. His favorite target is future NFL star tight end Marcedes Lewis
(#19, 6-6 256, Sr.) who had 58 receptions for 741 yards. The running game is
headed by explosive Maurice Drew (#21, 5-8 205, Jr.) who recorded 900 yards
rushing and 424 yards receiving this past season. Defensively, UCLA is led by
linebackers Spencer Havner (#41, 6-4 245, Sr.) and Roanoke product Justin London
(#9, 6-1 234, Sr.) along with strong safety Jarrad Page (#4, 6-1 220, Sr.).
However, the defensive line is grossly undersized and has experienced numerous
injuries, resulting in opponents running the ball at will against the Bruins
(5.4 yards per carry). UCLA will be challenged by the leading freshman rusher in
the country, Tyrell Sutton (#19, 5-9 190) for Northwestern with 1,390 yards.

While Sutton has been effective running the ball for the Wildcats, the
passing game led by quarterback Brett Basanez (#14, 6-2 215, Sr., 3,206 passing
yards) makes Northwestern go. Basanez will throw to a number of receivers, but
the clear leader is Shaun Herbert (#3, 6-1 200, r-Jr.) with 72 catches for 801
yards. Defensively, Northwestern is led by middle linebacker Tim McGarigle (#41,
6-1 235, Sr.) and defensive tackle Barry Cofield (#67, 6-4 305, Sr.). However,
the Wildcats start three freshmen on defense, including two on the defensive
line, and they have struggled stopping anybody this year either on the ground
(giving up 5.1 yards per carry) or in the air (allowing over 3,000 passing
yards).

This game will undoubtedly be a high-scoring contest with the winner likely
to break 50 points. Look for both quarterbacks to throw for around 400 yards and
Maurice Drew and Tyrell Sutton should have huge games. UCLA appears to have
slightly better talent on defense, particularly in the secondary, so I see the
Bruins stopping the Wildcats at least a couple of times and gaining the victory
� UCLA by 4.

Independence Bowl: Dec. 30 � Missouri (6-5; 4-4) vs. South Carolina (7-4;
5-3), 3:30 PM EST, ESPN

Two teams that have not been regular participants in post-season play will
meet in Shreveport, LA for the Independence Bowl. Missouri has some nice wins
over Iowa State (27-24) and Nebraska (41-24), but has suffered some unexpected
losses to teams such as New Mexico (45-35) and Kansas State (36-28). Steve
Spurrier has led the Gamecocks to a bowl in his first season, so he has to be
viewed as having a successful debut. South Carolina upset Tennessee (16-15) and
Florida (30-22) down the stretch, so the Gamecocks have some momentum going into
the bowl game despite a last-game loss to rival Clemson, 13-9.

Missouri is led on offense by run/pass threat Brad Smith (#16, 6-2 210, Sr.)
at quarterback who has played for the Tigers seemingly forever. He had 2,022
yards passing and 1,151 yards rushing this year and containing Smith will be a
challenge for South Carolina. Smith�s main receiver is tight end Martin Rucker
(#82, 6-5 245, r-So.) with 42 catches for 484 yards. Missouri�s defense is
solid, led by middle linebacker Dedrick Harrington (#33, 6-3 240, r-Jr.) and
defensive end Brian Smith (#39, 6-3 225, Jr.).

South Carolina is led on offense by sensational wide receiver Sidney Rice
(#4, 6-4 191, r-Fr.) with 58 catches for 952 yards and 12 touchdowns. Throwing
Rice the ball will be Blake Mitchell (#12, 6-3 194, r-So., 2,104 passing yards)
who was injured late in the season but should be healthy for the bowl game.
Protecting Mitchell are two fine offensive tackles in Jabari Levey (#78, 6-6
312, Sr.) and Na�Shan Goddard (#70, 6-5 313, r-Sr.). The leading rusher for
the Gamecocks is true freshman Mike Davis (#25, 5-11 210) with 541 yards.
Defensively South Carolina has played very well, led by safety Ko Simpson (#10,
6-1 199, So.) and linebacker Ricardo Hurley (#42, 6-1 228, Sr.).

The key to this game appears to be the ability of the South Carolina defense
to contain Brad Smith. The Gamecocks have a lot of speed on defense and should
be able to hold down the Tigers offense, while Rice and company should produce
some big plays and enough scoring for South Carolina to get the victory � South
Carolina by 4.

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: Dec. 30 � Miami (9-2; 6-2) vs. LSU (10-2; 7-2), 7:30
PM EST, ESPN

The best bowl match-up thus far pits two great defensive teams against one
another in Atlanta. The Hurricanes have a big play defense that can force
numerous mistakes as Tech fans witnessed this year in Lane Stadium. If not for a
couple of lackluster offensive efforts against Florida State and Georgia Tech,
Miami would likely be playing in the Orange Bowl. LSU had the SEC title within
its grasp after exciting wins over Florida (21-17), Auburn (20-17 in OT), and
Alabama (16-13 in OT), but the Tigers fell to Georgia 34-14 in the championship
game. However, LSU gets to play in Atlanta again, even without the Sugar Bowl
bid. Any way that you look at it, this game shapes up to be a tough,
hard-hitting defensive struggle in which mistakes will likely make the
difference.

Miami had to break in a new quarterback this year and Kyle Wright (#3, 6-4
220, r-So., 2,303 passing yards) had some difficulties early in the season.
However, he has developed nicely as the season has progressed and he should have
no problem standing up to the LSU pressure. The Hurricanes� leading receiver
has been Sinorice Moss (#83, 5-8 185, Sr.) with 35 receptions for 604 yards and
6 touchdowns. The other starting wide receiver, Ryan Moore, is suspended for
this game and he will be replaced by Lance Leggett (#9, 6-4 184, So.). Tight end
Greg Olsen (#82, 6-6 245, r-So., 451 receiving yards) could be a big weapon in
this game. The Miami offensive line, led by Eric Winston (#74, 6-7 312, Sr.),
will be tested by one of the better defensive fronts in the country. The
Hurricanes have a very good defensive line as well, headed by defensive tackles
Orien Harris (#92, 6-4 302, r-Sr.) and Baraka Atkins (#98, 6-4 264, r-Jr.). As
Hokie fans witnessed, Miami has some incredibly fast linebackers, led by Rocky
McIntosh (#50, 6-3 231, r-Sr.), and defensive backs, headed by cornerback Kelly
Jennings (#22, 6-0 178, r-Sr.) and strong safety Brandon Meriweather (#19, 6-1
188, Jr.).

LSU just suffered a critical injury when quarterback JaMarcus Russell (#4,
6-5 252, r-So.) went down with a shoulder injury. He will be replaced by Matt
Flynn (#15, 6-2 230, r-So.) who will have to face the fierce pass rush of Miami.
The leading receiver for the Tigers is Dwayne Bowe (#80, 6-3 213, Jr.) with 38
catches for 659 yards. LSU has a very good offensive line, led by tackle Andrew
Whitworth (#76, 6-7 325, r-Sr.), and they will need to give Flynn adequate time
and open some holes for the Tiger running game. Joseph Addai (#10, 6-0 210, Sr.)
is the leading rusher for LSU with 781 yards. But just like Miami, defense is
the name of the game in Baton Rouge. LSU is led on defense by possibly the best
defensive tackle tandem in college football in Kyle Williams (#95, 6-2 295, Sr.)
and Claude Wroten (#98, 6-3 293, Sr.). Those two players own the middle and are
ably backed up by linebacker Cameron Vaughn (#46, 6-4 237, Sr.). The secondary
is led by safeties LaRon Landry (#30, 6-2 187, Jr.) and Jessie Daniels (#31,
5-11 200, Jr.). These two defenses are so similar it is almost scary.

Looking at each team�s statistics for the year, the similarities are even
more apparent:



Peach Bowl


Miami


LSU


Offense


Defense


Offense


Defense

Points

29

12

29

15

First Downs

19

15

19

16

Rushing Attempts � Yards

39-146

38-104

38-141

32-95

Passing Completions � Attempts

17-29

14-30

17-28

16-34

Passing Yards

226

148

226

182

Total Yards

372

252

367

277

And here is how the statistical model projects the game:



Peach Bowl


Miami


LSU

First Downs

17

17

Rushing Attempts � Yards

34-98

38-103

Passing Completions � Attempts

15-32

14-28

Passing Yards

195

177

Total Yards

293

280

Turnovers

1

5

The two teams mirror each other statistically except for one glaring area �
turnovers. Miami has forced 28 turnovers this year, whereas LSU has only picked
up 13. Looking at the projection, the numbers are virtually identical except for
the huge turnover margin given to Miami. The difference in this game will likely
be the ability of the Hurricane secondary to create turnovers, whereas LSU�s
secondary is not nearly as aggressive. I like Miami in an extremely hard-fought,
physical game � Miami by 4 (14-10).

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